The Detroit Tigers are coming off a second consecutive 64-98 season, and there’s little reason to think that 2019 will produce an exceptionally greater result. With that said, general manager Al Avila and company have to start building a foundation for the long haul. And signing Marwin Gonzalez would do wonders for their roster.
Gonzalez entered the Major League Baseball free agency period as one of the most underrated players on the open market, and in what has been a remarkably slow offseason, the soon-to-be 30-year-old remains a free agent. He was supposedly a sought-after player earlier in the offseason, yet he doesn’t have a home.
Last season Gonzalez didn’t knock the cover off the ball, but he was still a productive bat in the Astros order. Hitting .247 while totaling 16 home runs and 68 RBIs, he was a steady presence in their everyday order. In the postseason Gonzalez was arguably the Astros most reliable hitter. Hitting .333 while totaling two home runs and nine RBIs in 33 at-bats, he was an electric source of offense.
Gonzalez is a year removed from hitting .303 while totaling 23 home runs and a team-high 90 RBIs. There’s also the defensive aspect of Gonzalez’s game that makes him an intriguing addition to any team in the sport. While generally regarded as a left fielder, he has played all three outfield positions at some point in time, as well as first base, second base, and shortstop. In fact, Gonzalez started at second base for a portion of the 2018 postseason with Jose Altuve playing through a knee injury.The @Tigers are looking for serviceable players to build around, and versatile free agent Marwin Gonzalez seems like a fit, as @RPStratakos writes.Click To Tweet
Now, is Gonzalez a perennial All-Star who is going to make the Tigers American League contenders overnight? Of course not, but his impact bat and defensive versatility bodes well for manager Ron Gardenhire‘s depth chart.
The Tigers offense struggled to produce on a consistent basis in 2018. Finishing the season 26th in runs (630), 21st in hits (1,326), 28th in home runs (135), 27th in total bases (2,085), 21st in batting average (.241), 27th in on-base percentage (.300), 28th in slugging (.380), and 27th in OPS (.680), they posed an underwhelming threat at the plate.
At the same time, despite their offensive struggles, there are some individuals for the Tigers to look into retaining as everyday players. In his first full MLB season, shortstop Niko Goodrum hit .245 while totaling 16 home runs and 53 RBIs and playing all four infield positions; third baseman Jeimer Candelario totaled 19 home runs and 54 RBIs in his first full season. For the moment, star right fielder Nick Castellanos remains in place despite a report from Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press that he wants to be on a new team by spring training.
Coming off a year in which he led the Tigers in batting average (.298), home runs (23), RBIs (89), on-base percentage (.354), and hits (185), Castellanos’ continued presence would greatly benefit the Tigers offense. If he returns from his ruptured left biceps tendon injury — which ended his season in June — Miguel Cabrera‘s presence would also uplift their roster.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their roster at full force still needs more firepower to function at a high level. Adding Gonzalez’s bat would beef up their order, as he can hit anywhere in a lineup.
Defensively, the Tigers have a number of questions to answer in spring training. Will they hold onto Castellanos? Will a youth movement take place in the infield, or will strangers from the outside be added before the Tigers report to spring training? Is the starting outfield set?
Christin Stewart has little MLB experience, and Mikie Mahtook has never started on a consistent basis. Gonzalez would be an upgrade over either individual in left field and would boost the Tigers outfield offense, in general. Meanwhile, center fielder JaCoby Jones is a career .199 hitter. On the other hand, if the Tigers would rather give their young outfielders more reps in 2019, they could play Gonzalez in the infield.
Second basemen Dawel Lugo and Ronny Rodriguez have each never played a full season in the majors. While the Tigers signed veteran Jordy Mercer, they only agreed to a one-year deal with him, and the shortstop isn’t viewed as the long-term solution at the position. Perhaps Gonzalez could start at second base, or take over at shortstop if Mercer struggles. Or, if injuries present themselves again for Cabrera, Gonzalez could take over first baseman duties. And if the Tigers don’t want him playing the field, Cabrera could serve as the Tigers designated hitter while Gonzalez holds down the corner infield position.
The AL Central was the least competitive division in MLB in 2018. Outside of the Cleveland Indians (91-71) there wasn’t a team in the division who finished with a winning record. In fact, collectively, the division was 353-457. With that said, at some point, the AL Central will become more competitive given the young cores that the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox possess. The Tigers have some intriguing young players, but they don’t have a fearsome core, and their most intriguing building block may be dealt before the MLB trade deadline (Castellanos).
Gonzalez can play all around the diamond, and given the uncertainty regarding their youth, he would be an ideal addition. The dollar signs are difficult to configure based on his now quiet free agency, but a four-year deal worth at least $14 million a season should satisfy both parties.
Gonzalez was the most underrated part of the Astros young core over the last several seasons, and he would be an impactful addition to a Tigers organization that’s looking for players to build around.