Tigers Outfield Still in Need of Help

This offseason obviously hasn't gone quite as hoped for the Tigers – as most of the big name free agents they pursued (with Troy Percival being the exception) turned down the Tigers. But despite the disappointment, one particular area that still needs to be (and can be) improved is the Outfield.

Rondell White. Alex Sanchez. Bobby Higginson. Craig Monroe. Marcus Thames. This is the group that filled out the Tigers outfield for the most part in 2004.

The group combined for just 61 Home Runs. Only 2 of the 5 (Monroe and Thames) put up an OPS over .800 – and neither of them were projected to be the starter.

Alex Sanchez, renowned for his ability to get on base via bunting – was caught over 40% of the time when trying to steal, and took a total of just 7 walks.

The question marks are obvious. Higginson hasn't produced like he's being paid since he signed his current contract prior to the 2001 season. 2001 was also the last year he still had an OPS of over .800. Unfortunately, Higginson makes close to $9 million, and while being in the final year of his contract, there is very little demand for him in the trade market.

White is a respectable hitter, but has never been a model of health, playing in over 130 games in just 3 of his twelve seasons as a big league ballplayer.

Monroe makes the best case for being a full-time player, after hitting .293 with 18 Home Runs and 72 RBI. Unfortunately, an offseason incident in which he's been charged with stealing a belt from a department store in Florida could bring about questions. Plus, his defense has never been held in high regard.

Thames showed glimpses at times for the Tigers, but also wasn't capable of making it in Texas or with the Yankees.

So, as of now, this group remains the group that will head into 2005 to comprise the Tigers Outfield. Fortunately, there are still possible avenues to explore.

Centerfielders Eric Byrnes (Oakland), Randy Winn (Seattle) and now Mike Cameron (NY Mets) all are rumored to be available through trade. Despite Dave Dombrowksi's recent statement of confidence for Sanchez, those feelings could easily change, especially once Spring Training rolls around and Sanchez goes back to work with his poor fielding and questionable decisions on the basepaths.

Likewise, there are options in the corners. Magglio Ordonez remains on the free agent market as arguably the best remaining free agent (along with Carlos Delgado). Ordonez does have injury concerns, however, he has been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball over the past half dozen years (including 4 straight 30 Home Run, 100 RBI seasons, - and a fifth that was just 1 Home Run and 1 RBI short).

Adding a pair of the above mentioned players won't throw the Tigers back into the middle of the playoff picture. However, a starting lineup of Craig Monroe, Mike Cameron and Magglio Ordonez certainly looks much stronger than the one that would probably be if the season started today – Rondell White, Alex Sanchez, and Bobby Higginson.

No matter what happens over the next six weeks, it's safe to say this offseason will be classified as a disappointment. But, just because it wasn't a huge victory doesn't mean you can't find some success and make improvements – and it can still happen in the Outfield.


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