Too many outfielders?
It’s hard to see a rebuilding team getting rid of players, but the Tigers have more major league ready outfielders than they have room for. As of now, the Tigers will go into 2019 with the following players having big league experience in the outfield: Nicholas Castellanos, JaCoby Jones, Mikie Mahtook, Jim Adduci, Christin Stewart, Dustin Peterson (who they claimed earlier this month) and Victor Reyes. That doesn’t count Niko Goodrum or Ronny Rodriguez, although both have played in the outfield as well.
They need to find a way to clear some roster space, especially if they want guys like Stewart and Gerber to get a shot at consistent playing time. I’d imagine JaCoby Jones will get every chance to start in center field, with Christin Stewart in left and Castellanos in right.
They have a few options to clear things out.
For starters, Reyes will mercifully be eligible for the minor leagues next season. He should start out in Triple-A, and honestly unless he hits the crap out of the ball he should probably spend the entire season there. His performance this year makes it pretty obvious he needs more seasoning before he can be a regular big leaguer. Remember, he came to the Tigers having never played at Triple-A.
Mahtook is reaching his first year of arbitration eligibility, meaning the team could choose to non-tender him and allow him to become a free agent. The 28-year-old had a horrendous start to the season, but has slashed .254/.359/.522 with six home runs in his last 20 games. It would be hard to lose a veteran like Mahtook, but he doesn’t project to be a part of the team’s future and his spot could go to Gerber or Peterson – younger players who need a chance to show what they can do at the big league level.
One option the Tigers could explore is moving Castellanos – either to a new position (more on that later) or to a new team via trade. If the Tigers and Castellanos don’t work out a contract extension, it is quite likely the team will trade him to a contender before he hits free agency in 2020. They could choose to pull the trigger on a trade sooner than later, if they feel they can get the right value for him.
Adduci is a AAAA guy who could spend more time in AAA next season, as he will still have a minor league option remaining next season. Peterson is only 23, and while he has hit well at Triple-A the Tigers may feel he and Gerber are better suited for Triple-A duty to start the season.
If nothing changes, I predict a Tigers starting outfield of Stewart, Jones and Castellanos with Peterson and maybe Gerber on the opening day roster as well.