Yesterday, it was reported that Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias is now expected to miss most of the 2014 season, which is a free fall from the “one week” of Spring Training he was originally expected to miss. Luckily, there is still a quality shortstop on the free-agent market who has patiently been waiting all winter long to find a new home. His name is Stephen Drew.
Drew may not be Iglesias with the glove, but his defense is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Last season, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Drew committed just eight errors in 124 games at shortstop and has a lifetime .979 fielding percentage at that position. Moreover, Drew would also give the Tigers a veteran left-handed bat who has the ability to hit .250-.270 with 12-15 home runs, which would certainly be an improvement over the offensive numbers that Iglesias was projected to give the Tigers in 2014.
Heading into the 2014 season, the Tigers were not planning to carry a “true backup” to Iglesias which is why they are now finding themselves in peril. Manager Brad Ausmus stated that the goal was to have Iglesias make upward of 150 starts at shortstop, and the Tigers were apparently comfortable enough having Steve Lombardozzi fill in during the dozen or fewer games that the team would need him to.
Although Lombardozzi is certainly capable of making the occasional start at shortstop, some are likely to question whether he would be able to play there every day as he has only logged a total of 22 professional games at that position in his career, with just two of those games coming in the major leagues.
The Tigers also have a pair of talented young middle infield prospects in Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, but both could use a little more seasoning in the minor leagues, and few would be enamored by the possibility of putting Danny Worth at shortstop as he hit just .220 in the minors in 2013. To put it simply, Drew is the best possible option the team could find at this point, internally or externally, to replace Iglesias.
It is important to note, however, that if the Tigers are to sign Drew before June, they will have to forfeit their first-round draft pick. That said, the Tigers still have a win-now mentality, and that may be a sacrifice they are willing to make in order to reach their ultimate goal of winning their first championship in 30 years. If the Tigers can convince Drew to sign a one-year deal, neither side would be likely to regret it.