A few days ago, it was reported that Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks, who still hasn’t appeared in a MLB game this season and recently encountered a bit of a setback on his rehab assignment assignment in Lakeland Fla., may be getting close to getting back on the baseball diamond and giving it another go.
One of the biggest upsides to Dirks’ potential return is the fact that he will give the Tigers a much-needed left-handed bat. Throughout the entire season, switch-hitting Victor Martinez has been the team’s only consistent left-handed threat. The only other three Tigers who bat from the left side are Alex Avila, Don Kelly and switch-hitting Andrew Romine, who have all had their issues at the plate this season. Avila has hit seven home runs but is only batting .217 and has struck out 99 times already. Kelly is hitting a respectable .255 but has yet to homer, and Romine has batted just .190 from the left side.
Therefore, it is needless to say that a healthy Dirks, specifically if he could once again resemble the player who posted a .322 batting average and an .857 OPS through 88 games in 2012, would be a welcome addition to the Tigers’ lineup. Even though Dirks struggled to the tune of a .256 BA in 2013, he was still very effective at the top of the order, hitting .311 in 106 at-bats in the leadoff spot.
That said, the Tigers should have a backup plan in place in case Dirks suffers another setback or struggles upon his return. After all, Dirks is coming off of surgery and has not faced major league pitching since last fall. It may be a stretch to expect him to come back and immediately start hitting the ball like it is 2012.
The Tigers do have a few left-handed hitting outfielders they could turn to in the minor leagues such as Ezequiel Carrera and Tyler Collins in Triple-A or Steven Moya in Double-A, but they would be wise to make a trade for someone with more experience.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was recently asked if the team would pursue a left-handed bat at the trading deadline, and he seemed to imply that he did not anticipate them doing so. Hopefully the Tigers will change their mind.
The Tigers would benefit greatly from adding someone such as the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, if the Rays do in fact choose to become sellers. Zobrist could platoon with Eugenio Suarez at shortstop and also perhaps squeeze his way into the Tigers’ crowded outfield. The team would surely appreciate his .355 career OBP as well. The Tigers may also want to consider asking the Rays about former Tiger Matt Joyce.
It would be great if Dirks could come back and immediately make an impact. However, the Tigers should start thinking about a backup option just in case.