Many were hoping for the Detroit Tigers to land Carlos Santana this winter. Now that he is off the board, it is onto options B and C in the free-agent market
The Winter Meetings are underway and Monday night into Tuesday brought the majority of activity throughout the off-season thus far; with Lance Lynn heading to the South Side and the Royals signing first baseman Carlos Santana to a two-year, $17 million contract. Santana was a name I had previously suggested the Detroit Tigers should target–especially given the lack of depth in the free-agent market.
Trades are certainly still an option to acquire their next first baseman, but rather than speculate on who might be available and what the Detroit Tigers would have to give up to acquire them, sticking to the free-agent market would be the most realistic route.
There are certainly familiar names on the market–some of which have already met the zenith of their playing career in past seasons. Logan Morrison, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Eric Thames are a few of the names that come to mind that may be a possibility. However, there are still more ideal options on the market to fill the need. Here are the two best:
Detroit Tigers First Base Option B: Mitch Moreland
Traded during the 2020 season from Boston across the country to San Diego, Mitch Moreland would provide the necessary offense requisite for the position and would additionally lend steady defense should the Tigers want to make a move. Outside of a -1.3 dWAR campaign in 2011, Moreland has never posted a dWAR below -.7 and has amassed a -3.9 total across his 11-year career at first base; speaking to his average defensive abilities at the position. He won a Gold Glove in 2016 when he was with Texas.
Offensively, Moreland was in the 91st percentile for barrel percentage last season according to Statcast while posting above-average strikeout and walk numbers at the plate. He slashed .265/.342/.551; good for a .894 OPS in 2020. For comparison, Detroit Tigers’ first baseman hit a very similar .284/.371/.514 slash in 2020; good for a .886 OPS. The padded line is in large part thanks to Jeimer Candelario’s breakout campaign; if he moves over to first and maintains his offense, it would be a big upgrade to the lineup overall.
Detroit Tigers First Base Option C: (A Healthy) CJ Cron
This option deserves a huge asterisk next to it as we have little information regarding the health of CJ Cron’s knee. Cron suffered a knee injury during a game in 2020; and despite efforts to rehabilitate it, he ultimately decided to undergo season-ending surgery.
Despite his .190 batting average in 2020, he posted a robust .346 OBP and was on pace to hit 50(!) home runs across a full 162-game schedule (although he’s never played over 140 games in his career). The move would not be a needle-mover for many considering that he typically sits between 1-2 bWAR per season, but it would be a big bat the lineup continues to need. Unfortunately, if Cron would not be available and fully healthy by Opening Day, it likely takes the Detroit Tigers out of the running considering the lack of alternatives at or near the major league level.
There is time and there are other options, but missing out on Carlos Santana does create limited satisfactory alternatives. Neither of the above would shake the Tiger Twitter-verse, but it would provide stability and allow Candelario to move to his more familiar and more talented corner.