The Detroit Tigers suffered a serious blow this past Friday when they announced prospect Riley Greene suffered a fractured foot. Greene fouled a pitch off his foot and will likely be out up to six weeks, but the good news is that the injury will not require surgery.
Not only had Greene’s debut been widely anticipated by the fans, but with how productive the 21-year old centerfielder had been this spring, he was set to play a significant role in the Tigers lineup, even if it was in the bottom third to begin his big-league career. This is a tough loss.
Greene had been slashing .429/.500/1.048 through 11 Spring Training games this season. He’s also hit a pair of home runs, a pair of triples, three doubles, and drove in four. He’s also played a superb centerfield and produced a wonderful web gem, a Superman-like catch on a line drive to the right field.
The Detroit Tigers need to avoid all external options when looking to replace Riley Greene.
In addition to losing Greene, the Detroit Tigers will also be without centerfielder Derek Hill (hamstring) and the newly signed high-leveraged left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin (groin) to begin the season.
Hill would have been the obvious choice to begin the season in centerfield in Greene’s absence, but the Tigers have other internal options rather than trading away prospects or signing a veteran free agent. Both Hill and Chafin’s injuries are not considered to be serious; they are expected to be sidelined for a few days to begin the year.
At this point, there is no real reason to panic and hope to sign a veteran outfielder. Throughout the offseason, I lobbied for the organization to look into bringing in a veteran corner outfielder, but while watching Greene this spring, it became evident to me that this kid is ready to play. This injury is a setback, but I expect he will make a full recovery and likely find his way back into the everyday lineup by the end of May.
In the meantime, the Tigers can plug Victor Reyes into centerfield flanked by Robbie Grossman and Akil Baddoo.
Reyes has had a solid spring hitting .304 with two doubles, one home run, knocking in four runs over 23 at-bats. Last season, Reyes hit .258 driving in 22 and hitting five long-balls. It is noteworthy that Reyes slashed .340/.377/.500 for the month of September last season appearing in 19 games.
One thing to note, teams, are permitted to carry 28 players on the active roster until May. 1st. This will allow the Tigers to place Greene on the Injured List (IL) and carry five position players on their bench if they so choose. I feel Reyes had been battling with Hill and Willi Castro for a final roster spot throughout the spring and is now ensured a role. All three players I just mentioned will likely make the final roster.
I also expect to see Eric Haase, along with Harold Castro and Willi Castro, to each see time over the first couple of months of the season in left field. With the expanded roster, the Tigers will likely carry three catchers for the first month letting Dustin Garneau serve as the primary backup catcher, allowing Haase to spend more time in left field and as the designated hitter when Miguel Cabrera needs a day off.
There is no reason why the Detroit Tigers should even consider a reunion with the recently released Justin Upton, entertain kicking the tires on Michael Conforto, or perhaps trading for Brian Reynolds.
If Greene didn’t appear to be ready this season, the Tigers would need a player like Upton or Conforto on a one-year deal, but with Greene expected back come May, who are the Tigers going to remove from the lineup? Baddoo? Not unless he significantly regresses Grossman? Unlikely.
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If the Detroit Tigers hoped to land Reynolds, it would take a package of Baddoo and Jackson Jobe, and it’s far-fetched at this juncture of the rebuild that Al Avila entertains the idea of trading valuable assets for a more-proven player, but anything is possible, I guess.