There probably couldn’t be a worse year in recent memory for the Detroit Tigers to be seriously considering an upgrade to their shortstop position.
There is a large pool of people out there who feel that the Tigers re-signed Jhonny Peralta to his $6M option year so that they could move him in a trade and upgrade the shortstop position along the way.
Peralta came to the Tigers at the 2010 trade deadline and has put in some really good work for Detroit. He had a career season in 2011 by hitting .299 with 21 homers and 86 RBI’s. Despite a disappointing regular season in 2012 he heated up and provided some big at-bats during the playoff run that was cut short by the Giants.
Historically, Peralta could generally be considered a lock for a .260-.270 average, about 15 homers, and 80 RBI’s. He hit just .239 last season. But that’s not the real reason the Tigers want to move him. It’s his lack of agility and range at the shortstop position that has been costing the Tigers runs in bunches.
Conservative estimates say that a player with the range of a Danny Worth might have reached 60 more ground balls than Peralta got to last year. Others say it was more like 80. The ramifications of the 60-80 more grounders getting snagged by a more deft fielder is mind-boggling. The Tigers would have blown away the competition in the AL Central, rather than having to mount a late comeback to overtake the White Sox.
The Tigers would gladly take a shortstop who put up the same offensive numbers that Jhonny did in 2012, but with the increased range.
So how hard is it to find a free agent shortstop who can hit .240 with 13 homers and a woeful .305 on-base % you ask? Incredibly hard.
The free agent market for shortstops is horribly weak. 37-year old Marco Scutaro is probably the top ranked player in the mix. The World Series champion Giants are confident that they’ll re-up the late season star on a 2-year deal to play 2nd base.
Scutaro can play shortstop though. The next best bet is the injury-riddled Stephen Drew, who has been linked to the Tigers multiple times already and the rumors are really starting to get hot. After Scutaro and Drew, forget about it.
So for now the hot buzz is that Stephen Drew might get a free agent deal from the Tigers, which would then prompt Detroit to move Jhonny Peralta in a trade to one of the many teams looking for a quality 3rd baseman, which is what Jhonny is best suited as.
So who is Stephen Drew anyhow? He was a player who looked to be one of the rising shortstops in all of baseball back when he was just 25 years old. In 2008, he hit .291 with 21 homers, 44 doubles, and 67 RBI’s. He is a left-handed hitting shortstop who can get it done on defense.
After putting up solid, yet unspectacular, seasons in 2009 and 2010, the wheels have come off of Drew’s career due mainly to injuries. A horrific ankle injury cut short his 2011 season in Arizona. During his rehab he ultimately fell out of favor with management and was dealt to the upstart Oakland A’s to fill a void during their playoff push.
For the season Drew hit just .223 with 7 homers and 28 RBI’s in 79 games. He’ll turn 30 prior to the start of the 2013 campaign and is probably in line for a 2-3 year deal at no more than $4-7M/year.
Drew is historically not a good on-base guy (.328 lifetime), which would project him at or near the bottom of the Tigers’ order. As fuzzy as his credentials look however, he isn’t without upside.
He will be out to prove that he is still among the quality shortstops across the league. The Tigers could probably expect a full season that looks something like this: .265 average, 25 doubles, 12 homers, no speed, and some solid defense up the middle.
Offensively, he is a different player than Peralta but the end results don’t really show. How much better he is defensively, on his surgically repaired ankle, is the real question here.
At worst, the Tigers can bring in Drew (who is virtually the same age as Peralta, even though it feels like Jhonny has been playing since 1972) and then get creative.
Some are still calling for a Justin Upton deal, which seems less likely by the day. Arizona is one team that is interested in a 3rd base makeover, however. Detroit doesn’t seem willing to pay the toll that would likely include either Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos, along with a few other big leaguers, to get an Upton though.
Brennan Boesch and Andy Dirks are not really compatible on the same roster anymore as both are lefty-hitting corner outfielders that you can’t create a left field platoon out of. So one of those two and Peralta could very well be on the move if Detroit nabs Drew.
The Tigers could use that combination to upgrade the starting rotation, the bullpen, or to grab a right-handed hitting catcher. Like I said, options.
Whether it’s Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta next year, I’m not convinced the product on the field will be drastically different. But adding Drew and dumping Jhonny and perhaps others might help the Tigers into the championship team they aim to be.