Exactly one week before Opening Day, the Detroit Tigers sent utility man Steve Lombardozzi to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez in hopes of filling their shortstop void. Thus far, Gonzalez has hit .167 and struggled mightily with the glove, while Lombardozzi is hitting .298 and has played flawlessly in 12 games at second base. The way things are going, it is looking like the Orioles are going to be the clear winner of that trade.
Lombardozzi became expendable after the Tigers acquired another utility man, Andrew Romine, who was thought to be more of a true shortstop. However, it is now becoming evident that Lombardozzi has a far superior bat to both Romine and Gonzalez. The switch-hitting Lombardozzi’s .298 batting average would certainly look nice in the right-handed heavy Tigers’ lineup at the moment.
Lombardozzi has still only played two games at shortstop at the major league level, but he logged 20 games at that position in the minor leagues and never committed a single error there. For a comparison, Gonzalez has played nine games at shortstop this season and has already committed three errors.
Obviously, the Tigers organization felt that Lombardozzi was better suited to be a second or third baseman. The Tigers did have him working out at shortstop for a spell this spring as they originally had him pegged to be Jose Iglesias‘ backup, but it would have been nice if they would have stuck with him a bit longer and given him a chance to be their everyday shortstop. He may have very easily played better defense than Gonzalez has thus far.
Now that Lombardozzi is no longer an option, the Tigers would be very wise to give Stephen Drew another look. Drew would provide a good glove at shortstop and a left-handed bat which are two things the Tigers are in dire need of at the moment. Furthermore, Drew not only won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox last season, but he has also been to the playoffs with the Oakland Athletics and Arizona Diamondbacks. He is a proven winner who has played on several very good teams.
Obviously, the Tigers would prefer to wait until after the June draft to sign Drew when they will no longer have to surrender a first-round pick, but they may not be able to get by with Gonzalez and Romine as their stopgap shortstops for much longer. The Tigers do have a few other options at the minor league level in Danny Worth, Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, but they lack Drew’s veteran experience and his left-handed bat.
If Drew is indeed still on the Tigers’ wish list, they could either choose to sign him now and part ways with the draft pick or wait until after the draft and, in all likelihood, have to outbid another team and end up overpaying him for a little more than half a year of service.