On Jose Iglesias, the next Tigers shortstop, and defense
In the wee hours at Comerica Park on the night of July 30, as Dave Dombrowski put together the deal that brought them Jose Iglesias from Boston in exchange for Avisail Garcia, one of the things he mentioned was the importance of shoring up the position defensively. They had a lot more offense around the lineup at that point, but they also had a much better offensive player they were preparing to replace, and they felt Iglesias fit in with what they wanted to do long term.
“We’ve had some other people throw some names at shortstop for us that we didn’t see fitting in for us,” Dombrowski said.
As Dombrowski talked about the position Sunday morning at Space Coast Stadium, and how to fill the void left by Iglesias’ injury, that emphasis on defense was there again. They’re trying to shore up the void at shortstop, Dombrowski emphasized, not the void at the bottom of the lineup.
“I think we need to keep it in perspective,” Dombrowski said. “There’s no question [Iglesias is] a very fine player but for us, from an offensive perspective, it’s the bottom of our order. It’s not the middle of our order. I think it’s very important that whoever we have catches the ball, plays defense. That’s extremely important for us.”
They were already prepared to go into the season with Iglesias at the bottom of their lineup, producing some offense but not having to be a catalyst. With Iglesias out, that’s the void.
If they go after another shortstop, Dombrowski does not seem inclined to trade defense for offense. With a rookie third baseman still adjusting back to the corner after spending the previous season and a half in the outfield, with a team built around pitching and defense, they can’t afford to comprise fielding there.
“You have to catch the ball at shortstop to play defensively on our club,” Dombrowski said. “We have a good pitching staff, we think we’re going to score enough runs. It’s a very important part, and we think we have some guys that can do that.”
There’s a lot of question whether Eugenio Suarez will hit enough to stick as a Major League shortstop, questions that have followed Danny Worth during his career, questions that have been asked about Hernan Perez as well. Defensively, though, they think a lot of what they have. None are as good as Iglesias, none are likely as good defensively as Stephen Drew for that matter, but there’s enough talent there to try to fill the gap on defense without worrying as much about offense.
When the Tigers look around at the trade market, or if the Tigers do end up making a run at Drew, it’ll be with defense in mind. They’ll have to figure out whether Seattle’s Nick Franklin is a Major League caliber shortstop or, realistically, a second baseman/utility type, as some evaluators say. And they’ll have weigh whether the upgrade on Drew defensively is big enough to make it worth the price in contract or draft compensation. Same goes for Jimmy Rollins in any trade speculation, for that matter, unlikely as that possibility seems.
Drew would not be a major presence offensively. His recent numbers, and especially his numbers away from Fenway Park last year (.222 average, .687 OPS) make that clear. He had a very good 2013 season against right-handers (.284/.377/.498) but under .196 against lefties. If you bring him in, it’s not going to be for offense.
Again, part of the debate hinges on Iglesias’ timetable, as well as how confident they can be that his shins will finally be healthy for good when he returns. Will Carroll of Bleacher Report pointed out that the foot-and-ankle specialist Iglesias has been set up to visit Tuesday — Dr. Thomas Clanton at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado — is an expert in chronic conditions.