It doesn’t classify as major news outside of Detroit and New York, but the Detroit Tigers announced that they have unconditionally released 28 year old outfielder Brennan Boesch. The move is made now in order for the Tigers to save approximately $2 million as they will only have to pay close to $400,000 of his scheduled $2.3 million.
It was just a year ago that saw big projections for the left handed hitting outfielder who was slated to hit in front of Miguel Cabrera. Boesch struggled for much of the season and eventually lost his starting job to Andy Dirks. It was a curious decision by Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski to tender Boesch a contract this winter since the Tigers like Dirks in left field and also signed Torii Hunter to play right field. After Boesch tweaked his oblique early this spring, his small chance of winning a job became non-existent.
Surely this news has swept across New York as both franchises have a need for a Major League quality outfielder. The Yankees are without Curtis Granderson for a month and are also missing Mark Teixeira for a similar period of time. The Mets currently have what looks to be the worst projected starting outfield in the league. There will obviously be interest, but Boesch is not a savior. He can be an average Major League bat with plus power. Any other expectations are simply unrealistic.
If one wants to write off last season as just a poor one that was weighed down by too many unrealistic expectations, that is fine. Boesch fell well under projections with his .246/.280/.372 with 22 doubles, 12 home runs, and 54 RBI. His 5.2 percent walk rate and 20.7 percent strikeout rate were career worsts. His .132 ISO was also his worst mark since he was in Single-A. According to defensive runs saved, he is a slightly above average left field. In 2011, Boesch hit .283/.341/.458 with 25 doubles and 16 home runs in just 42 additional at bats. Obviously, the dropoff in 2012 was large and a cause of concern.
But, Boesch has been consistent, even in the Minor Leagues. During his big year in double-A in 2009, he did hit 28 home runs, but that power came with just a .318 on base percentage. He will always be a player with an on base percentage that is dependent on his batting average. His first two seasons in the Major Leagues saw him post the best two walk rates of his career (both Minors and Majors). Last season, his walk rate regressed to that of his Minor League record. Thus, the fall in on base percentage. With a strikeout rate that has been consistently around 19 percent, Boesch will either have to rediscover his plate discipline from his first two seasons or be a role player with some power.
As someone with no real split between left handers and right handers, Brennan Boesch will get quite a bit of attention now that he is available. He will come at the Major League minimum and could provide good power. The league average for ISO last season was .151 while Boesch’s was .132. But, that was the first season that he didn’t post an ISO over the league average.
At the right price and with realistic expectations, Brennan Boesch could be a value for any team looking for a cost effective 28 year old outfielder with power and still a bit of upside. Of course the Yankees and Mets will be interested given their current roster. But, he won’t be the savior or cornerstone of any team that winds up signing him. He will help with power at the bottom of the lineup and will provide, at worst, league average defense. There is value in that.