Detroit Tigers: best remaining free agent options in the outfield

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers / Leon Halip/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers are in search of a right-handed-hitting outfielder; if they address the need via free agency, these are their best options

Early in the offseason, Detroit Tigers President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris stated publicly the team's desire to acquire a right-handed hitting outfielder. It's logical, given Riley Greene, Austin Meadows, and Kerry Carpenter are all left-handed, to seek some balance and give manager A.J. Hinch some options day-to-day with match-ups.

It's assumed that Austin Meadows will be returning from a long leave of injuries and sickness last season to be the primary left fielder for the club in 2023, perhaps with some Eric Haase reps sprinkled in. Right field could be covered by Carpenter in theory, but Carpenter only has 65 professional games in right, 8 of which came with the Detroit Tigers following his MLB debut.

For depth's sake, for match-up's sake, and for competitiveness' sake, it certainly makes sense to pursue a right-handed option in right field--if they opt to address the need through free agency, these are their best options:

AJ Pollock

Pollock is arguably the best option for the Detroit Tigers at right field at this stage, but entering his age-35 season, it remains unclear if regression awaits the 11-year vet. Pollock spent last season with the White Sox; slashing .245/.292/.389 with 14 home runs and 26 doubles across 138 games.

Pollock spent time at all three outfield spots for the White Sox; though he appeared in right field in just 14 games in 2022. Metrics appreciate Pollock's offense for the most part despite being in the 17th percentile in chase rate, according to Statcast, in 2022. Still, he's a good athlete that has shown the ability to play every day with power to all fields.

Adam Duvall

If the Tigers are desperate to inject some power into the lineup, Adam Duvall could be a good 'buy-low' option to do so.

Duvall appeared in just 86 games for the Braves in 2022 due to a wrist injury which kept the nine-year vet out from July 23rd through the end of the season. Over that time, Duvall hit .213/.276/.401 with 12 home runs and 16 doubles. Duvall could bring some frustrations, however, due to his boom-or-bust nature. He's just a career .230 hitter and posted strikeout rates of 31.4 percent and 32.1 percent over his last two seasons, respectively.

As with Pollock, Adam Duvall split time between all three outfield spots in 2022 but spent the least amount of time in right field, which makes sense considering the construction of the Braves' roster. Metrics seem to favor Duvall over Pollock defensively, though, especially in center field. Duvall ranks in the 88th percentile in Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA) defensive stat.

Still--Duvall, entering his age-34 season, is also just one year removed from a 38 home run, 113 RBI season. The Tigers have not had a player hit that many home runs in a single season since JD Martinez matched Duvall's 2021 total in 2016. Some of Duvall's market will certainly come down to how his wrist injury has recovered, but if he is back to full strength, it may be a nice and affordable route.

Jurickson Profar

The youngest of the bunch, Profar will be 30 by the time opening day rolls around, and while his profile does not match that of a prototypical corner outfielder, his low strikeouts, high walks, low whiffs, and low chase numbers are all reasons that Profar seemed to be a natural fit with the Detroit Tigers from the beginning, considering the organization's shifted focus to strike zone domination.

Unlike the above options, though, Profar did not play right field at all in 2022, but did play 29 games there the year prior. Profar is a former top prospect in the Rangers organization that came up as a shortstop, but would ultimately move around the infield since Texas had Roughned Odor and Elvis Andrus up the middle already. Profar played mainly second base his first year with the Oakland Athletics in 2019 but has slowly shifted to being a primary outfielder with the Padres.

Profar has subpar defensive numbers but still managed to amass a 3.1 bWAR with the Friars in 2022. Encouragingly, he's raised his home runs totals considerably year-over-year, but 15 home runs in 575 at-bats is still slightly lower than what most expect from their outfield. Still, his strong on-base ability would be a valuable asset, especially if the Tigers are counting on bounce-back power seasons from Austin Meadows and Spencer Torkelson.