Tigers’ left-field plans up in the air after Andy Dirks injury
When the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler earlier this offseason, they paved the way for Miguel Cabrera to slide across the diamond to first base and for top prospect Nick Castellanos to supplant him at the hot corner. Without the swap, Castellanos might have spent his first full big-league season as a left fielder.
Instead, general manager Dave Dombrowski picked up former Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis on a two-year, $10 million deal, handing him at least a short-end platoon role and possibly more. Davis, a right-handed hitter, was supposed to share time with Andy Dirks, who bats from the left side, though Dirks’ lifetime True Average against righties is just .266. With plenty of value flowing from other positions, the Davis-Dirks tandem would have sufficed, projecting for 2.0 WARP according to PECOTA.
But those plans were derailed last week, when word leaked from Lakeland, Florida, that Dirks would need a microdiscectomy to heal an ailing back. The procedure is expected to keep him on the shelf for at least the first half of the regular season. That’s hardly the end of the world for the Tigers, who hold a nine-game cushion over the second-place Indians in PECOTA’s eyes, and Davis could probably hold down the fort with his speed and defensive value if Dombrowski failed to find him a partner.
That’s why, as FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi wrote on Sunday, the Tigers are in no hurry to add an outfielder from outside the organization. Manager Brad Ausmus has three outfielders in camp as non-roster invitees; one is a switch-hitter and two bat from the left side. Trevor Crowe, the switch-hitter, seems an odd fit for the platoon gig, because he has just a .217 career TAv versus righties. Ezequiel Carrera (.227) doesn't offer much from that standpoint, either. Tyler Collins, the lone homegrown player in the group, slugged 21 home runs for Double-A Erie and hit well in the Arizona Fall League, but he also struck out 122 times in 466 Double-A plate appearances.
Morosi believes that if none of the three earns the job in the next couple of weeks, Dombrowski could be pressed into a move. He identified the Cardinals (Jon Jay) and Rockies (Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson) as clubs with potentially expendable lefty-swinging outfielders, but admitted that neither is shopping its spare parts right now.
The White Sox, who fielded interest from the Twins in Alejandro De Aza, might emerge as a match if they decide to trade him. And so might the Mariners, if they choose to export Michael Saunders, whose name surfaced in talks with the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo.
Braves could enter the Ervin Santana bidding
We learned over the weekend that Ervin Santana might be moving closer to a decision on his new home, and that the Blue Jays and Orioles were making the strongest pushes to sign him. Now, the American League East rivals might have a new suitor to contend with.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Braves are hurtling toward desperation amid a rash of arm injuries to their starters. On Sunday, Kris Medlen left the mound clutching his elbow and was initially diagnosed with a strained forearm, pending further examination on Monday. While the Braves were awaiting the results of Medlen’s MRI, fellow right-hander Brandon Beachy took the mound with diminished velocity and left it with tightness near his elbow and biceps. Medlen (August 2010) and Beachy (September 2012) both have a Tommy John surgery on their medical charts.
The new ailments might turn out to be minor—but speaking of minor, left-hander Mike Minor has only recently begun to throw bullpen sessions after nursing a sore shoulder. With the trainer’s room full of projected Opening Day starters, general manager Frank Wren might have no choice but to bring in reinforcements.
If the season started today and the Braves were without two of Beachy, Medlen, and Minor, manager Fredi Gonzalez would likely go with the third one, followed by Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia, and David Hale. But if all three need time off at the beginning of April—well, that’s where Santana might come to the rescue for a club for which every win could matter.
David O’Brien, who covers the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, heard from a source that has ties to the Royals—Santana’s former employer and the club that stands to gain a sandwich-round pick if he signs elsewhere before the June draft—that Santana is on Wren’s radar. Signing Santana would cost the Braves their first-round draft pick (no. 26)—a higher price than the Orioles, who have already added Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez, would have to pay—plus somewhere around $14 million, the value of the qualifying offer he turned down, assuming that weekend reports of offers in that range are accurate.