Tigers’ odd defensive alignment includes Ryan Raburn at designated hitter

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As expected the Tigers’ defensive alignment for Opening Day is a weird one.

Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Delmon Young are all in the lineup and yet the designated hitter is … Ryan Raburn, who’d be a better third baseman than Cabrera, a better first baseman than Fielder, and a better left fielder than Young.

Raburn is hardly a standout defender, but he’s started big-league games at second base, third base, first base, and all three outfield spots. Jim Leyland has seen fit to play him at second base for 778 innings and in center field for 173 innings during previous seasons, yet has determined the best defensive alignment for a team with no fewer than three terrible defenders involves Raburn not even using his glove.

Poor guy.

I’m pretty convinced that the Tigers will coast to the AL Central title this season, but if there’s anything capable of keeping them from the playoffs the inability to turn balls in play into outs would seemingly be it. Of course, having said that Justin Verlander will probably throw a no-hitter today.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.