Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
With the news that Torii Hunter has agreed to play in Detroit in 2013, the Tigers suddenly have an outfield surplus. Is there a trade fit for the Mets?
Previous Outfield Trade Target pieces:
With last week's signing of Torii Hunter to a two-year contract and with word that the Tigers would still like to add yet another outfielder, Detroit seems to be a team who has outfielders to spare. With Austin Jackson entrenched in center field and Hunter now manning right field, the Tigers have a number of options to fill left field, most of whom happen to bat lefthanded. In the chart below, you'll see all of the outfielders currently on the Tigers' roster who logged big league time in 2012:
|Name||Age||2012 BA/OBP/SLG||Career fWAR||2012 wOBA||2012 fWAR||Contract Situation|
|Austin Jackson||25||.300/.377/.479||12.4||.371||5.5||First year arbitration eligible|
|Torii Hunter||37||.313/.365/.451||41.8||.356||5.3||Two-year contract worth $26 million beginning in 2013|
|Andy Dirks||26||.322/.370/.487||2.0||.368||1.6||Pre-arbitration, not eligible until 2015|
|Brennan Boesch||27||.240/.286/.372||1.0||.288||-1.3||First year arbitration eligible (possible non-tender candidate)|
|Ryan Raburn||31||.171/.226/.254||3.1||.216||-1.5||Final year of arbitration, made $2.1 million in 2012 (possible non-tender candidate)|
To start, Jackson and Hunter are off-limits. Jackson is one of the best center fielders in baseball and Hunter just signed in Detroit. We should add the 21-year old Garcia, one of the Tigers' better prospects, to that list. He handled himself admirably after being thrust into a starting role in the playoffs but at this juncture, it seems likely that he'll head back to AAA for everyday playing time to begin 2013. Also of note, top prospect Nick Castellanos began playing the outfield in AA this season. He's on the off-limits list as well but it should be noted that he's another outfield option for the Tigers, potentially later in 2013 should he continue to develop quickly.
That still leaves a few outfielders on the Tigers' roster and the best of that group is 26 year old Andy Dirks. If you recall last offseason, there were rumors that the Mets and Tigers had discussed a Dirks for Daniel Murphy trade. Ultimately nothing ever came of it, Murphy played second base for the Mets and Dirks put up a 130 OPS+ in just under 350 plate appearances for the 2012 AL Champions. Dirks can play center field but he mostly played in the corners in 2012 and was about a scratch defender to slightly below, depending on which metrics you look at (DRS had him at +2, while UZR had him at -5.7). The biggest issue with Dirks is that he has little big league experience against lefthanders (114 career plate appearances) and the Tigers seem to be conflicted about whether he can actually play everyday. Dirks' batting average jumped up to .320, as he featured a .365 BABIP, which is rather high on its face. To go along with that, though, he had a strong 24.3% line drive rate. Detroit is said to be looking for a platoon partner for him for 2013 but if he were to be made available on the market, he'd be a very intriguing target.
Quintin Berry was actually Mets property for a very short period of time after the team took him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2010. They released him in spring training 2011 and he spent that season in the minors with the Reds before signing on with the Tigers prior to 2012. Berry made a quick impact as a rookie, hitting .299/.388/.417 in the first half, before crashing back to Earth with a .218/.270/.293 line in the second half. Considering his advanced age (he turns 28 on Wednesday) and his minor league profile, Berry seems like more of a speedy bench outfielder type at his best.
That brings us to the two veterans at the bottom. Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn have both had big league success as recently as 2011 but both were beyond abysmal in 2012. While that doesn't make them the sexiest options on the market, it does make them more attainable as buy-low types. It sounds like the 27-year old Boesch will be tendered a contract but Raburn's status is up in the air. After putting up a .348 wOBA in 2011, Boesch was considered a preseason breakout candidate in 2012 by some. He's not a great outfielder (though he does own a career +12 DRS in left field) but Boesch has shown legitimate power potential (.175 ISO in 2011). He also has shown the ability to hit lefties (career .286/.348/.420 line), a skill that the Mets roster lacks. If the cost on the trade market is minimal, Boesch could become a nice buy-low opportunity on a young, controllable outfielder with some pop in his bat.
With the ability to play all three outfield spots, along with first, second and third base, Raburn has provided plenty of value as a utility man with the Tigers (.382 wOBA in 2009, .356 in 2010, .316 in 2011). He features some pop in his bat (career .174 ISO) and has hit lefties well enough (career .256/.324/.472 line). Of course, that all fell apart with a dreadful 2012 campaign at the age of 31. If Raburn is ultimately made available, he could be useful as a righty off the bench and a platoon mate for a number of the Mets' lefty hitters on a cheap one-year deal. He's not Scott Hairston against lefties but he hasn't been all that much worse over his career and he's more versatile in the field.
There are a few intriguing options in this group, though no obvious "perfect" matches. At the same time, these are likely the types of players the Mets will have to look for this offseason -- the undervalued guys who are either thought of as flawed or coming off of down seasons and looking to rebound. Andy Dirks will likely cost a good deal to acquire as a cost controlled outfielder coming off of a .322/.370/.487 season. Boesch and Raburn should take less to acquire and both offer enough power and potential upside to possibly pull the trigger on (for Raburn, more so if he's non-tendered). They're not sexy players but they've shown prior ability to hit and, especially in the case of Boesch, he's still well within his prime that there should be a decent enough chance of a bounceback. With Raburn, he's interesting as a low cost bench guy. I do have to wonder if he either played injured in 2012 or if his bat is slowing down, as his groundball rate jumped up by a lot. On a minor league deal or a one-year deal with little guaranteed money, he does seem like a somewhat viable gamble.