DETROIT -- The Tigers' search for outfield help could lead them to a familiar face, more familiar than the one that gets so frequently rumored.
While the top end of the outfield free-agent market continues to eye Detroit, the latest signs show the club moving toward a left-field platoon with a lefty-killing bat. The Tigers are in talks with Ryan Raburn about a potential return to Detroit, where he spent the first six seasons of his Major League career.
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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press first reported that Raburn was in play, and an industry source confirmed. The two sides have had multiple discussions since last month's Winter Meetings, when the right-handed hitter was not on the Tigers' radar. No deal is imminent.
The last time Raburn was seen in a Tigers uniform, he was a part-time left fielder in 2012, fighting through a tough season in Detroit after losing out on the starting second-base job. He signed with the Indians as a free agent in 2013 and rediscovered his right-handed-hitting stroke against lefties, batting .278 (106-for-381) with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs off southpaws the past three seasons.
A Raburn return would put him in much the same role, platooning with Anthony Gose or Tyler Collins in a left-field mix that the Tigers hope would garner production similar to a higher-priced regular. The Tigers also have Raburn's old teammate with the Indians, utility man Mike Aviles, a right-handed hitter but without the same power.
Raburn, a fifth-round pick by the Tigers in the 2001 Draft, turns 35 in April. He has played just two games at second base over the past three years, so he's being viewed exclusively as an outfielder.
One potential hang-up could be the possibility that the Tigers eventually go after a big-name outfielder. If, say, Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton lingered on the market long enough for the Tigers to swoop in with a short-term deal, Raburn's role could become obsolete. There's also the potential matter of fan reaction in Detroit, where crowds at Comerica Park turned on him by the end of his Tiger tenure.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.