The Tigers signed left fielder Ryan Raburn to a two-year, $3.4 million contract, taking one more player out of their arbitration concerns and inking an emerging member of their starting lineup just as he emerges as a regular player.
Raburn spent the past few years shuffling between a superutility role and occasional stretches in the starting lineup. After batting .280 last year with 25 doubles, 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 371 at-bats, though, he’s poised to take the bulk of the playing time in left field and possibly grab a key spot in the top half of the order.
It was somewhat of a surprise deal for Raburn, who turns 30 years old in April and is eligible for arbitration for the first time. Given Detroit’s other contractual commitments and the arbitration cases they had this year, they were expected to hold themselves to one-year deals. And as of a week ago, there supposedly hadn’t been much going on between the two sides.
But as long as the Tigers are committed to keeping Raburn in a big position beyond this year, and they believe he can produce, then there was a financial benefit to signing him for 2012 now rather than let him go to arbitration with a full season of production on his resume.
The move leaves reliever Joel Zumaya and starter Armando Galarraga as the remaining arbitration-eligible Tigers.