The Tigers have opened a dialogue with free-agent outfielders Peter Bourjos and Gregor Blanco, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). There’s no agreement close with either player, but the two are under consideration as the team looks to fill its void in center field.
Detroit opened the offseason by trading incumbent center fielder Cameron Maybin, which seemed at the time to be one of several potential moves to shed veterans. But further deals have not been forthcoming, in part due to larger market forces as well as complications with the contracts of the team’s established players (many of which are significant deals that include no-trade protections).
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As things stand, then, the Tigers appear set to host a camp battle featuring some internal options and whatever veterans they add. Current players in the mix include the right-handed-hitting JaCoby Jones and lefties Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins, and Alex Presley.
Clearly, there’s little in the way of established production in that group, so it stands to reason that Detroit would at least seek to build out the group heading into Spring Training. Beyond Bourjos and Blanco, current free agents with substantial experience in center include righty bats like Austin Jackson, Desmond Jennings, and Drew Stubbs as well as southpaw hitters such as Michael Bourn and Sam Fuld. Switch hitter Angel Pagan could conceivably also be an option, though perhaps he’ll cost more than Detroit is inclined to spend.
As for the two names now known to be possibilities, it’s easy to see the potential for a match. Bourjos, 29, has long been known for his speed and glovework, though he’s an uneven performer at the plate. All told, he ended an up-and-down 2016 season with 383 plate appearances of .251/.292/.389 hitting. Bourjos hits from the right side, while the 33-year-old Blanco is a lefty. He had turned in two straight quality campaigns before a downturn in 2016, when he slashed .224/.309/.311 over 274 trips to the plate. After grading as a sturdy defender for much of his career, Blanco hasn’t drawn great reviews for his glove in recent seasons.