As the outfield market turns: Tigers, Rockies
While the Tigers remain relatively quiet on the free-agent outfield market, by all accounts, they’re apparently opening to the idea of pulling an end-around and finding an answer on the trade front.
The Tigers are among the teams that have talked with the Rockies, who have a glut of left-handed hitting outfielders, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com first reported. But as Rosenthal also reported, no deal is close.
At this point, industry sources indicate the Tigers are exploring the market rather than going deep into talks, so exactly which outfielder they would want isn’t clear. The Rockies reportedly have three outfielders potentially available, and had so even before Colorado signed free-agent outfielder Gerardo Parra on Tuesday afternoon. Detroit did not make a free-agent run at Parra, who reportedly agreed on a three-year, $27.5 million contract, but could still benefit if his signing fuels a deal.
While all three Rockies outfielders bat left-handed, they run a wide range of skill sets, experience levels and salaries, topped by former National League batting champion Carlos Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Venezuelan had a career revival in 2015 with his first-ever 40-homer season, batting .271 with an .864 OPS and 97 RBIs. His 153 games played marked a career-best after dealing with nagging injuries over the past several years.
Gonzalez is due $17 million this coming season, then $20 million in 2017, plus a $1 million bonus if he’s traded. So far, the Tigers have focused their efforts on outfield help short-term, low-cost deal. Gonzalez’s contract — the final seasons of a seven-year, $80 million deal he signed after the 2010 season — is short-term, but high-cost.
He also might be staying in Colorado. Venezuelan baseball writer Wilmer Reina tweeted late Tuesday night that, according to a source, Gonzalez will remain with the Rockies.
By contrast, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are under team control for a while at lower salaries. The 29-year-old Blackmon — who hit .287 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs, 43 stolen bases and a .797 OPS — is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. The 26-year-old Dickerson, who hit .304 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in just 65 games, is a year away from arbitration.
The Rockies are expected to seek pitching in any outfield trade. The Tigers have more young pitching than they used to after trading for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer to go with Buck Farmer, Drew VerHagen and Kyle Ryan. Detroit also has a highly regarded pitching prospect at the lower levels with top draft pick Beau Burrows. Parting with prospects, though, is another matter.
Even if nothing further develops, the Rockies mark the first association of the Tigers with the outfield trade market. Every other name associated with Detroit, realistically or not, has been a free agent, most recently Ryan Raburn. The Tigers, who were buyers for years in owner Mike Ilitch’s search of a World Series title, have shifted their attention toward developing prospects rather than trading them, hoping to build young, cost-controlled talent around Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. The chance to acquire similar young, cost-controlled talent (in the case of Blackmon and Dickerson) would present a somewhat different dynamic.