If someone told you they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who the Detroit Tigers‘ Opening Day starter at shortstop was going to be, they’d be lying. The Tigers now have four players vying for Jose Iglesias‘ vacant position, but none of them are going to leap off the page at you.
They added one more name to throw into the mix Monday after sending Steve Lombardozzi to the Baltimore Orioles for Alex Gonzalez — a 37-year-old journeyman infielder who appeared in just 65 games for the Milwaukee Brewers over the past two seasons as a backup to Jean Segura. The move comes three days after the team traded Jose Alvarez to the Los Angeles Angels for Andrew Romine. The 28-year-old infielder made appearances in 47 games last season, spending the majority of his time at third base.
Losing Alvarez for a player with so little upside hurts, especially considering the team felt the need to add Gonzalez as well. It makes you wonder why they didn’t swap Lombardozzi for Gonzalez in the first place and keep their top pitching prospect. If they were confident in Romine, they wouldn’t have felt the need to make a deal for Gonzalez.
The Tigers still have Danny Worth and possibly Hernan Perez in the mix as well. Worth has been the most promising in-house option this spring, posting a .392 on-base percentage to go along with consistent defense.
All of these moves are happening with a surefire shortstop on the free agent market, but he comes at a costly price. Stephen Drew would cost the Tigers a first round pick in the draft in June, not to mention a hefty salary in the ballpark of $14 million for a one-year deal. It doesn’t appear that the Tigers are going to pull the trigger on Drew for the time being, but it shouldn’t be ruled out as a possibility in the near future.
The Tigers will have a championship window as long as Miguel Cabrera dons their jersey, but they don’t appear to be as fiscally generous now as they have been over the past few seasons. It could be the final year for a few key players, and they need to be confident in their day-to-day shortstop if they want to win a fourth consecutive AL Central title.
Whoever the Tigers decide to put there isn’t going to be asked to produce much on offense. The most important thing will be to play solid defense and be reliable. That might be a stretch considering the four candidates they’ve amassed since the Iglesias injury have combined to appear in just 206 of 1296 MLB games over the past two seasons.