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Platoon in left an option for Tigers

MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Monday was a busy day for the Tigers, as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski described it, talking with several clubs and talking with representatives for quite a few free agents. However, Dombrowski continues to insist the club is not involved on the top free agents on the first day of the Winter Meetings.

"When I say free agents, I'm not talking about the big, big ones," Dombrowski said late Monday afternoon, "but we've talked about some other people."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Monday was a busy day for the Tigers, as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski described it, talking with several clubs and talking with representatives for quite a few free agents. However, Dombrowski continues to insist the club is not involved on the top free agents on the first day of the Winter Meetings.

"When I say free agents, I'm not talking about the big, big ones," Dombrowski said late Monday afternoon, "but we've talked about some other people."

The one prominent corner outfielder on the free-agent market, Shin-Soo Choo, ranks among the top free agents remaining at any position. Dombrowski has not mentioned Choo by name in his dismissals of top free-agent involvement, though he rarely mentions free agents from other teams before they've agreed to terms somewhere.

Add together the Tigers' desire to upgrade left field and lengthen the offensive production in their lineup with the payroll space they opened up by trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister, and the scenario is certainly there. However, Dombrowski has also strongly hinted toward efforts to re-sign Max Scherzer, a year away from free agency, and Miguel Cabrera, who has two seasons left on his contract.

With that, the mystery of the Tigers' left-field discussions continued, at least for a little while longer. While Dombrowski left little doubt they're looking to upgrade their left-field situation, and seemed optimistic they'll find an answer, he's leaving little hints how he can do it.

"We'll just see what ends up happening," Dombrowski said. "Sometimes you have to be careful that everybody doesn't always think there's going to be an All-Star at every position. I mean, there are some clubs doing pretty darn well with some platoons at different spots, too. So they do work at times. Just because it's not per se an All-Star somewhere doesn't mean that you can't get the production that you're looking to have out of certain spots. Sometimes they're more productive for you."

Whether a platoon would be productive in Detroit depends mostly on Andy Dirks, the part of a potential platoon that's currently on the roster. Dombrowski cited a lingering knee injury -- not a major one, Dombrowski cautioned, but bad enough to linger after crashing into the outfield fence in Spring Training -- as a reason behind Dirks' down year, including a .256 average that sat 66 points below his 2012 level and a .686 OPS that represented a 171-point drop.

If Dirks platoons, the Tigers would transition from seeking a left-handed hitter balancing out a righty-heavy lineup, to seeking a right-handed hitter to balance with Dirks. This year, it's a completely different market. Among the right-handed-hitting outfield free agents are power-hitting Michael Morse and Corey Hart, and speedy Rajai Davis.

"We do look for Andy Dirks to come back and be better than he was last year," Dombrowski said. "Now, what do we do? We'll still see. I'm not sure what direction we're going in at this time."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Andy Dirks