The Tigers haven’t exactly been aggressive in free agency this winter, but they’ve still added a handful of veterans, including C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Ivan Nova and Austin Romine. They’ve yet to make an addition in the outfield, but general manager Al Avila said Thursday on the Tigers Caravan that doing so is a possibility (Twitter link via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press). Asked about Yasiel Puig, however, Avila indicated that the longtime Dodger is “not a priority” for the Detroit organization.
It stands to reason that after failing to come to terms on an extension with Nicholas Castellanos, who’s now seeking a lucrative multi-year deal in free agency, he won’t be a fit for the Tigers, either. That said, the market isn’t totally devoid of interesting options. Kevin Pillar, Steven Souza Jr. and Domingo Santana are among the yet-unsigned names who’ve had some recent success. Then again, MLB.com’s Jason Beck suggests that the organization might prefer a left-handed bat for some lineup balance, and the market for lefty hitters is a bit more sparse. Jarrod Dyson is available, and if the Tigers want to dial up a reunion tour, familiar names like Curtis Granderson and Matthew Joyce are still free agents.
For the rebuilding Tigers, though, spending on an outfielder probably isn’t a priority in the way that Schoop and Cron were, as they do have a handful of somewhat intriguing options in house already. The team’s 2017 Rule 5 pick, Victor Reyes, brushed off a terrible rookie season (as many Rule 5ers endure) to deliver a .304/.336/.431 slash in 292 plate appearances. Much of that was BABIP-driven, but it’s understandable that they’re interested in getting a longer look at a player they selected with the No. 1 pick in the aforementioned Rule 5 Draft.
Detroit also picked up outfielder Travis Demeritte in the trade that sent Shane Greene to Atlanta. He struggled mightily in his first 186 MLB plate appearances, but he also posted a monster season in Triple-A and only turned 25 at the end of the season. Former No. 34 overall pick Christin Stewart struggled in his own look in the Majors this year but has a solid track record in Triple-A himself and was impressive in a 2018 cup of coffee. In center, JaCoby Jones shook off a terrible start to the season to hit .258/.335/.483 in his final 70 games. Detroit also has prospect Daz Cameron in the wings at Triple-A, although he’ll need to bounce back from an ugly 2019 effort to get a look in the big leagues.
Obviously, if the Tigers were aiming to contend in 2020, this group wouldn’t be close to sufficient, but that’s not the organization’s aim. There’s surely some merit to bringing in a more experienced option in the spirit of competitiveness, though, and the Tigers have shown a past willingness to do so (e.g. Cron, Schoop, Tyson Ross, Josh Harrison, Matt Moore) while some other rebuilding clubs more staunchly eschew adding any free agents of note. Whether that leads to a deal can’t be known, but Avila at the very least noted that the team is “talking to some agents” (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen), suggesting that the open market is a likelier path to an addition than the trade market.