Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus recently made it clear during the Winter Meetings that although Nick Castellanos will be given a chance to win the third base job in Spring Training, it is not carved in stone that he will be manning the hot corner for the Tigers in 2014.
After an up-and-down season for the Toledo Mud Hens and 18 big-league at-bats in which he had five base hits but showed zero extra-base power, there is still a big question as to whether or not he is ready to produce at the big league level even though everyone wants to see Castellanos break out and succeed in 2014.
If Castellanos struggles in Spring Training, the Tigers are going to find themselves in a very precarious situation if their only alternative is the light-hitting Steve Lombardozzi. Most Tigers fans also feel that it would be far too risky to put Miguel Cabrera back at the hot corner as a result of the injuries he sustained while playing there last season. One name who is out there that could conceivably solve the Tigers’ third base predicament is veteran free agent Eric Chavez.
Admittedly, Chavez’s name is sure to create a certain amount of anxiety and trepidation among Tigers fans. He recently turned 36-years old, has a long history of injuries, has only played in more than 100 games once in the past seven seasons and is only a shadow of the player he was during his heyday with the Oakland Athletics.
However, at this stage in his career and at this point in time, Chavez and the Tigers could potentially fit together better than spaghetti and meatballs.
Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove winner, has proven that he can still pick it. He played third base in 52 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, committing just one error and yielding a .993 fielding percentage. Although he is no longer the power threat he was during his days with the Athletics, he has hit a healthy .281 in each of the past two seasons.
It would be nonsensical to expect Chavez to be an everyday player, but if he brings a solid left-handed stick off of the bench as well as a good glove to the party, he would be a welcome addition and could be the ideal candidate to platoon with Castellanos in 2014.
After all, even if Castellanos plays well enough to earn the full-time job, there are very few rookies who go through their first season without hitting the occasional rough patch unless their name happens to be Mike Trout. Chavez could spell Castellanos whenever the Tigers are tasked with facing a tough right-handed starter, or pinch-hit for him late in games when facing someone like Greg Holland.
Lastly, Chavez has garnered the reputation of being a leader throughout his career, and could perhaps provide the type of leadership the Tigers have been yearning for since the days of Sean Casey. Chavez could potentially have an effect on the Tigers that is akin to the effect that Jason Giambi had on the Cleveland Indians in 2013.
At any rate, Chavez would be an inexpensive, low-risk, high-reward signing for the Tigers, and it would make all of the sense in the world for Dave Dombrowski to give him a call.