After the Detroit Tigers dealt Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in November, it was widely assumed that the Tigers would be replacing Fielder’s offensive production by signing a left-handed hitting outfielder. Detroit was whispered as a potential landing spot for Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and former Tiger Curtis Granderson, but the Tigers passed on all four of them and they have all gone on to sign elsewhere. Some are now raising concerns about the potency of the Tigers’ offense.
Last season, Miguel Cabrera led the Tigers with 44 home runs and his closest challenger was Fielder with 25 homers followed by Torii Hunter with 17. Now that Fielder is no longer a Tiger, it is very possible that the Tigers will not have any player other than Cabrera hit beyond 20 home runs in 2014 — unless Ian Kinsler can hit like he did in 2011. Granted, the Tigers are going to be playing a different style of ball in 2014, but it never hurts to have an extra power threat — especially one who bats left-handed — on the roster.
Nelson Cruz is still out there, but he would be far from an ideal fit for the Tigers as he is a right-handed hitter and carries the baggage of being a PED user. It is almost a given that the power numbers he posted while playing in a hitter friendly ballpark in Texas would suffer if he had to play his home games in Comerica Park as well.
Kendrys Morales is far and away the most attractive free agent name still on the market, and he would be a perfect match for the Tigers if he could play the outfield. Morales played with the Seattle Mariners in 2013 and hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs, 34 doubles and 80 RBI while playing his home games in Safeco Field known for being notoriously unfriendly to hitters. However, Morales is basically limited to playing first base and DH-ing, and the Tigers already have a first baseman and a DH. He has played 18 games in right field in his career, but he last played there in 2008 and that was before a freak injury in 2010 sidelined him for over a-year-and-a-half to change the course of his career. He is most likely not a fit for the Tigers due to his lack of versatility.
Therefore, the Tigers are simply running out of chances to add an extra left-handed bat via free agency. Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres appear to be available via trade for the right package, but so far the Tigers have not shown any indication to be wiling to deal for either.
The Tigers have also missed out on several chances to add a left-handed hitting bench player this offseason such as Eric Chavez, Nate McLouth and best of all Raul Ibanez who hit .242/.306/.487 with 29 homers for the Mariners last season at the age of 41. However, the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and signed Ibanez before the Tigers could give him a look.
From 2006-09, the Tigers had the slugging Marcus Thames on the bench, and Tigers fans far and wide know what a force he could be — though he was a right-handed hitter.
Last season, Jason Giambi proved to be an impact player for the Cleveland Indians off of the bench. Although Giambi hit just .183/.282/.371 he had nine big home runs for the Indians including a couple of walk-offs. The Tigers could have certainly used a similar threat off of the bench.
At any rate, it now appears that the Tigers are going to stand pat, and only time will tell whether the Tigers made the correct decision by not adding a free agent left-handed slugger. However, it does appear that the Tigers are placing an inordinate amount of faith and trust in Alex Avila and Andy Dirks to have comeback seasons, and if they both hit like they did last year the Tigers are going to be in trouble as that would render switch-hitting Victor Martinez the Tigers’ only consistent left-handed bat.
Last offseason, the Tigers chose to do nothing about their closing situation, and everyone knows how much the team came to regret that decision. Let’s hope that the Tigers do not have the same regrets about not adding a bat in 2014 as they did about not adding an arm in 2013.