There are reports that Torii Hunter is in Detroit today and that he could be close to making a decision on where to sign. If he does end up in Detroit, this will fill a big void in RF. However, there is still concern about the other corner OF spot.
Some fans would rather not worry about it and go with either Andy Dirks or Avisail Garcia (or a platoon of the two). Garcia was a nice surprise for the Tigers in September (hitting .319/.373/.319) and got some key hits in the playoffs with very solid defense. However, there are still some holes in his game. His plate discipline was always a concern in the minors (3.7% walk rate and 21.1% strikeout rate) and he only walked 3 times in 51 PA for the Tigers. Also, he hasn’t shown any power at all, with his only extra base hit, a double, in the ALCS against the Yankees. It is very obvious that he can use some more time in the minors to better develop his skills.
Andy Dirks looks like he can be an everyday player if he continues to hit like he did in 2012. He batted .322/.370/.487/.857 with a 130 OPS+, very similar production to Austin Jackson (.300/.377/.479/.856 with a 130 OPS+), although with much less playing time (only 344 PA). Most of those PA came against right-handed pitching and while he wasn’t awful against left-handers, he was much better against right-handers:
Vs. RHP – 261 PA | .336/.375/.515/.889
Vs. LHP – 83 PA | .274/.354/.397/.751
It is very obvious that the Tigers need more production against left-handed pitching from their outfield in 2013, only hitting .672 OPS against them in 2012 (only the Indians and Astros’ outfield were worse against southpaws). Enter Jonny Gomes, who had a massive platoon split in 2012:
Vs. RHP – 137 PA | .209/.324/.391/.715
Vs. LHP – 196 PA | .299/.413/.561/.974
For his career, Gomes is a .284/.382/.512/.894 hitter against left-handers as opposed to a .223/.307/.425/.732 hitter against right-handers. That consistency is exactly what the Tigers can depend on against right-handers. There is one glaring weakness in Gomes, and that is his defense is very similar to that of Delmon Young’s. Although the Tigers have lived with that awful defense before.
Jonny Gomes signed a 1-year deal with the Athletics for $1 million last year. If he can be had for a similar deal this year, it would be a great deal for the Tigers. A 1-year deal wouldn’t block Garcia or Nick Castellanos and $1 million wouldn’t break the bank for signing someone like Torii Hunter. The Tigers could also use the righ-handed outfield production that was lacking last year. Although if the Tigers do sign Torii Hunter and a platoon outfielder for Dirks, it most likely means the end for Brennan Boesch. Not that I’m complaining.