According to a report from Jon Heyman, the Detroit Tigers have reportedly discussed signing Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler or Ian Desmond. However, it comes with some mitigation of expectations.
Tigers have discussed yoenis, j-up, davis, fowler, desmond. Depends on $. may just go for platooner for LF tho (ie raburn)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 11, 2016
The Tigers and their new general manager Al Avila could be motivated to improve their club after a disappointing 2015 campaign. After finishing dead last in their division, it might be worrisome to see a team linked to financial investments such as Cespedes, Upton, or Davis.
However, the AL Central is likely to be hotly-contested, and the difference between first and last might not actually be that much. Except for the Chicago White Sox no team in the division has seemingly improved this off-season. Perhaps it is in Avila's best interest to get more competitive.
As it sits currently, the Tigers outfield consists of J.D. Martinez, Cameron Maybin, and Anthony Gose. Gose, whose platoon partner Rajai Davis signed with the Cleveland Indians, is the most worrisome part of that outfield. While his defense is usually his meal ticket, even that seemed to fail him last season. For a speedy guy going into his age-25 season, Gose's chances to figure out his strikeout and walk rates are likely running low.
Even Maybin hasn't been especially good by any means. Because of this, Avila may feel forced to go after Cespedes, Upton or Fowler. While none will come cheap, Avila's decision relies heavily on whether or not the Tigers are in a rebuild phase, or they are ready for contention. With aging superstars like Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, and Miguel Cabrera, the desire to contend must be tempting for the Tigers front office.
The Davis and Desmond rumors however seem to make less sense. First base and designated hitter are already spoken for by the aforementioned Cabrera and Martinez. Similarly, Jose Iglesias is one of the best young defensive shortstops in all of baseball. Unless Desmond plans on moving to third base, the Tigers don't really have a spot for either player.
Getting a platoon player like Ryan Raburn to supplement Gose in left field might actually make less sense than going after Upton, Cespedes or Fowler. The Tigers' first round pick is protected from compensation, and the team already made a large investment in Jordan Zimmermann. Teetering the line between contention and re-tooling will be difficult to do for Avila and improving the Tigers outfield could make a sizable difference in team performance. They have less to lose than most teams, and more to gain.