Raburn among left-field possibilities for Tigers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Tigers remain interested in improving the roster before spring training, but aren’t necessarily dead set on making anymore moves, either.

One player they are interested in, according to a source with knowledge of the Tigers discussions, is a familiar name to Tigers fans: Ryan Raburn.

Raburn, 34, a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in 2001, played seven seasons in Detroit, hitting 16, 15 and 14 home runs, respectively, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

He’s spent the last three seasons with the Indians, having his best season in 2013, when he hit .272/.357/.901 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs, earning himself a two-year extension.

The Tigers like the right-handed hitter’s ability to hit left-handed pitching, and he’d be a candidate to start over Anthony Gose in left field against a left-handed starter.

Detroit is considering all its options on the left-field front, though it’s highly unlikely new general manager Al Avila makes a strong push for one of the big names.

The outfield market remains flush with marquee names like former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Chris Davis, but all are seeking deals in excess of $100 million.

The Tigers, with their payroll already approaching the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, aren’t likely to go there, not when they already are paying huge money for several more years to the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez and offseason acquisition Jordan Zimmermann.

Because of the payroll restrictions — yes, Mike Ilitch said he’d spend what it takes, and he’s already OK’d a top-five payroll, but he’s still running a business and, thus, has to make sound business decisions — the Tigers are much more likely to add a big-name bat during the season, in a deadline trade.

The Tigers are focusing their efforts this month on adding another outfielder, along the caliber of Raburn, who batted .301/.393/.936 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in platoon duties with the Indians in 2015.

Raburn, if signed, would only be an outfielder with Detroit, with whom he flamed out the first time under the pressure of being asked to be the starting second baseman. His defense is a weakness, and he’d rarely be out there late in close games.

The Tigers tentatively plan on Cameron Maybin starting in center and Gose in left on most days, and Tyler Collins is the fourth outfielder for now. A signing of Raburn, or another outfielder, likely would have Collins again destined to start the year at Toledo.

Raburn, whose asking price remains too steep for Detroit’s liking at the moment, isn’t the only potential target, however.

There are other outfielders being discussed — though Gerardo Parra, a name popular among Tigers fans, is not one of them — and Detroit also remains interested in adding at least one more bullpen arm to an already much-improved relief corps.

Another item of business: The J.D. Martinez extension. Talks should heat up soon, as Martinez nears arbitration. What kind of money he gets, specifically for 2016, could impact just how many dollars are freed up to add another outfielder and reliever.