Who’s on First?
There’s little doubt that Miguel Cabrera will return to the Detroit Tigers as a full-time designated hitter. Victor Martinez has announced that the 2018 season will be his last, freeing up at-bats at DH. Cabrera’s myriad of health issues in the last couple seasons make it a necessity to keep him off the field as often as possible, so that he can remain healthy to play out the remainder of his eight-year, $240 million dollar contract.
As such, the team needs a first baseman heading into next season. First is one of Detroit’s weakest positions in the minor leagues, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It does require them to find either an in-house alternative or a cheap free agent stopgap for 2019.
John Hicks sits atop the depth chart at the moment, having filled in while Miggy was hurt. Hicks played 59 games at first base in 2018 before injuries cost him the rest of the year. He slashed .260/.312/.403 with nine home runs and was serviceable defensively. The problem is that Hicks is supposed to be Detroit’s backup catcher. Having him start at first base means that Grayson Greiner or another veteran on a minor league deal will need to fill in behind the dish when James McCann needs a break. That’s okay, but it seems odd to utilize Hicks as a first baseman when a big chunk of his value comes from his ability to work behind the dish.
Jim Adduci is an option as well, having played 38 games at first this season. He’s approaching 34 and has never played more than 50 games in a big league season however, so expecting him to be Detroit’s starting first baseman would not be ideal. He’s hitting .284 this year, but has virtually no power to speak of and is more of a bench bat than anything.
Lastly, the Tigers could opt to move Castellanos to first base, although switching his position for a third time seems cruel and unnecessary at this point.
That leads us to the free agent market, where the Tigers could likely find a cheap stop-gap for 2019. If they find someone who plays well, they could always deal them at the trade deadline for more prospects as well.