Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
I'm likely among the minority, but I actually think the Tigers should in fact be content with their current outfield mix. Now, to be clear, that doesn't mean the Tigers couldn't use an upgrade - in fact, quite a few positions around the diamond for the Tigers could be upgraded. But every team has limits, and having a $20 million player at every position isn't feasible. When you examine the outfield, you're really talking about the quality of its offense, and the quality of its defense. But the quality of its offense isn't looked at in a silo - it's a component of the entire offensive unit, which includes Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler. And quite frankly, the offense isn't as bad as some have made it out to be. When you take the three players slated to make up left field and center field - Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose and Cameron Maybin - you actually get close to league average production. Against right-handers, who usually make up about 3/4 of starting pitchers a team will face, Collins posted a 101 wRC+ and Gose a 97 wRC+. Meanwhile, against lefties, Maybin posted a 99 wRC+ (with a 92 wRC+ against righties). In other words, the Tigers are going to be solid against right-handed pitching, and might need to play with matchups up a bit against left-handers, but with Maybin they've got one fixture, and can likely mix and match in the other 40 games. Meanwhile defensively, Maybin and Gose have been almost exclusively center fielders - Maybin has a career UZR/150 of 1.7, while Gose checks in just below average at -1.6. Gose didn't play left field at all for the Tigers, but was above average there in limited use for the Blue Jays. Collins hasn't accumulated enough playing time for his advanced defensive metrics to be useful, but he was always considered a solid outfielder coming up as a prospect. In other words, this isn't a dynamic or dominating group for these two spots, but it's also unlikely the Tigers will find themselves with a serious hole in the lineup or a serious issue in the field. By platooning based on the righty/lefty matchups, Brad Ausmus can get average offensive production out of the two spots on most nights. That's not great, but the Tigers can't expect great here - they need to expect good enough, while Martinez, and Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez carry the load. Most of the best offenses in baseball have spots in the lineup that only provide average production, and that's what the Tigers can get here.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
If the Tigers believe two things, that JD Martinez can replicate his 2015 season and that Victor Martinez can rebound from one of the worst season's of his career while he recovered from injury, then they can probably be content with the current outfield plan that includes JD Martinez, Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin, and Tyler Collins. If the Tigers have any questions about those two things, like many in fandom and industry do, then they should not be content with that outfield concept. Despite the significant complaints about his performance, Gose is fine in center field thanks to his defense up the middle and the lower bar he has to overcome at a premium defensive position. Left field, though, is where it all falls apart, as there is limited evidence that Maybin and Collins can combine to provide even fringe-average performance at an offensively demanding position. While I suppose a case could be made for Maybin to experience a mini-breakout as he continues through his peak physical years, but even that breakout likely results in offensive output better suited for center field. All told, unless JD Martinez explodes with another monster season, the Tigers are looking at total outfield production that likely rates in the lower half of the league. All that said, the Tigers do not need to splurge on a player in the class of Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, or Justin Upton. Instead, they simply need to find a better platoon player than Tyler Collins to help bolster the production from left field, and Brad Ausmus and his management team need to get creating in the deployment of that replacement, Maybin, and Gose. Outfield production is not going to make or break the Tigers 2016 season, but improving production across that position could help alleviate the immense pressure on Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and the development of Nick Castellanos.
Chris Brown, Staff Writer
John Moore, Associate Scout
If the season started today the Tigers starting outfield would be Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin and J.D. Martinez. If I were the Tigers, I definitely would not be content with this current outfield. This is because I don’t feel like the combination of Cameron Maybin and Anthony Gose are going to produce enough offensively to be sufficient as the team’s starting center fielder and left fielder. I definitely feel the Tigers could use an offensive upgrade in the outfield. The easiest way they could upgrade the offense is by signing either Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon. Both of the guys I named have a history of being solid offensive performers as well good on the defensive side of the ball. Another option the Tigers have to upgrade the offense in the outfield is by trading for Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are a team that appears to be going into full rebuild mode, and Jay Bruce is another guy with a history of being a solid offensive performer.
Jack Wagner, Associate Scout
With the addition of Cameron Maybin via trade early in the offseason, it looked like the Tigers may potentially be addressing some of their needs in the outfield. But even with the trade, the Tigers outfield has more questions than answers, and leaves plenty to be desired for the 2016 season. Anthony Gose split time with now free agent Rajai Davis for much of 2015, and barring significant improvement, will continue to be a liability when facing left handed pitching. We saw glimpses of the plus defense we expected from him when he came over from Toronto, but his entire body of work in the field shows that there is room for more. The addition of Cameron Maybin leaves the center field position to question, as Maybin has played center his whole career. Maybin can hit both lefties and righties at about the same rate, but we shouldn't expect much out of his offense as he has been a perennial mediocre hitter. The lone bright spot is 2015 All Star & Gold Glove finalist J.D Martinez. J.D continues to be a force in the middle of the tigers lineup, while impressing on defense. Tyler Collins figures to be the 4th outfielder of the bunch, but doesn't do any one thing well enough to warrant significant playing time. With Al Avila ruling out the idea of signing a top tier free agent outfielder like Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon, it is likely that the Tigers won’t do too much to address the offensive woes of the outfield.