Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Around the Division: Detroit Tigers

Julio Iglesias was supposed to be the Detroit shortstop
this season. If it happens, it will happen late in the season.
The Detroit Tigers started their offseason infield makeover in the middle of last season. With shortstop Jhonny Peralta facing a 50-game suspension, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski engineered a three-team swap that brought sweet-fielding Jose Iglesias to the Motor City.

I don't know that Iglesias is as good as Peralta overall. Peralta is a much better hitter; Iglesias has superior range afield (and is probably more erratic). Iglesias is considerably younger and definitely cheaper.

Peralta is gone now, having signed with St. Louis as a free agent (a signing that I find curious, as the Cardinals front office is as savvy as any; they paid up for a small-range offensive shortstop with one PED strike against him). And now Iglesias is gone, destined for the disabled list with shin fractures in both legs.

Rumors upon rumors have resulted from that fact, starting with the notion, accuracy unknown, that Iglesias will miss the entire season (or most of it). The Tigers aren't saying much for the record beyond that the player is to see a specialist today, and Iglesias said this week he expects to play at some point. But since an offseason of rest didn't heal the fractures, out for the year seems plausible.

The prospect of this potential powerhouse entering the season patching the position with a plethora of utility men is unlikely. Mike Illich has spent a fortune chasing his World Series dreams, and something will happen soon.

The widespread expectation is that Stephen Drew will land in Detroit. The free agent shortstop is a Scott Boras client, and Illich-Dombrowski have done considerable business with Boras.

But Dombrowski, aware of the deteriorating status of his farm system, is probably reluctant to part with a first-round pick for a one-season rental, and Drew and Boras have indicated a reluctance to do a one-year deal anyway. And Iglesias remains prominent in the Tigers' longer-range plans.

Presumably Dombrowski could sign Drew to a multi-year deal and then trade him when Iglesias is healthy, much as he flipped Prince Fielder after two years. But that plan assumes there's a market for Drew down the road, and there hasn't been one so far this winter.

If not Drew, then what? A trade? The Seattle Mariners, having signed Robinson Cano, are believed to be shopping infielder Nick Franklin. But there's doubts that Franklin can handle shortstop. Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies veteran, has rather emphatically said he would reject a trade (he has that right as a 10-and-5 player), at least until he's passed Mick Schmidt as the franchise's all-time hits leader (he's 60 behind the Hall of Famer).

Another, more realistic possibility, has the Tigers trading for one of the two non-established shortstops now competing for the job with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius.

An Arizona deal is my guess. But I never figured the Tigers would react to the 2012 injury to Victor Martinez by signing Fielder either.

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