As it stands today, switch-hitting Victor Martinez, Andy Dirks and Alex Avila are the only three left-handed hitters projected to be in the Detroit Tigers‘ everyday lineup in 2014. Moreover, Martinez is the only one of the three that the Tigers can really count on to have a good year, but there is hope that Avila and Dirks will have comeback seasons in 2014. The Tigers also have another switch-hitter in Steve Lombardozzi, as well as the left-handed swinging Don Kelly on the bench, but neither of them poses a significant threat when standing at home plate. The Tigers could really use another proven left-handed hitter in their lineup who has the ability to pop 20 home runs.
The Tigers have recently been rumored to have interest in Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Matt Kemp, but thankfully the rumor has been shot down. Sure, Kemp is a great player, but he is a right-handed hitter and would not have been a good fit for the Tigers due to his history of injuries, the size of his contract, and the fact that it would have required a large package of talent to land him. However, the Dodgers have also been rumored to be shopping another outfielder with a smaller contract, who happens to be a lefty and could potentially be a much better fit for the Tigers. His name is Andre Ethier.
In 2012, Ethier agreed to a five-year extension with the Dodgers worth $85 million, but the emergence of Yasiel Puig in 2013 has crowded the Dodgers’ outfield. The Dodgers now have four star outfielders in Puig, Kemp, Ethier and Carl Crawford, and one of them just might be expendable.
Ethier is not coming off of his best season, but he still hit .272/.360/.423 with 12 home runs, 33 doubles and drove in 52 runs. Furthermore, although he may have taken a step back from the hitter he was from 2008-10, he still averages a .288 batting average, 20 HRs and 83 RBIs per year and as recently as 2012 hit .284/.351/.460 with 20 HRs and 89 RBIs. The Tigers would welcome production such as that from a left-handed hitter.
Ethier will only be 32 years old next spring and the potential for him to put together a great season is still there. Granted, there is no guarantee that he will have a resurgence in Detroit, but sometimes a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered, and there is a chance that Ethier could really benefit from hitting in the same lineup as Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.
Ethier has played mostly right field throughout his career, but he has also logged 218 games in left field, which is most likely where he would be playing for the Tigers if he were to come to Detroit, due to the fact that Torii Hunter has really settled into right field. Therefore, one possibility would be to trade Andy Dirks, but it would hardly make sense to trade a left-handed hitter who could very easily have a comeback season for one who could possibly flop.
Another option would be to trade Austin Jackson and then let Dirks and Rajai Davis split time in center with Ethier playing left, which is the scenario that would make the most sense. Ethier has also logged time in center, so he could conceivably play there as well, with Dirks and Davis platooning in left.
The Tigers have had many other opportunities to add a left-handed bat this offseason, but understandably did not want to enter into a large contract with a player after shedding Prince Fielder‘s massive contract, and it is obvious that the Tigers are saving their money for extensions for Cabrera and Max Scherzer. Therefore, the Tigers passed on Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson.
However, the Tigers still have a chance to acquire a stellar left-handed bat via trade. It would be a gamble, but the Tigers might just catch lighting in a bottle with Ethier, and it may be an opportune time to acquire him without giving up too much talent due to the fact that he is not coming off of an All-Star-caliber season. Ethier also knows Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, as they played together from 2009-10, which could help the transition and make him feel more comfortable. There are many powerful right-handed arms in the AL Central, and it wouldn’t hurt to add an extra left-handed weapon such as Ethier to counter them.