(Photo credit: Associated Press)
According to the Detroit Free Press and several other sources, The Tigers confirmed today that young shortstop Jose Iglesias would be sidelined with stress fractures in both shins. General manager Dave Dombrowski went so far as to hint that Iglesias would probably miss the entire season:
“The reality is that he will be out basically for at least five months,” Dombrowski said. “Perhaps back late in the year, but in my thought process that’s more unlikely than likely at this time.”This is a disappointing development to say the least as he was the centerpiece of the teams new emphasis on infield defense. Not only does this cut into the Tigers projected edge in the American League Central, but it also deprives us of being able to watch perhaps the most acrobatic Tigers shortstop of most of our lifetimes.
The Tigers do expect the 24-year-old Iglesias to be back for next season, but they have a big void to fill for 2014. It shouldn't be a crushing blow as they are still heavy favorites to win the division, but it's a substantial loss. The Tigers are considering internal options to replace Iglesias - probably some combination of spring training invitee Danny Worth, rookies Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.
That arrangement might work for a few weeks, but contending teams don't usually do shortstop by committee and it's hard to foresee any of those guys emerging as their starting shortstop for the full season.
So, I'm expecting them to aggressively pursue a replacement from outside the organization. The most obvious choice would be free agent Stephen Drew. The catch there is that the Tigers would have to give up a first round draft pick to sign him which is not usually a good idea for a one-year stop gap.
I've gone back and forth on Drew, but now that we pretty much know that Iglesias is gone for the season, I would be in favor of a one-year deal or two years at most. The draft pick is important, but it's less important than trying to win it all this year. Keep in mind that draft picks in the second half of the first round have much lower odds of success than picks earlier in the first round.
Other rumors involve Mariners middle infielder Nick Franklin (mostly a second baseman) and Diamond Back's shortstop Didi Gregorius. Either would likely cost one or two of the Tigers top prospects which would be more than the likely value of a first round pick. Since the Tigers do not have a deep farm system, this would limit their ability to add more help at other positions before the trading deadline.
Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney has also been mentioned as a possible replacement. He's an elite defender at the keystone position, but probably not at shortstop. He doesn't hit much, so if he is only average or tick above defensively, then he won't be much of an upgrade over the internal candidates. The Cardinals Pete Kozma? He's a good fielder, but he had a .548 OPS last year which is not acceptable at any position.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is one more option. He'd be cheaper in terms of players because the Phillies would move him for salary relief. The problem with him is that he has a no-trade clause and has no interest in leaving Philadelphia.
So, there is no easy answer, but I am confident Dombrowski will make a move. If not, then they might start the season with a spring training invitee (Worth) and two rookies (third baseman Nick Castellanos and outfielder Tyler Collins) in the starting line-up. That's too much uncertainty for a team with post-season aspirations. So, they'll likely do something and I'm guessing they'll work something out with Drew.