Since long-time major-leaguer Alan Trammell retired, I feel the Detroit Tigers have been looking for a long-term replacement for the next 10-15 years. There has been plenty of talk about replacing Jhonny Peralta as the Tigers' shortstop but there are a few factors that illustrate why he is under-appreciated.
Every year it seems that there is one position that fans obsess about trying to replace in the lineup. This year there was no exception with Tigers fans speculating about Peralta due to his perceived defensive shortcomings. In 2011, it was at third base with Brandon Inge. Last year it was in left field with Delmon Young, as well as with the second-base platoon of Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Brandon Inge.
On a side note, it feels good not to have to worry about Raburn or Inge being put into the lineup.
My opinion has always been to not worry about these so-called concerns since they always have a way of working themselves out. In July 2011, the Tigers made a low-risk trade for third baseman Wilson Betemit to help solidify that concern, and in July 2012 they traded for second baseman Omar Infante in a package that included pitcher Anibal Sanchez (h/t ESPN).
The Tigers' front office has earned the fans trust since they are smart and decisive. Unlike other teams, the Tigers' president and general manager Dave Dombrowski is never afraid to pull the trigger on a trade when he sees it necessary and helpful to the team.
When John Heyman of CBS Sports reported on Nov. 20, "The Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees are among teams to have interest in free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew," this immediately started the speculation that the Tigers were looking to get a shortstop with more range than Peralta.
Drew has always been known more for his defense than his bat. Last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's, Drew only hit .223 in the regular season and followed it up in the playoffs against the Tigers with a .211 batting average. Drew is better known for his defense even though I always thought he was overrated defensively. Add that on top of injury concerns as he suffered a horrific broken ankle in 2011 (h/t ESPN) and it is no wonder I was relieved when Drew signed with the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal.
While Peralta may not be known for his defensive range, he has very sure hands as he only had seven errors charged to him to go along with a .988 fielding percentage in 2012. While his batting average was down to .239, his career average is solid at .264 and he is a capable starting shortstop. During the Winter Meetings, Dombrowski spoke with MLB.com reporter Jason Beck about Peralta and gave him what I consider a tepid endorsement:
"We're happy with Peralta," Dombrowski said after Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. "What happens is a lot of times, people talk about getting more athletic with our club. There are very few positions we can get more athletic. That is one of the spots that is often discussed, but we're happy with Jhonny Peralta. When you look at his numbers over the last couple years, we're very happy with him."
It seems to me that the Tigers are constantly looking to upgrade every area of the roster, which should be the case because otherwise they wouldn't be doing their job. I also believe the Tigers realize that Peralta can be plugged into the lineup and there won't be many surprises with him.
One benefit of keeping Peralta is that he is familiar with the team and the AL Central since he has only played for the Tigers and Cleveland Indians. Also, he is only signed through the 2013 season, so the Tigers can reexamine their options once the season is over and they're not committed to him long term. This gives the Tigers time to see if any of their younger shortstops in the minor leagues are ready to fill the void on a full-time basis or if another shortstop becomes available via trade or free agency.
At the end of the day, if the Tigers see a problem at shortstop, it will be addressed. In the meantime, enjoy Peralta because I believe everyone can agree that he is better than Deivi Cruz was defensively.
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