|Free agent SS Stephen Drew|
Infield defense has been a weakness for the Tigers the past couple years, but they appeared to have upgraded this offseason by moving Miguel Cabrera from third base to first base, trading first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler, moving on from Jhonny Peralta and installing Iglesias full time at short, and deciding to give prospect Nick Castellanos a shot at third base.
The key to this whole plan was Iglesias, who is a plus-plus defender at the most important position on the infield, and who would likely help cover up for some of the inconsistencies Castellanos has defensively. But Iglesias is not available to the Tigers now, so what is their Plan B?
The internal options aren't favorable. They acquired utilityman Steve Lombardozzi from the Washington Nationals in the Doug Fister deal this offseason, but I don't think shortstop is Lombardozzi's best position. He could play there in a pinch, but his main value is his ability to play multiple positions, and I wouldn't want him as a full-time shortstop.
Another option is Danny Worth, who has split time between the Tigers and Triple-A every year since 2010. Worth is an organizational depth kind of player, another guy you probably wouldn't want playing every day. He hit just .223 at the Triple-A level last year, and has never played more than 80 games at shortstop in a single season. He's also a nonroster invitee this year, which means he'd have to get added to the 40-man roster if he makes the club. It's unlikely he'll be Detroit's answer.
The Tigers also have youngsters Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, who have been getting playing time in spring games in Iglesias' absence. Suarez has a good defensive reputation, but he's never played a game above Double-A, where he hit .253 last season. If I had to take a guess, he's not ready to make the jump to the big leagues.
That leaves Perez, who has played more second base since getting in 124 games at shortstop in Single-A as a 19-year-old in 2010. He was on Detroit's postseason roster last year and was used as a pinch runner. He has the potential to steal some bases, but he can't hit a lick. His .197/.217/.227 line in 71 major league at-bats last year probably doesn't inspire much confidence.
I wouldn't want any of these four guys as my starting shortstop. I think Detroit has to do something, especially with pitcher Max Scherzer, designated hitter Victor Martinez and right fielder Torii Hunter all in the last year of their contracts. There has to be urgency to win now, and Tigers brass can't afford to let this season swirl down the toilet because of a sinkhole at shortstop.
You have to believe Detroit is going to make a play for shortstop Stephen Drew, who is still a free agent. Drew is not as good as Iglesias with the leather, but he's at least above average. He's not dynamic with the bat by any means -- he hit .253 with 13 home runs for the Boston Red Sox last year -- but that would be much better production than anything the Tigers could hope to get out of guys like Lombardozzi, Worth or Perez.
I don't know what shortstops might be available in a trade. Longtime Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins has already said he won't waive his no-trade rights to go to Detroit. Maybe the Tigers have a trade option I'm not aware of. But, if no deal can be struck, don't they have to sign Drew? It just seems like an obvious fit.