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Tigers face tough decision with Presley

Journeyman outfielder enters possible arbitration process after hot finish
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Once the Hot Stove season officially begins next week, the Tigers will embark on free agency looking for bargains, hoping to turn an overlooked player into not only a productive player, but a commodity. In many ways, they'll be looking for more players like Alex Presley.

Meanwhile, as the offseason nears, the Tigers still have a decision to make on whether Presley stays.

DETROIT -- Once the Hot Stove season officially begins next week, the Tigers will embark on free agency looking for bargains, hoping to turn an overlooked player into not only a productive player, but a commodity. In many ways, they'll be looking for more players like Alex Presley.

Meanwhile, as the offseason nears, the Tigers still have a decision to make on whether Presley stays.

Presley wants to remain a Tiger, and by all indications, the interest is mutual. The issue is whether that's enough for general manager Al Avila to keep him on their roster and go through the arbitration process, or if they'd rather try to sign the 32-year-old to a smaller deal and risk losing him as a free agent.

Not surprisingly, Presley would like to be back. He's ready to stop bouncing around for a little while.

"I like it here, honestly," Presley said at season's end. "I would love to be back, regardless of the situation with the team or whatever. I mean, we have a lot of good guys here that I enjoy being around and playing with. It's a place I'm comfortable. I felt like I've been able to get the best out of myself here. I'd love to continue that. Just being in an atmosphere where things can come together for you, I think, only brings positive thoughts for yourself."

Video: DET@MIN: Presley rips an RBI triple off the wall

This is not the first time Presley has been arbitration eligible, which is one reason he has changed teams so often over the last few years. He signed a $1 million contract to avoid arbitration with the Astros before the 2015 season, was outrighted at midseason, then signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers the next winter. The Tigers signed him to a Minor League deal in July 2016, then re-signed him as a free agent on another Minor League contract last winter after testing the free-agent market once more.

"One of the things that I've tried to get is some sort of stability with where I am," Presley said earlier this month. "I've been around a little bit, and just being able to have some continuity in one place for an extended period of time would seem unbelievable to me, because I haven't had that lately. That would be good for me. Stuff like that matters to me."

Called up around Memorial Day weekend, Presley not only stuck in Detroit, he took on a regular role for much of the stretch run once J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton were traded. He finished with a .314 batting average and .770 OPS, including a .347 average and .847 OPS over the season's final month. His 5.5 Runs Created per Game ranked sixth on the team.

What he lacked in power compared to typical corner outfielders, he tried to make up in contact, posting a career-best line-drive rate of 32 percent -- seven percent above the AL average, according to Baseball Reference.

Against AL Central division opponents, Presley's numbers were better, including a .359 (56-for-156) average, 26 runs scored and 15 RBIs in 43 games.

He likely wouldn't have the same amount of playing time in Detroit next year if the Tigers outfield stays the way it is, with Nicholas Castellanos in right field, JaCoby Jones in center and Mikie Mahtook in left. But with an all right-handed-hitting outfield, Presley's left-handed bat and positional versatility could work well in a fourth outfielder role.

The fact that Presley remains on the roster at this point suggests the Tigers want to keep him. Still, Avila and the Tigers have time before they must make a decision. Teams have until Dec. 2 -- about a week before baseball's Winter Meetings -- to tender a contract to arbitration-eligible players.

MLB Trade Rumors, which uses past cases and player comparisons to make annual projections, projects Presley to make $1.1 million next year.

Whether Presley would re-sign with the Tigers if they took him off the roster isn't entirely clear, either. But Presley's preference to return to a team amidst a rebuild is consistent.

"I feel I have a lot to offer," he said. "We'll see what happens."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Alex Presley