6 Free Agent Options That Won't Cost Detroit Tigers a Fortune
After making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, and advancing to the World Series for the second time in seven years, the Detroit Tigers will return in 2013 with essentially the same roster that got them to the Fall Classic this past year.
But just because the Tigers have found success recently, and bring back a cohesive team that won the American League Central last season, doesn't mean they can afford to be complacent in their pursuit of the right pieces to help them win a World Championship.
Detroit has had one of the highest payrolls in baseball the last several years, but this offseason the Tigers need to be smart in how they spend their money.
There are several quality free agents on the market that could help the Tigers get over the hump and bring home a World Title.
Here are the six free agents the Tigers should consider acquiring that wouldn't cost a fortune:
Outfielder Shane Victorino
The Tigers would be smart to make a run at the "Flyin' Hawaiian" Shane Victorino.
Victorino hit .255 last season with a .321 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 55 RBI, but is unlikely to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers next year because of the Dodgers' addition of Carl Crawford, to go along with current outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
The 31-year-old was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Dodgers in the middle of the final year of a three-year, $22 million deal, but will test the free agent market this offseason.
Victorino stole 39 bases last season in 45 attempts and has stolen at least 25 bases five times in his nine-year career.
He has a career batting average of .275, to go along with a .341 career OBP. Victorino's made five different playoff appearances, hitting .269/.338 with six home runs and 30 RBI in 46 career postseason games.
While he is predominantly a center fielder, winning three straight gold gloves from 2008 to 2010, Victorino is comfortable at every outfield position, having played 148 games in right field and 111 in left during his career.
Victorino is a two-time All-Star, and while he made $9.5 million last season, the Tigers could probably court him to a short-term deal—three-to-four years—for $20 to 25 million.
Relief Pitcher Rafael Soriano
After the collapse of Jose Valverde in the 2012 postseason, the Tigers had to move setup man Phil Coke to closer for the rest of the playoffs.
Because Coke has never been a full-time closer, the Tigers are exploring multiple options for a long-term solution at the back end of the bullpen.
MLive.com reports that 21-year-old prospect Bruce Rondon will compete for the closer job next spring training, but if the Tigers aren't confident in Rondon, they could pursue New York Yankees closer Rafael Soriano.
Soriano was a pleasant surprise for the Yankees this season, boasting a 2-1 record with a 2.26 ERA in 69 appearances, replacing living legend Mariano Rivera.
Soriano earned 42 saves for New York, and performed better in 2012 as the Yankees closer than he did as their setup man in 2011.
He signed a three-year, $35 million deal with the Yankees in 2011, but according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman won't offer Soriano a deal like the one he signed two seasons ago.
That gives the Tigers leverage to offer Soriano a good—but not too expensive—deal.
The Yankees pay everyone. And they usually pay everyone more than other teams are willing to.
So if the Yankees won't pay Soriano, he can't expect to get more money from other teams.
If Soriano agrees to a deal worth between seven and nine million per year, the Tigers might want to explore that option.
Outfielder Angel Pagan
The Tigers weren't big fans of Angel Pagan in October when he was helping the San Francisco Giants sweep Detroit in the World Series, but the Tigers wouldn't mind adding Pagan to their roster in 2013.
Pagan, a center fielder by trade, batted .288 with a .338 OBP, eight home runs and 56 RBI in 151 games last season.
He stole 29 bases in 36 attempts, and despite turning 32 in the middle of next season, he could really help the Tigers' almost non-existent running game.
Pagan would obviously have to move to one of the corner outfield positions, as Austin Jackson will be roaming center field in Detroit for years to come, but Pagan is comfortable at every outfield position, having played 109 games in left field and 90 games in right in his seven-year career.
After playing four years for the New York Mets, Pagan signed a one-year deal with the Giants for $4.85 million, and is testing free agency this offseason.
Pagan didn't hit well for average this postseason, batting just .188 with a .230 OBP, but he hit two home runs and had six RBI in the Giants' first two series, and scored 10 runs in the playoffs.
Relief Pitcher Derek Lowe
With the youth the Tigers have in the bullpen, another veteran arm couldn't hurt.
After 21 starts with the Indians, Lowe's ERA was above 5.5, but after moving to the bullpen for the Yankees, he earned an ERA of 3.04 in 17 appearances.
Lowe's combined record with both teams last season was 9-11, with a 5.11 ERA, and 55 strikeouts in 142.2 innings.
Lowe, who's a Michigan native from nearby Dearborn, made $15 million last season, but as a 39-year-old pitcher who turns 40 next season, his market value will decrease considerably.
The right-hander could be effective for a year or two in Detroit in long relief, and could be counted on to make occasional spot starts in emergency situations.
Second Baseman Marco Scutaro
The Tigers have already picked up the option for shortstop Jhonny Peralta, and seem to be set with second baseman Omar Infante, but if the Tigers want to sign a veteran middle infielder who wouldn't cost too much, an interesting option could be Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro, who made $6 million last season splitting time between the Colorado Rockies and the Giants, tore the cover off the baseball in the 2012 postseason, averaging .328 including going .500 in the National League Championship Series and earning series MVP honors.
The 37-year-old batted .362 after being traded from the Rockies and proved to be an asset on both sides of the ball. After playing 34 games less with the Giants than he did with Rockies in 2012, Scutaro almost matched his offensive output from the Rockies.
After making $6 million last season, and inching toward his 40's, Scutaro would command around the same amount of money next season if the Tigers wanted to sign him to a one-year deal, or Detroit could get him for less if they wanted to sign him for two or three years.
Relief Pitcher Jason Grilli
One of the biggest problems the Tigers' bullpen had in 2012 was consistently throwing strikes.
Tigers relievers combined for 175 walks in 458 2/3 innings of work this season, so adding a strikeout pitcher like Jason Grilli to bolster the inconsistent bullpen would definitely be advantageous.
Grilli went 1-6 last season, but boasted a 2.91 ERA and piled up 90 strikeouts in just 58 2/3 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 35-year-old former Tiger averaged 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings a year ago, and has bounced back admirably after missing all of 2010 with a right knee injury.
He earned a 2.48 ERA in 2011, and has a sub-three ERA in three of the last five seasons.
Grill, who spent three-plus years in Detroit from 2005 to 2008, made just $1.1 million last year, and wouldn't command much more money in 2013.