Free agent-to-be Jacoby Ellsbury was part of the Red Sox arsenal that helped knock the Tigers out of the playoffs. “If you can’t beat ’em, sign ’em,” the Tigers must be thinking. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests that, given the Tigers’ lack of success with Austin Jackson atop the lineup, they could pursue Ellsbury during the off-season. Cafardo also names Shin-Soo Choo, who spent the 2013 season playing center field and leading off for the Reds.
You may be able to add free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to the list of potential leadoff hitters the Tigers could bid on. Another Scott Boras free agent, Shin-Soo Choo, is also a candidate.
“That’s the one team we haven’t heard Ellsbury’s name mentioned with,” said one American League general manager. “We’ve heard a lot about the Mets, Mariners, Rangers, but the Tigers make perfect sense. They are a big-market team with big resources. There’s a relationship with Scott and Mr. Ilitch. They’ve done business before and there’s no reason they can’t do business again.”
Ellsbury suffered a broken foot in early September when he fouled off a ball. He sat on the bench for three weeks, then came back at the end of the season just in time to join the Red Sox for the playoffs. He finished the regular season with a league-leading 52 stolen bases in 56 attempts while hitting .298. In 45 trips to the plate during the 2013 post-season, Ellsbury has a .400/.467/.525 line along with six stolen bases in seven attempts. He is a high-ceiling kind of player, valued at five or more Wins Above Replacement in the last three years, according to Baseball Reference.
Despite the perception, the Tigers actually had the fourth-highest OPS (.751) out of the lead-off spot in the batting order during the regular season among American League teams. Jackson led off in 127 of 162 games.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.