A reunion with Cespedes would strengthen the weak Tiger outfield

A reunion with Yoenis Cespedes with fix Detroit's glaring hole in left field.

A reunion with Yoenis Cespedes with fix Detroit’s glaring hole in left field.

Last-minute Christmas shopping is a pain, and the Detroit Tigers appear to know that as much as anyone.

It’s why Al Avila & Co. took care of many of the items on their shopping list prior to the start of the Winter Meetings.

However, even after adding relievers Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson during the annual December event for MLB club executives, the Tigers didn’t address their most glaring void.

I’m not talking about the bench, though — as Michael Betzold pointed out in this space yesterday — it’s woefully deficient.

No, I’m talking about the one existent in left field — a gaping one that will prevent them from contending for the AL Central crown in 2016.

And to no surprise, Avila’s most recent free agent acquisition Mike Aviles and his 2015 WAR of -1.3 — according to Baseball Reference — with the Cleveland Indians are not the answer to the Tigers’ dilemma in left field that has been ongoing since dealing Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets at the trade deadline.

Neither is former Detroit top prospect Cameron Maybin, who was re-acquired this offseason in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

Maybin has recorded a combined WAR of 1.2 the last two seasons and doesn’t grade out very well defensively. According to Baseball Reference, he was worth a negative one and a half defensive wins above replacement in 141 games with the Braves in ’15.

When you dive even deeper into Maybin’s defensive stats, you’ll find that the former Tigers first-round pick was 16 runs below average when it came to defensive runs saved in his lone campaign in Atlanta, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

Maybin and Aviles have also each posted on-base plus slugging percentages below .700 since 2012 – a more than telling sign that they both have been below-average offensive performers in recent memory.

In fact, Aviles has failed to post an OPS above .650 since 2013, meaning he was an automatic out for Terry Francona and the Indians far too often over the course of the last three seasons.

From an offensive standpoint, there is also the scary fact that both Maybin and Aviles have recorded adjusted on-base plus slugging percentages — adjusted for the player’s home ballpark and the league in which he plays — below the league average of 100 in every campaign since 2012.

Additionally, to explain further how dismal they both have been at the plate since the start of the 2012 campaign, look at the total OPS+ each has accumulated since then.

According to Baseball Reference, Maybin’s stands at 87 while Aviles’ is even further away from league average at 74.

With such an OPS+, Aviles, the 34-year-old New York native, might not even be able to hold onto a spot on the Detroit bench for the entire ’16 campaign.

Enough about Aviles and Maybin, though. It’s time now to turn our attention to another potential offensive liability in the corner outfield.

I’m talking about 25-year-old Tyler Collins, who is currently in line to get the majority of reps in left over the course of the ’16 season.

Unlike both Aviles and Maybin, Collins bats from the left side of the plate in a league that pitching wise is righty dominant, giving him a leg up on the two aforementioned offseason additions of Detroit.

But even with that being said, in his career against left-handed pitching (albeit in 19 plate appearances), the 2011 sixth-round selection of the Motown Bengals has proven that he can’t hit lefties to save his life with an OPS below .600 (.579).

Collins has also failed to get it done with the glove in his time in the majors, with a career defensive WAR of -0.7. He’s also been four defensive runs saved below average in 54 games in the Tigers outfield.

It tells me that Collins needs to be provided a platoon partner that can sufficiently hit from the right side of the plate.

Is that platoon partner for Collins already on the Tigers roster in the form of either Maybin or Aviles?

The quick answer is “no,” as Maybin’s lifetime OPS against left-handed pitching is a putrid .645, which is actually worse than the one he possesses against right-handers (.691 vs. RHP).

As for Aviles, although he owns a lifetime OPS of .720 against lefties, you’d have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a season in which he recorded an OPS above .700 against such hurlers (.753 vs. LHP in ’12).

This all tells me that if owner Mike Ilitch is truly serious about contending for a division title in ’16, he needs to open up his checkbook and sign an outfielder who can aptly man left field and hit both right-and-left-handed pitching at an efficient rate.

Enter Cespedes or long-time Kansas City Royals left fielder and clubhouse leader Alex Gordon, both still available on the free agent market.

Both would be an extreme upgrade with the glove — Cespedes was 15 defensive runs saved above average and Gordon was seven in ’15, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

Additionally, Cespedes, a Gold Glove Award winner for his efforts in left field last season, and Gordon, a four-time Gold Glove winner who last won in ’14, have both shown the ability over the years to hit both right-handed and left-handed arms.

Both, in fact, have career OPS marks of at least .750 against lefties and righties (Cespedes: .788 vs. lefties and .811 vs. righties & Gordon: .750 vs. lefties and .798 vs. righties).

These are all reasons why the Tigers should reunite with Cespedes or steal a key cog from their division rivals in Gordon.

But will one of the two happen?

It is not very likely, and it’s because the Tigers under the leadership of Avila are mostly going in a new, cost-effective direction, which is more reliant upon building from within. It’s a change in philosophy from Dave Dombrowski’s time as commander-in-chief of the club’s day-to-day operations.

Yet, if Avila fails to upgrade the club’s present alignment in left, the trust the Detroit faithful have in him will be tested for the first time.

For Avila, it’s something he seems to be willing to endure as he stays the course and builds the Tigers in accordance with his short-term and long-term vision for the franchise.

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