March 24th, 2014
For the second time in four days, the Tigers have traded for a shortstop. This time, they acquired a veteran one, bringing in Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles in exchange for utilityman Steve Lombardozzi.
The 37-year-old Gonzalez reunites with a Tigers front office that knows him well. He came up with the Marlins in 1998 while Dave Dombrowski was the general manager in Florida, then became the everyday shortstop there from 1999 through 2005. He has bounced around since then, including the last two years as a utilityman with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gonzalez’s last time as a regular shortstop came in 2011 in Atlanta, where he batted .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs.
Gonzalez joins a Tigers organization that has been scrambling to replace slick-fielding Jose Iglesias since he was diagnosed with stress fractures in both shins that are expected to keep him out for the entire 2013 season. Detroit acquired Andrew Romine on Friday from the Angels, and team officials talked about platooning him with one of the right-handed hitting infielders within camp, either utility infielder Danny Worth or second-base prospect Hernan Perez.
With Gonzalez on board, it remains to be seen whether the right-handed hitting Gonzalez will take over full time or platoon with Romine.
The rest of the Tigers positional roster, meanwhile, will take a different shape without Lombardozzi, who was acquired in November in the Doug Fister trade. The switch-hitter came to camp as a likely superutility player, capable of backing up at second and third base, shortstop and the outfield. Once the severity of the Iglesias injury became clear, however, the idea of a Tigers roster with two superutility players on the bench with Lombardozzi and Don Kelly became less viable.
That said, nobody would’ve expected Lombardozzi to be traded to quickly, let alone for an older fill-in player. If the Tigers were going to make another move at shortstop, speculation centered on free agent Stephen Drew, who reportedly expressed a willingness to sign a one-year deal after Opening Day. The Tigers have shown no signs towards such a move, possibly because of the draft compensation rule that would require them to give up their first-round pick to sign him, possibly for payroll reasons.