DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have been busy making minor moves this offseason since the blockbuster resigning of designated hitter Victor Martinez. Dave Dombrowski shored up the gaping hole in center field by acquiring the speedy Anthony Gose, patched up a depleted bullpen with the additions of Joel Hanrahan and Josh Zeid, and even brought back Alan Trammell to assist in the front office.
But recent Tigers offseasons haven't been defined by minor moves. Dombrowski made a name for himself by making huge trades and signings to bring superstars to Detroit. Last year it was Ian Kinsler, who joined the Tigers in exchange for declining slugger Prince Fielder. In 2012, Torii Hunter signed a two-year deal with the Tigers on Nov. 14. Before the 2011 season, Detroit came from nowhere to sign Fielder for nine years and over $200 million.
What will Dombrowski do next?
The Boston Red Sox recently made two signings that could indirectly affect the Tigers' plans for the offseason. With Gose and J.D. Martinez likely nailing down two of the outfield positions, and Rajai Davis filling in as a part-time contributor, the Tigers find themselves short one corner outfielder. As Dombrowski already announced, Hunter won't be returning to Detroit, so the permanent option in either left or right field is currently undecided.
In the past, this is where the Tigers' general manager would usually get creative.
Now an interesting name has entered the trade mix, as this week's signing of both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez have completed Boston's infield and left the team with a slew of outfield options. Among that group are Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Yoenis Cespedes.
Shortly after the trade, the Red Sox reportedly began gauging interest in Cespedes, who was acquired at the 2014 trade deadline from the Oakland A's for Jon Lester. The Tigers, who love trading for big league-ready talent, have been mentioned in connection to those conversations.
Cespedes hit .260 in 2014 with 22 home runs and 100 RBI as a member of the A's and Red Sox. He scored 89 runs and racked up 36 doubles en route to posting a strong .450 slugging percentage. In the outfield, Cespedes owns one of the strongest arms in the MLB and can cover ground with his plus speed. Placing Cespedes next to Gose in the outfield in Comerica Park would give the Tigers a dangerous defensive duo and help ease the defensive expectations for Martinez.
Would the 29-year-old Cuban native fit with the Tigers? Well, the addition of Cespedes would likely result in a lineup that looks something like this:
Anthony Gose or Rajai Davis
The 2-6 combination in the middle of this order would give the Tigers a unique stretch of five straight hitters that could each mash 25 or more homers and drive in 100 runs. The swing-and-miss rates would be a concern, as every player from the 5-8 slots would likely go down on strikes more than the average major league hitter, but the Tigers prefer to build an offense based on driving in runs with power, so this wouldn't be a new risk.
The more immediate concern in a potential deal for Cespedes is losing another member from a pitching staff that already misses free agent Max Scherzer from last season. The Red Sox, without last year's ace in Lester, are looking at a current rotation made up of Clay Buchholz, Rubby De La Rosa, Joe Kelly and two future newcomers. That rotation wouldn't allow the Red Sox to compete in the AL East, no matter how many runs they scored.
As a result, Boston could look to Detroit, which owns perhaps the deepest rotation in the league. The Red Sox are reportedly interested in acquiring either Anibal Sanchez or Rick Porcello in exchange for Cespedes.
Detroit is unlikely to part with Sanchez, whose $16.8 million a year contract is an absolute steal if he returns to his 2013 form. When healthy, Sanchez features one of the nastiest fastball-slider combinations in baseball and should be one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league.
Porcello, on the other hand, represents an interesting trade chip. The 25-year-old's name has surfaced in trade talks before, but he's already given the Tigers six quality seasons and continues to improve his numbers every season. Last year, he threw for more than 200 innings for the first time in his career and finished with 15 wins and a 3.43 ERA.
Porcello, who twirled three shutout gems in 2014, will be a free agent after the 2015 season, so the Tigers would have to make a decision on the man who has been a staple in the rotation amid all the comings and goings around him.
Nothing is off the table when it comes to Dombrowski's dealings. A trade for Cespedes could open up a rotation gap big enough to force the Tigers to resign Scherzer. Or Detroit could ignore Cespedes and examine other free agent options, like Melky Cabrera or Cuban Yasmany Tomas.
But the availability of Cespedes, one of the rare five-tool players in baseball, should at least prompt the Tigers to pick up the phone, make a call to the Red Sox and examine all their options.