If the Detroit Tigers are truly preparing to take that final step and win their first World Series since 1984, they should trade Jhonny Peralta and acquire an upgrade at the shortstop position.
This is a move they need to get done this offseason.
That's not to say this team can't go all the way should Peralta remain in Detroit. That would be a ridiculous statement considering the Tigers just won the AL Pennant without the services of All-Star Victor Martinez at any point in the season.
Not only will Detroit have a healthy V-Mart returning to the lineup in 2013, general manager Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch wasted no time in pursuing and signing an extremely valuable addition to the Tigers' outfield in the 15-year veteran Torii Hunter.
Even with Peralta at shortstop, the Tigers are a contender in every sense of the word. Having Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera alone enters your team into the discussion.
But in the offseason, the main objective is to strengthen your roster as much as possible. That means going to great lengths to find which team has what you need to make your club better and tempting them with what you have to improve its club.
Dombrowski is very good at what he does—there's no doubting that. But he and the organization's comfort level with their current middle infield situation is concerning.
Just after Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, Dombrowski voiced his support for Peralta (per Jason Beck of MLB.com) and asserted his confidence that the 30-year-old is going to have a fine 2013 season in Detroit.
"I know he's committed to going out and having a good year. He's already working out hard this wintertime. He's working out hard with Cabrera and [Alex] Avila down in South Florida, so I think he's going to go out and have a real good year for us."
That sounds a bit too comfortable to me.
I do like Peralta. He's sure-handed for one. And on a good day, his bat can pack a punch, which is a rare quality to find in a shortstop.
But we all know he lacks range in the field, which is a common theme for the entire Detroit infield. At 6'2", 215 pounds, Peralta is bigger and slower than your average shortstop. He's spent time a third base throughout his career because of it.
At the plate, he's a career .264 hitter (nothing special) who usually knocks in between 70-90 runs a year. For a shortstop, that's not too shabby.
While he remains serviceable at knocking in runs, Peralta is one step short of atrocious in terms of scoring them. He hasn't scored more than 68 runs in any season since 2008, when he was with Cleveland.
He's gotten 10 stolen bases in 1,276 career games at the major league level.
How many managers have an everyday shortstop in which they can honestly expect to get no more than one or two stolen bases per season? Very few. Only four MLB shortstops that recorded more than 500 at-bats in 2012 stole less than ten bases.
Detroit has one of them.
Considering your other middle infielder, second baseman Omar Infante, is typically good for no more than 5-10 a year (his 17 in 2012 were more than double his total from any previous season since 2004). That's not a good sign.
The Tigers have power across the batting order. They don't need a shortstop that can drive in runs (and isn't even all that great at doing that). They need one that can move, both in the field and around the bases.
Preferably one that isn't 6'2", 215 pounds.
When the Tigers traded for Peralta in the summer of 2010, they didn't have Prince Fielder. They didn't have V-Mart as a designated hitter. Austin Jackson provided only four home runs all year—a quarter of the 16 he hit in 2012.
Outside of Cabrera, the reigning AL MVP, they didn't have much power. And, to an extent, Peralta provided some.
That was fine in 2010, but it could be troublesome in 2013.
And how do we know that? Because it was in 2012, too. With one less stolen base last season, Detroit would have tied the Orioles for dead last in baseball in that category. Without Quintin Berry's 21 swipes, the Tigers would have indeed finished last.
Berry isn't an infielder, though. Nor is he likely to be an everyday fixture in the Tigers' lineup.
The two things Detroit needs most at this moment is improved defense in the infield and increased speed on the base paths. While the name of free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew has been tossed around this winter, he hardly provides the latter. The six-year vet hasn't stolen more than 10 in any one season.
Well, if not Drew, who could Detroit even get to improve the position?
That is where some creativity is required, which is something Dombrowski does not lack. If he wanted to go down them, there are avenues to be explored. To be honest, we should probably assume he'll be doing so.
If the Tigers want a World Series, why not go all out? They have a valuable prospect in third baseman Nick Castellanos that plenty of teams would love to take off their hands. It's unlikely any of them will see much value in Peralta, but there are plenty of shortstop-needy teams struggling to find a solution to their problem via free agency.
Perhaps a three-team trade could be in the works? I understand this is an unlikely scenario, but let's consider the options.
Take the Texas Rangers for example. The team's best hitter, Josh Hamilton, is a free agent and could be headed elsewhere. One possible replacement that Texas is quite fond of would be Diamondbacks' outfielder, Justin Upton.
Just this past weekend, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Rangers still want Upton, even more so after missing out on free-agent starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who signed with the Dodgers.
And wouldn't you know it, Arizona just happens to be in search of a shortstop.
Maybe the D-Backs aren't interested in Peralta, but would they live with him if Castellanos came along, too? In turn, they could ship Upton to Texas and Detroit could land Elvis Andrus, along with some other minor mixing and matching.
A long shot? Surely. But imagine what Andrus, a career .275 hitter with 123 stolen bases in four seasons, could do in Detroit. At 24 years old, Andrus is not a player the Rangers want to part ways with, but they do already have a promising young shortstop in Jurickson Profar who has the potential to fit into their long-term picture instead.
Or, what about Asdrubal Cabrera? Would Cleveland trade one of its best players to a division rival? Doubtful, but it depends on what the Indians would be getting in return. It should be noted that they are indeed fielding (via Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) offers for the 27-year-old two-time All-Star.
Detroit traded with Cleveland for Peralta in 2010, why not return him in addition to a couple promising yet unproven prospects for their current shortstop?
Don't say we haven't seen crazier things unfold in the wacky world of Major League Baseball.
I wouldn't even rule out the possibility of trying to land 34-year-old Jimmy Rollins from Philadelphia. The 12-year vet hit 23 HR and stole 30 bases in 2012, and would certainly be an upgrade over Peralta defensively.
The point is, the Tigers aren't in a position to wait around for talented prospects who may or may not turn into stars. Dombrowski, Ilitch, and the city of Detroit are ready to win now.
A serious upgrade at shortstop would come at a great cost, but I can't think of a more fitting solution for Detroit's problems than to replace Peralta with someone who provides a lift both offensively and defensively.
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