Goad: Tigers’ need for infield depth can be addressed

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Since the Detroit Tigers have traded away Ian Kinsler, their depth up the middle has gotten very thin. With the possibility of Jose Iglesias being shipped out for more prospects looming, the Tigers need to add more depth in the infield.

The Tigers already have infielder Dixon Machado, who has already shown what he can do defensively, and has shown glimpses of his potential with the bat. Outside of Machado, the Tigers don’t have many options in the middle infield positions.

Detroit has added infielders Pete Kozma and Ronnie Rodriguez to minor league contracts with invites to spring training. However, Rodriguez has never played in the bigs and Kozma has only had 51 plate appearances in the majors since the 2015 season. Adding another piece up the middle might do them some good.

The Tigers may also need some help in the corner infield positions as well. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario has only 156 plate appearances in his career. Having some depth behind an inexperienced player would be wise. First baseman Miguel Cabrera also hit the disabled list twice last season. If he continues to struggle to stay healthy, adding a versatile infielder is a must.

The Tigers have the option to move outfielder JaCoby Jones back to the infield now that they have acquired outfielder Victor Reyes via the Rule 5 draft. But, adding someone through external means might be the best option for the Tigers.

Grant Green

Green has done nothing but hit in the minors, owning a career a career .304/.348/.454 slash line over nine seasons. Unfortunately, his offensive production did not come with him up to the majors, as he has hit .248/.283/.336 over parts of five seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.

Green can still be a useful player off the bench, however, as he has played a plethora of different positions over his career. In just 129 games in the majors, Green has started games at all four infield positions and left field.

Green’s versatility could come in handy as both Cabrera and Iglesias have spent time on the disabled list multiple times over the past few seasons.

Alen Hanson

Hanson was ranked 66th on MLB Pipeline’s Top-100 Prospects list in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. The switch hitter made his major league debut in 2016, but has struggled since then, hitting a  .222 batting average and striking out in 22 percent of his 267 plate appearances with the Pirates and Chicago White Sox.

Hanson does have the potential to be a productive hitter, however, as he led the Class-A South Atlantic League in total bases in 2012 with 258 and ranked fifth in that category in the Class-AA Eastern League in 2014 with 213.

Though Hanson hasn’t been producing offensively at the major league level, he has plenty of useful tools. He stole 13 bases over his limited playing time. He also played six different positions, including all three outfield spots as well as shortstop, second base and third base.

His speed and defensive versatility would allow him to slide right into the super utility role that Andrew Romine played the past few seasons.

Darwin Barney

Barney is not a very good contributor at the plate, as he has a .246/.294/.327 slash line and has never reached double digits in home runs in his career. Moving him to a spacious Comerica Park would probably only put those numbers on display.

On the other hand, Barney is an excellent defender, as he owns a career .986 fielding percentage and took home a Gold Glove in 2012  at second base as well as finishing as a finalist for the award in 2013. Barney has played both middle infield positions as well as third base over his career and would make a great addition to a Tigers’ ball club ball club in need of some infield help.

Yunel Escobar

Escobar has produced at an extremely high level in comparison to his salary. Escobar has hit .300/.357/.402 with 21 home runs over the past three seasons. Yet, Escobar has never made over $7 million in a single season. He could be an absolute bargain for a rebuilding team like the Tigers.

Adding Escobar would create a good veteran presence to help mentor young infielders like Dawel Lugo and Sergio Alcantara who are set to come up in the near future.

The 35-year-old Escobar has hit .274/.333/.397 in 2017, not bad by any means, but not overly impressive either. However, Escobar hit .309/.365/.403 with 14 home runs over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He could look to rebound on a one-year deal, especially on a team where he would most likely play every day.

Escobar is also a versatile fielder, playing time at second base, third base and shortstop throughout his career.

If his bat does revive in 2018, could be flipped for prospects at the deadline to help speed up the rebuild.

Trevor Plouffe

Plouffe was the starting third baseman for over four seasons with the division foe Minnesota Twins. He has a powerful swing from the right side, as he has hit over 20 home runs in two of those seasons. However, Plouffe’s role was reduced in Minnesota due to the rise of power-hitting third baseman Miguel Sano.

Plouffe signed with the Athletics in 2017 and had an absolutely miserable year, hitting .214/.276/.357 with the Athletics and eventually being designated for assignment. The Tampa Bay Rays picked up Plouffe’s contract, and his struggles worsened, hitting just .168 In 42 games. Plouffe will most likely look to sign a short-term contract in hopes of regaining his swing.

Plouffe has played most of his games at third base, but also has 55 career games at shortstop, 26 career games at second base, 47 career games at first base, and 30 career games in the outfield. His versatility could make him a useful piece on the Tigers’ bench.

If Plouffe’s bat does come back, he could make a good option at designated hitter if Victor Martinez misses time on the disabled list again in 2018.

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