In case you missed the news last night, the Tigers most likely just traded for their center fielder. In a move that isn’t going to get a ton of coverage, Detroit traded a player to be named and cash to Tampa for right handed hitting Mikie (pronounced Mike-ee) Mahtook.
The move doesn’t come as a big surprise as General Manager Al Avila mentioned that Detroit would be searching all avenues for a center fielder and had been connected to cheaper options recently.
Mikie Mahtook was a former first round draft choice (31st overall) by the Rays out of LSU and will be entering his age 27 season. Mikie has played in two partial seasons with Tampa, where he saw success in 2015, hitting .295, with 9 homers and 19 RBI, with a .970 OPS in 115 plate appearances (41 games). In 2016, Mahtook struggled mightily when he hit .195 with 3 homers and a .523 OPS in 196 plate appearances (65 games). He did suffer a hand injury after being hit by a pitch in June and was placed on the 15-day DL. Splits show that he was struggling before the injury however and actually hit better after.
As a defender, Mahtook played each of the outfield positions in both 2015 and 2016, rating out pretty neutral across all three spots in the runs saved above average category.
In the minors last season, Mahtook played 27 games in Durham (with 4 in lower class ball in rehab games) and hit .305 with an .821 OPS, with 5 doubles, 3 triples, 1 homer, and 5 steals.
It seems like the potential is there and this could be a season where Mahtook establishes himself as a Major League center fielder who can hit for average, add a little pop, steal some bases, and add stability defensively. Then there are his 2016 numbers that show this could be a crash and burn move by Avila. I do believe it’s a solid gamble depending on who the player to be named is, with very little risk outside of possibly not having an established center fielder to start the season.