Before the Detroit Tigers made two big offseason trades and a free agent signing for a closer, I had suggested the possibility of a trade for Phillies left-fielder Domonic Brown.
As the winter meetings have kicked off in Orlando this week so has the news that the 26-year old Brown is indeed on the market. One problem: the trade proposal that I set forth back then involved Doug Fister as the centerpiece along with a few choice prospects. It seems that trading Fister might be difficult now that he calls Washington D.C. his home.
The match was perfect. The Phillies had already signed Marlon Byrd and could play him along with Darin Ruf and Ben Revere in their outfield. They also have a big need for starting pitching, hence the Fister involvement.
The Tigers clearly require a left fielder and preferably one who hits with power and swats from the left side. Enter Brown and the 27 bombs he hit in his first full season in the big leagues a year ago. What’s more is that Brown has solid lefty-right splits for a young player as he hit .252 against southpaws.
Guess what high-end free agent can’t say the same? Shin-Soo Choo, despite all of his glorious stats, hit but .215 v. lefties last year with a dreadful .265 slugging %. Brown slugged at a .429 clip against lefties. Choo figures to get north of $20M/season for at least five years from whoever takes the bait this offseason. Domonic Brown will make $500K, or the league minimum, in 2014 before entering three consecutive years of arbitration.
Did GM Dave Dombrowski strike too soon on the Fister trade? Couldn’t he have pulled that trigger at any point this offseason? It’s not as if teams were dying to requisition the services of Steve Lombardozzi, a lefty specialist, and a prospect. It’s like a basketball player taking a contested three pointer early in the shot clock. You can get that shot anytime you want it. And likewise, I think Dombrowski might’ve been wise to let the market play out a bit longer before dealing quite possibly his most valuable chip in Fister.
Detroit clearly has no remaining major league ready starter that they can move at this point. Drew Smyly moves into the rotation and Rick Porcello will be called upon to start 32 games for Brad Ausmus next year.
Are the Tigers out of the Brown bidding then?
It would certainly take some creativity from Dombrowski to loop the Phillies into a deal. The rare but often times effective 3-team deal (think Max Scherzer trade) could be an option. But if not, the Tigers would have to offer the Phillies a package almost exclusively filled with prospects.
The obvious dilemma here is that the Tigers’ minor league system is already weak and moving two or three of their better bets to one day crack the lineup would only further deplete the system.
But, for the sake of making an offer, here’s what the Tigers could do. Bring in Brown and the Tigers could send Andy Dirks over as outfield insurance in Philly. That’s a start.
Other tradable pieces include catcher James McCann, one of two highly regarded 2nd baseman in Hernan Perez or Devon Travis to eventually take over for the aging Chase Utley, and perhaps a high-ceiling pitcher like 2012 4th rounder Drew VerHagen who is a 6-foot-6 righty that topped out at AA Erie in 2013 while posting a 2.90 ERA in 127.1 innings.
These prospects plus Dirks could provide a solid framework for a trade involving Brown.
The point here is that the Tigers might not want to spend on a guy like the 32-year old Choo for the next 5-6 years, and it’s hard to blame them. But left field remains a problem, as does the overall lineup, which currently looks something like this:
- Jackson – CF
- Kinsler – 2B
- Cabrera – 1B
- Martinez – DH
- Hunter – RF
- Avila – C
- Castellanos – 3B
- Dirks – LF
- Iglesias – SS
That is a unit that will strike fear into absolutely no opposing pitcher. More run-producing power is needed. More home runs have to enter this lineup. Beyond Miguel Cabrera your next best thumper is probably Torii Hunter and the 15-17 dingers he might hit next year.
My overall sense is that the Tigers are currently weaker as a 25-man roster than they were at the end of October. Something has to give and that starts in left field.
Instead of asking: what-Choo got? How about: what can Brown do for you?
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