Tigers acquire Anderson from Braves
Detroit sends pitching prospect to Atlanta for speedy outfielder
VIERA, Fla. -- The Tigers have spent Spring Training trying to make sure they have a left-handed bat on the bench and someone who can back up in center field. Manager Jim Leyland has never made a secret of his desire to improve his team's performance on the basepaths.
By adding outfielder Josh Anderson from the Braves, they've accomplished all of those. Anderson's loss in Atlanta's center-field competition was the Tigers' gain, allowing them to acquire the speedster in exchange for reliever Rudy Darrow.
Anderson immediately hit the trading block when he apparently lost out to Jordan Schafer for center field in Atlanta. He'll be an extra outfielder in Detroit, where the starting trio of Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez is set.
The 26-year-old Anderson played 40 games with the Braves last year, batting .294 with seven doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. His Minor League numbers give a better glimpse of his speed. He swiped 42 bases in 49 attempts over 121 games at Triple-A Richmond last year and boasts 280 stolen bases in his six-year Minor League career.
The Tigers haven't had that kind of pure speed since Nook Logan in 2005. Their last stolen-base threat with those kinds of numbers was Alex Sanchez in 2003-04. Barring an unexpected regular job, Anderson won't get that kind of playing time to rack up those numbers, but he'll provide the threat.
"He gives us a dimension that we really don't have, which is speed," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said of Anderson. "We like a lot of our outfielders right now, but we think he's a good fit for us."
It's a need that Leyland now will try to utilize in different ways. The possible roles he listed Monday included situations for a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement, and occasional starts to give Granderson a rest.
"We were trying to get a piece," Leyland said, "and that's a nice piece."
That fit will squeeze out many of the outfielders who spent Spring Training fighting for a role. Brent Clevlen, Clete Thomas, Ryan Raburn and non-roster invitee Timo Perez were in competition for a spot on Detroit's bench, along with corner infielder and outfielder Jeff Larish. Of that group, Clevlen and Perez are the only ones out of Minor League options. The Tigers could conceivably lose Clevlen to a waiver claim, but that's nowhere near a certainty.
What this means for another Tigers reserve outfielder, Marcus Thames, remains to be seen. Though Dombrowski said Anderson will definitely open the season on the team, he indicated that it filled one of the last two spots on the positional roster, not the last, and that they still have some final decisions to make. With backup catcher Matt Treanor and utility infielder Ramon Santiago set by all accounts, that would seemingly leave Thames, Larish and possibly others in play for a spot.
Though Anderson provides a left-handed bat, that won't necessarily make him the Tigers' left-handed pinch-hitter. Leyland said he could use Anderson to pinch-hit leading off an inning, but a situation calling for power might be different. Anderson has just 22 home runs in his six pro seasons. That could still leave a need for Larish if the Tigers wanted a lefty power bat.
Despite the abundance of outfielders in camp now, Dombrowski deemed the chances of a follow-up trade sending out a Tigers outfielder as "possible, but not likely."
The right-handed Darrow opened Spring Training with the Tigers as a non-roster invitee before being sent to Minor League camp on March 11. The 25-year-old sidearmer split last year between Class A West Michigan and Double-A Erie, but wasn't a key piece amid the newfound relief depth in the Tigers' farm system.
"We like Darrow," Dombrowski said. "He was a different look for us with that sidearm [delivery]. But he's also a guy, we think, in that one area, middle relief. In our organization, we think there's some depth there. We have some guys coming from the Draft last year, and guys beyond that. And we sent some guys down with [Casey] Fien and [Freddy] Dolsi that we like. We just thought he's a guy that was a fair request [for Atlanta]."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.