The Detroit Tigers have a problem that most teams would love to have at this point in the season. An over abundance of outfielders who are able to play every day. Brennan Boesch, Quintin Berry, Delmon Young, Austin Jackson, and Andy Dirks. With Dirks being out due to injury, it has made Jim Leyland’s job a bit easier, because conceivably with the DH all 4 of the remaining players can be in the lineup at the same time. Dirks however will soon be healthy, (at least we hope), and with today’s news that Victor Martinez’s knee is recovering well, it is becoming more and more clear that the management of the Tigers are going to have some decisions to make very soon.
Now, I have heard grumblings about a possible trade for Carlos Quentin from the San Diego Padres, but at this point another outfielder is the least of the Tigers concerns going forward. What they need to be deciding upon instead is which outfielders to keep, and also whether or not there are any second basemen or starting pitchers, who are affordable pieces for this already inflated payroll. So which outfielders stay and which ones go? The easy answer to me, would be to demote Ryan Raburn when Dirks is healthy because Raburn has consistently struggled at both the AAA and major league levels this season. However, that move seems most unlikely without a trade because Ryan Raburn can play multiple positions in both the infield and outfield. The same can be said for Don Kelly. As much as it pains me to say, it appears as if Kelly and Raburn are here to stay.
It goes without saying that Austin Jackson is the only Tigers outfielder who has his position locked up at this point and with good reason. Jackson is having arguably the best year of his young career and he appears to have cured, what had ailed him at the plate in his first two seasons. That leaves us with the choice of Boesch, Young, Berry, and Dirks. At this point, with the type of numbers Dirks put up before his injury, it is safe to say that he will be an everyday player when he returns. He was putting up the best numbers of his career to this point and has earned the opportunity to play on an everyday basis. That leaves 3 players, Boesch, Young, and Berry, for only 2 remaining roster spots.
The argument can be made that Delmon Young has proven the most in his Major League career, but I for one disagree. He is the highest paid of the three players and that may make this a hard decision to make, but I think its clear that Young is the piece that doesn’t belong. Young has been wildly inconsistent in his career. Although he was a number one overall draft pick in the MLB draft, he has proven that he may have been overrated as an amateur. He has had only one good season, although that season was an MVP caliber type of year. His whole career has been shrouded with personal conduct questions and marred by inconsistent hitting and poor defense.
Brennan Boesch certainly hasn’t lived up to the hype he’s been given either, but he has been playing better lately and he certainly is a more reliable glove in the outfield than is Delmon Young. He also appears to be more of a team player and his conduct has never been called into question. Boesch might be a .250 career hitter, but I’d rather bank on that than on a guy who hits .320 one year and .150 the next.
The Wild Card in all of this, has been the emergence of Quintin Berry. He has come up and taken the team by storm, while sharing time in the outfield. He has tremendous speed, a great glove, and I believe he can give Austin Jackson a run for his money on defense. On top of all of that, he is the most natural base stealer on the team, and I believe he has put pressure on opposing teams defenses by giving the Tigers something they haven’t had in a few years, which is a legitimate base running threat. With the combo of Jackson and Berry at the top of the Tigers lineup, this team as a whole becomes more dangerous because we not only have one table setter, but two. That one-two punch allows Cabrera and Fielder to do what they do best, which is hit the ball long and hard and drive runners in.
I understand the best course of action is not always the one that is taken in Major League Baseball, because money is a factor and there are so many pieces to the puzzle. But for me it makes the most sense for the Tigers to try and package Delmon Young with some young talent and try to get whatever you can for him, so that the others in this lineup can settle into a routine and continue to try to claw their way into the playoffs, because after all that is the first step to the Tigers achieving their ultimate goal. Their first World Series title since 1984.