Nelson Cruz is still looking for a home in free agency and the Tigers have surprised us with some late offseason additions before, so some have speculated that they could make sense as a possible match, but general manager Dave Dombrowski downplayed the possibility when asked by reporters at the team’s annual TigerFest today:
As of now, the Tigers are set to go with a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field this season. The Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers over the winter while Jhonny Peralta signed a deal with the Cardinals, so Miguel Cabrera is the only legitimate power threat in the lineup at the moment. Cruz could help change that, though he obviously comes with a ton of questions, ranging from how he’ll perform after his PED suspension to his age and poor defense. He would also cost a draft pick. It’s not hard to see why teams are hesitant to make a large investment.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.