The Tigers finalized a two-year, $26 million contract with Torii Hunter yesterday, but they might not be done shopping for outfielders.
While Hunter is expected to be the regular right fielder next season, left field isn’t nearly as settled. The most likely approach is a platoon, but Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told Jason Beck of MLB.com that he would prefer to see top prospects Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia play everyday as opposed to being on the weak side of a platoon with Andy Dirks. Quintin Berry and Brennan Boesch are both left-handed, so Dombrowski will likely explore the free agent market for righty bats.
“I don’t really know which way we’ll take that,” he said. “We have our own internal debates if [Andy] Dirks is an everyday player. He hit right-handed pitching very well last year, which is the majority of pitching you face. However, we’re also in a spot with the young guys, [Nick] Castellanos and [Avisail] Garcia, you don’t want them to come in here and play 40 games versus left-handed pitching.
“My instinct,” Dombrowski continued, “is that we would add somebody that could hit from the right-hand side that, if those guys don’t make it, could go out there and play with Dirks. But we’ll wait and see.”
Scott Hairston and Jonny Gomes stand out among right-handed hitting mashers, but they are believed to be looking for multi-year contracts. Adding a veteran like Andruw Jones or Reed Johnson could make some sense.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.