The Detroit Tigers were reported as being interested in free agent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who spent his time last year with the New York Mets was released during the regular season and did not find a new home over the course of the year. Several teams attended his workout, but the 36-year old has not received any offers as of yet. The three teams who attended his workout were the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kansas City Royals.
The problem that the Tigers have is the slew of first baseman they have at the moment. They currently have two players carved out to play first base in the 2019 season, Miguel Cabrera, and John Hicks. They also have Christin Stewart who struggles a lot defensively and is likely destined for as designated hitter spot. Cabrera is deteriorating and hasn’t been nearly as good as he used to be. He only played in 38 games in the 2018 season, where he managed a .299 average with 3 homers and 22 RBI’s. He has struggled with injuries the past couple of years and just hasn’t seemed to make a full recovery and get back to the Cabrera he used to be. Keeping him at first base and designated hitter this year will likely be the Tigers only options.
When Cabrera is at first, that means that Stewart will most likely get to provide some power to the Tigers lineup. In 122 games at the Triple-A level last year, Stewart managed to slug 23 homers and rack up 77 RBI for the Toledo Mud Hens. The issue with Stewart is his fielding. He struggled a lot in the outfield, making five errors at the MLB and Triple-A level. The thing about Stewart is if the Tigers are truly “rebuilding” and “developing young talent” then they need to let Stewart get into the lineup and have the opportunity to see Major League pitching and allow him to develop into a threat in the Tigers lineup.
As mentioned above, Cabrera is struggling to produce at the same level as he ages (as expected) and odds are he’s not going to spend a lot of time at first base, instead being the designated hitter or simply not playing. Also, as proposed above, I would like to see Stewart get his shot, whether that be at first or as a designated hitter. The Tigers also have another first baseman, John Hicks, who is also one of the current backup catchers. Hicks offered a .260 average with 9 home runs and 22 RBI in the 2018 season, playing 21 games behind the plate and 59 games at first base.
Of course, that is not the only option they have. If Cabrera were to move into a full-time designated hitter position and Stewart was put into the outfield, even with his defensive handicap, they could move Nick Castellanos to first. This seems like quite the longshot, but as a Tigers fan, I can only hope the Tigers hang onto Castellanos and lock him down for the next couple years on a nice extension. Back in reality, with him being on an arbitration deal, it would seem like the Tigers are all too ready to deal Castellanos for more prospects. While I sit back and hope to stop the inevitable, it seems like moving Castellanos to first base would be pointless if Detroit is going to trade him. However, if the Tigers are planning on extending him, it may be something to explore for a time where Cabrera becomes the full-time designated hitter.
It just really seems that bringing in another first baseman is not going to be beneficial when the Tigers are supposed to be “developing young talent.” The only way I would be okay with them bringing in Gonzalez is if it is a minor league deal or a one-year deal worth less than $1 million total. It seems that the most beneficial thing for our team would be to let Stewart be the designated hitter or give him the opportunity to play first. If they do this, then they have a three-player platoon and it allows Hicks to play some first base as well as allow Grayson Greiner and the other young catchers to get more time.
All-in-all, I would like to see the Tigers allow their young talent to work their way onto the Major League roster this year and let them all start developing for years to come. The Tigers have about two years until they are going to be competitive again and we can only hope their front office makes the right decisions for the younger guys so that when the window opens, the Tigers will have the best chance to win.
Whether Gonzalez is signed or not is not up to me, but it just seems like they should really maximize the opportunities that our young players have. I’d like to see Greiner behind the plate, and Stewart at first base or designated hitter (or first if the odds are defied and Castellanos is re-signed). It is time to slowly begin this development period so by the 2020 season Detroit can be headed in the right direction with the addition of our young pitchers (Beau Burrows, Matt Manning, Casey Mize, etc.) whom are supposed to be ready for big league opportunities at that time.
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