keyboard_arrow_uptop

Tigers might use internal options to round out bench
Among the items on the offseason shopping list for Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was at least one left-handed hitter to balance out a roster that skews heavily to the right.

All but one of Detroit’s infielders bat from the right side, and the exception is Andrew Romine, a 28-year-old switch-hitter with a .561 OPS in 447 career major-league plate appearances who isn’t assured of an Opening Day roster spot. Designated hitter Victor Martinez helps to balance out the lineup against southpaws, but the outfield features righty regulars, J.D. Martinez and the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, in the corners. Left-handed-hitting Anthony Gose, who came over from the Blue Jays to split time with Rajai Davis in center field, doesn't offer enough punch to tilt the scales.

Thus, the Tigers set out to find a lefty outfielder who could bop one over the fence once in a while—or, in other words, a replacement for Andy Dirks. But the Winter Meetings came and went, and Christmas did, too, and Dombrowski still hasn’t checked off that box on the list. Anthony Fenech, who covers the team for the Detroit Free Press, believes that’s because the solution is already in the organization.

Fenech circled back to an October press conference, at which Dombrowski told reporters, “We think [Tyler Collins] is ready to play. We like Collins.” The 24-year-old cranked 18 homers in 468 at-bats for Triple-A Toledo to earn a September call-up, and Fenech wrote over the weekend that he could be the man for the job. A sixth-round pick in 2011, Collins hit .275/.347/.442 versus right-handers in Toledo. He did not rank among the organization’s top 10 prospects entering 2014.

Steven Moya, no. 8 on the afore-linked list, might be an alternative if Collins fails to run away with the job in spring training. Moya is toolsier than Collins, but his plate approach remains unrefined, as Jeff Moore noted in a Minor League Update from the Arizona Fall League. The upside and risk are both considerably higher with Moya, a 23-year-old who spent 2014 with Double-A Erie, where he whacked 35 homers but also struck out 161 times in just 515 at-bats. Going yard five times to go with six doubles in 90 at-bats in the desert furthered Moya’s case, but he’s still behind Collins on the depth chart heading into the spring.

If the season began today, the Tigers bench would figure to consist of either Davis or Gose, a backup catcher (Bryan Holaday or James McCann), Hernan Perez—who, as Fenech pointed out, has spent the offseason trying to bolster his versatility—and either Collins or Romine, with Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus weighing Collins’ bat against having a second backup infielder.

Giants considered favorites to land Ben Zobrist
So wrote Peter Gammons, anyway, in a Friday column after speaking with “several GMs.” The 33-year-old Zobrist’s versatility would fit well on any roster, but it might be particularly valuable to the Giants, whose incumbent third baseman (Casey McGehee) and left fielder (Gregor Blanco) both have flaws that the current Ray could mask. Signed for $7.5 million in 2015, Zobrist would be a tremendous bargain if he continued to perform at 2011-14 levels; he’s averaged more than 4.0 WARP annually over that span.

More questionable is whether the Giants have the young talent that the Rays front office, now under the command of Matt Silverman, would seek in return. One of GM Brian Sabean’s top pitching prospects, Adalberto Mejia, is suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned stimulant earlier this offseason. Position-player prospects—besides Joe Panik and Andrew Susac, who both debuted in 2014—are few and far between. Thus, while the Giants an obvious fit for Zobrist, the GMs’ assertion that San Francisco is his likeliest destination is somewhat curious.

It’s worth noting that Gammons only mentioned the Zobrist rumor in passing, while discussing Cole Hamels trade scenarios, so there’s no reason to believe that a deal is close. However, Gammons’ report comes on the heels of word from FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi that there’s “a decent chance” Zobrist will soon don a uniform besides Tampa Bay’s for the first time in his big-league career.

Tigers, David Price haven’t discussed a deal beyond 2015
One last thing on the Tigers: Morosi tweeted on Sunday night that unless something changes, they appear likely to part ways with their marquee 2014 trade deadline acquisition at the end of the coming year.

The 29-year-old lefty has one year of arbitration eligibility left before he hits the open market as one of the headliners in what’s poised to be a deep class of frontline arms. Since Price was a Super Two player in 2012, this will mark his fourth chance to square off with his employer, but he came to terms with the Rays sans a hearing in each of the past three years. MLB Trade Rumors projects an $18.9 million payday for Price in 2015. He hasn’t accepted a multi-year agreement since the major-league pact the Rays gave him after the 2007 draft.

Dombrowski has just three arbitration eligibles to worry about between now and February, tied for the lowest total in the league with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and Brewers GM Doug Melvin. Rick Porcello, who went to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes earlier this offseason, squared the Red Sox and Tigers in that department.