So who will be the Detroit Tigers’ starting shortstop on Opening Day?
It is a question one need not have asked at the beginning of spring training. But Jose Iglesias is expected to miss most, if not all of the 2014 season due to stress fractures in both of his shins.
I am an Iglesias guy and I was steaming mad when the Red Sox shipped him to Detroit during last year’s trade deadline. I thought it would come back to haunt them in the ALCS. Well, the Sox and Tigers did meet in the ALCS. While Iglesias did make this spectacular catch off the bat of David Ortiz, the Sox prevailed and went on to win the World Series.
So losing Iglesias is a big deal for Detroit and I can’t see utlity guy Danny Worth or prospects Hernan Perez or Eugenio Suarez as the answer.
The Tigers have two options. They could A) sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew or B) acquire Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies.
Drew was a teammate of Iglesias part of last season in Boston. He hit .254 with 13 HR and 67 RBI. Not earth shattering numbers, but solid. Keep in mind that he missed 38 games in 2013 with a concussion. Indeed, it was that concussion which brought Iglesias to the big leagues. Drew’s bat went south during the post-season, going 6 for 54, although he did hit a homerun in the World Series clincher. But Drew’s most important contributions to the Red Sox World Series title were with his glove.
But Drew was the odd man out. Rookie Xander Bogaerts is ready for prime time. The Sox could have had Bogaerts play third, but they’re not ready to give up on Will Middlebrooks just yet. Meanwhile, Drew has had a long, lonely winter. It’s true that the Sox did offer him $14.1 million. But unless Bogaerts or Middlebrooks got hurt, Drew would be riding the pine. I know it’s nice work if you can get it. But in Detroit Drew would play everyday (assuming he stays healthy). On the other hand, Drew won’t come cheap, especially with Scott Boras looking out for his pocketbook.
Which brings me to Plan B: Jimmy Rollins. Although four years older than Drew, the former NL MVP would likely be a cheaper option than Drew. Rollins is due to make $11 million this season and is in the final year of a three year contract with the Phillies. But Rollins had a terrible season in 2013, hitting .252 with only 6 HR and 39 RBI in 160 games played. Rollins and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg are not on good terms and Sandberg has benched him several times during spring training. However, Doug Glanville who played with both Ryno and Rollins with the Cubs and Phillies, respectively, thinks they will mend fences despite their different personalities. Nevertheless, J-Roll has reportedly fallen out of favor with the Phillies front office, and it’s looking to trade him. No doubt contributing to all this, if Rollins gets 600 or more plate appearances this season, his contract is automatically renewed in 2015. Rollins has done this three seasons in a row and would very likely do so again this year. Since Rollins has played his entire career with the Phillies and is 10-5 man, he can veto any trade and has indicated he’s staying put.
But would Rollins rather stay in Philly and play on a last place team or go to Detroit and get another chance to play in the World Series? Rollins is 35 and the Phillies won’t get back to their 2008-2009 form anytime soon. I think playing in Detroit would give Rollins a new lease on life. Maybe a phone call from Torii Hunter is in order.
Of course, if the Tigers are looking for less drama they could with Plan C and acquire Cliff Pennington from the D’Backs.