Detroit Tigers free agency primer: Examining the first base market
Miggy to DH
While moving Miguel Cabrera to designated hitter comes with plenty of positives, the only downside is finding an immediate replacement.
Having Cabrera on the team since 2008 has removed any need for the Detroit Tigers to draft and develop first baseman.
Why would you with a future Hall of Famer manning the position?
Now, however, an alternative is needed at first base.
As it stands, the Tigers’ current roster doesn’t offer too much in the way of solutions. Efren Navarro and Andrew Romine certainly aren’t the answer.
Despite the duo’s quality defense, neither hit enough last year to warrant a consistent place in the lineup.
What’s more, with both over 30, neither fit the team’s rebuild.
John Hicks could probably fill in at first base most of the time if he can replicate his first half form (123 wRC+, .841 OPS, .224 ISO) and not his second half form (92 wRC+, .717 OPS, .142 ISO).
Hicks particularly struggled in September when he logged a 33 wRC+, a .227 wOBA and a .501 OPS. This was impacted by an unlucky .227 BABIP, but the drop in production wasn’t exactly encouraging.
Prospect-wise, the best first base fits in the system include Rey Rivera and Dominic Ficociello.
Rivera just started his professional career after being taken in the second round of the 2017 draft.
Meanwhile, Ficociello is approaching non-prospect status at 25, but he hit .288 with a .361 on-base percentage and a .779 OPS split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017.
While he isn’t the biggest power threat (.339 slugging percentage, .139 ISO in 128 Triple-A plate appearances), the former 12th-round pick can play both infield and outfield corners.
He also has some experience at second base and seems better suited to being a key bench cog.