Gose is just what the Tigers needed: He's affordable

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit — It came down to this.

In the Devon Travis-Anthony Gose deal, the Tigers traded a prospect for whom there was no room for one they hope to use every day.

And that, despite the 202 games Gose has played in the majors, is still what he is: a prospect.

He can run, but can't hide from the rawness of his offensive game. He has no power, hasn't taken to bunting and strikes out too much.

But he can catch and throw. Plus, he could turn out to be a commodity the Tigers need at this point: a value meal on a team full of Big Macs.

An inexpensive regular, in other words.

The Tigers don't know for sure if Gose, as their center fielder, is going to hit enough to make this a trade they will want to remember.

He certainly hasn't hit in the majors yet.

And if he doesn't hit, the bottom of the Tigers lineup could look thin.

But, Gose's athleticism always has been impressive enough to make those evaluating him believe he'll learn to hit — enough, anyway — to be worthy of a spot on a major league roster.

To play every day though?

That's the question the Tigers appear determined to find out, because it already sounds as if Gose will be given the opportunity to be the regular center fielder.

And some opportunities last a long time.

But with their regular center fielder, Colby Rasmus, a free agent, why would the Blue Jays trade his heir apparent if the heir apparent were all he's touted to be?

It doesn't make sense, especially when you consider what Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about Gose in July.

"He can change some games with his speed and his defense in close ballgames, and that wins a lot of games," Gibbons told the Toronto Star. "When he's here, we win."

At the time, the Blue Jays were 27-14 in the 41 games Gose started. But he was shuttled back and forth from Triple A Buffalo so often — five trips in 62 days, according to The Star — that when asked about it, Gose shook his head, laughed and walked away.

Now, Gose gets his chance because he's exactly what the Tigers need at this point: affordable.

Looking at a 2015 commitment of nearly $160 million for 11 players — if Alex Avila, David Price and Rick Porcello are on the Opening Day roster — the Tigers might be finding only loose change is left in their pockets.

Gose is a natural center fielder, though, and that was one of their priorities. Plus there are qualities about him no one denies.

"When he is in the game," Gibbons said of Gose in July, "he is our best defender."

During a conference call Thurday, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team "wasn't looking to trade Anthony Gose. This has everything to do with Devon Travis. We like him a lot. We expect him to start at Triple A next year, but would not rule out him competing for a job at second base."

In three years with the Blue Jays, Gose had the equivalent of one full season of at-bats. He hit .234 with five home runs, 36 RBIs and 34 stolen bases in 552 at-bats. He also struck out 170 times.

But he's not yet 25 — he won't be until August — so it's only natural for the Tigers to expect he'll improve.

They weren't about to trade for him and then say he's hopeless offensively.

No matter how you look at them, though, the numbers aren't good. Yet, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski views it that "he's not really matured as a hitter yet."

That's the down side of going affordable.

But it's an essential direction for the Tigers at this point, one we might see a whole lot more of the rest of the winter.