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Tigers need powerful bat to complement OF trio

Lynn Henning, The Detroit News

Playing the role of manager Brad Ausmus, I would hope for an upgrade over the current cast of Tigers outfield contestants scheduled for work in 2015.

We know that newbie Anthony Gose is Detroit's new center fielder, and be sure to focus on his glove and not on his bat when you review reasons for why Dave Dombrowski last week traded for Gose.

I could live with Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez as my options in left field and as part-timers elsewhere (Davis in center, Martinez in right), which isn't a bad arrangement at all.

But I would want another outfielder who could be counted on in right to more adequately replace Torii Hunter. Ideally, he would be a left-handed batter. And ideally, that would be Tigers prospect Steven Moya, except for the apparent fact Moya is probably not ready for regular big-league work in 2015 and will need further buffing at Triple A Toledo.

And so, Dombrowski, the Tigers' front-office architect, is left to ponder Detroit's outfield as he works during this autumn and winter to find some essential bullpen help, as well as fill a pitching rotation that still figures to be without Max Scherzer.

Taking a pass

It seemed for a while, as owner Mike Ilitch wrote a juicy check to Victor Martinez as part of his designated hitter's new contract, the Tigers just might bite on Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas, a powerful, 24-year-old corner outfielder who is being chased by a slate of teams.

The Tigers did their homework. But from all meaningful indications, Detroit is not pursuing Tomas, whose pay scale is rising and whose serious suitors (beginning with the Braves, who no longer have Jason Heyward) are turning more intense.

How the Tigers respond to Hunter's free-agent exodus is more than interesting for the simple reason offense isn't a commodity you can forgo. That's especially true when Hunter, 39, is on the market and when Gose (.225 batting average in 2014) is not to be confused even with ex-center fielder Austin Jackson and the lineup pop he brought to Ausmus' order.

Of course, this happens to be an offseason when hitting is at a premium. It's a shopping trip designed to either break budgets or dismay teams intent on finding the brand of outfielder and bat you normally can scrape together during the Hot Stove League's business hours.

It suggests a Tigers team, seemingly approaching its payroll limit, might decide to go with kids as adjuncts to the existing Gose-Davis-Martinez crew.

And that could mean Ausmus and Dombrowski have decided they can live initially with left-handed hitting Tyler Collins as part of a four-man outfield corps.

Collins isn't a bad bet. He has power and he probably can hit .240 or better. He can play a serviceable right field. He runs and gets dirty and has enough Texas prairie in him to make the most of his skills, which, to repeat, includes the ability to knock a ball into any park's outfield seats.

Knowing the Tigers are high on Moya, but realistic about his timetable, they would want an adequate and affordable answer in right field as Moya continues his pitch-judgment apprenticeship at Triple A Toledo, which is the team's tentative thought.

That answer might well turn into Collins. Again, the offseason's hitting inventory is unusually low and won't easily be altered unless a bat-hunting team can pull off some brand of creative, unforeseen trade.

You could envision the Tigers getting involved here. Dombrowski has attacked weak markets during previous safaris and has almost always gotten help, particularly during the days preceding July's deadline, when a GM known for dickering has done some of his best work.

He likes three-way deals and nothing says the Tigers couldn't get involved as they did five years ago in snaring Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson in a three-way swap. He did the same thing four months ago when he teamed up with the Mariners and Rays in a flesh feast that brought David Price to Detroit.

Open minded

And so, it's always best to not make assumptions about Dombrowski when his team has needs and a market happens to be uninviting. He generally figures something out. If ever there has been an autumn and winter to prepare for something crazy, this might be the year. The Tigers clearly are being open-minded because they must be flexible when salaries they already owe are monstrous and when they have those pitching issues to confront.

It still seems plausible that they would deal Ian Kinsler in a bid to get more bullpen or even outfield help. Eugenio Suarez or Hernan Perez can probably provide as much offense, at least, as Kinsler will deliver in 2015, which could cushion the reality the kids' defense will never match the Gold Glove-grade vacuuming Kinsler did at second.

At some point, you must live with some tradeoffs. And that time might have arrived for the Tigers who, unless Dombrowski has something imaginative percolating, might be preparing for Collins as the supposed outfield complement to Gose, Davis, and J.D. Martinez.

Of course, Collins replacing Hunter would be something of a tradeoff, as well. But with even more important pitching matters to resolve, it's not easy seeing how Dombrowski, with a checkbook that has its constraints, can satisfy all the dreams on his manager's wish list.

At some point in our lives, most of us thought being a big-league GM would be great fun. For the past six weeks or so, I've had no such notions.