Top 5 Jose Iglesias Replacement Options for the Detroit Tigers
With spring training coming to a rapid close, the Detroit Tigers have been saddled with an unenviable injury situation. How they deal with it could shape their season and run atop the American League Central.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias has been diagnosed with stress fractures in both legs, leaving his 2014 season in jeopardy.
When Detroit traded for Iglesias last July, he became the long-term solution at the position in Comerica Park. Four months later, former Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta left via free agency, opening the door for Iglesias to be an everyday player on a contending team.
Now, those plans are on hold. While Iglesias' career is in its infancy, the Tigers' window of opportunity is nearing its conclusion.
As general manager Dave Dombrowski considers replacement options, a win-now narrative will emerge for a franchise on the cusp of glory.
Here are the top options to replace Iglesias in Detroit during the 2014 season.
1. Stephen Drew
For Dombrowski and the Tigers front office, this search can be painless. By forfeiting a first-round pick and a one-year contract in the $14.1 million range, Stephen Drew would likely leave the free-agent market for a 2014 home.
Amazingly, Drew's arrival could make Iglesias' injury a blessing in disguise for the current Tigers.
With a veteran lineup, powerful rotation and excellent bullpen, the Tigers are built to win a World Series title right now. Signing Drew wouldn't just replace Iglesias in the lineup and at shortstop, it would bolster Detroit's chances to hold off Kansas City and Cleveland in the AL Central.
Furthermore, inking Drew could be a short-term solution. In the present, the Tigers would replace a young, ascending player with a proven veteran. By 2015, the job could be handed back to Iglesias, and Drew could seek another crack at free agency and a long-term deal on the open market.
If the Tigers are serious about winning big this summer, Drew is the shortstop to sign.
2. Nick Franklin
In Seattle, Nick Franklin is a man without a position.
The natural second baseman is now blocked by Robinson Cano's 10-year, $240 million deal. At shortstop, Brad Miller is ahead of Franklin in the organizational pecking order.
Although it remains to be seen if Franklin can handle the shortstop position defensively on an everyday basis, the Tigers should be willing to find out. After all, this is the franchise that employed shortstop Jhonny Peralta for his bat, not his slick fielding skills.
According to Ollie Connolly of OutsidePitchMLB.com, a connection exists between Seattle and Detroit when it comes to Franklin's availability.
If Franklin arrives in Detroit, he could be faced with future uncertainty. Eventually, Iglesias will return to shortstop. At second base, Ian Kinsler is signed through 2017.
For now, the Tigers would be wise to inquire about a middle-of-the-diamond hitter with an .819 career minor league OPS.
3. Steve Lombardozzi
Patience can be a virtue.
It's safe to imagine Tigers fans clamoring for Iglesias' replacement, but the Tigers shouldn't overpay for any player outside the organization.
In theory, a team led by MVP-caliber stars like Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander should be able to overcome the loss of a solid—if not spectacular—shortstop. With star power present throughout the roster, a replacement-level stopgap likely wouldn't be enough to cost Detroit a fourth consecutive AL Central crown.
Steve Lombardozzi isn't flashy, won't sell jerseys in Detroit and is better suited as a utility player than an everyday middle infielder. But that doesn't mean the Tigers can't get away with starting him at shortstop for the first few months of the season.
The 25-year-old switch-hitter—acquired in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Washington—can man the position until either the trade market develops, Drew's draft-pick compensation ceases in June or Iglesias' medical reports become clearer.
If the Tigers act immediately, they could overpay for a replacement-level player. In Lombardozzi, that type of option is present on their current roster.
4. Didi Gregorius
In Arizona, a shortstop battle has been raging between Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius. Despite the latter entering spring as the incumbent, ESPN's Jim Bowden is hearing that the Diamondbacks will choose Owings to man the position in 2014 (subscription required).
If that's the case, the Diamondbacks could pursue trade avenues for Gregorius. If or when that moment arrives, the 24-year-old could be an option for the Tigers, per Bill Baer of Hardball Talk.
Last season, Gregorius posted a .704 OPS—while flashing an excellent glove—in 103 games for the Diamondbacks.
The same traits—defense, youth, athleticism and upside at the plate—that likely made Iglesias attractive to Detroit's decision-makers are there with Gregorius. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus could deploy Gregorius in the same type of role as Iglesias was slated for in 2014.
In the future, the Tigers could allow both players to develop at their own pace. If one grew exponentially as an offensive player, the other would become an interesting and valuable trade chip.
5. Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins has been a member of the Phillies organization since the 1996 amateur draft. As he embarks on a 15th big league season, the former NL MVP doesn't envision a scenario where he would allow that to change.
According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Rollins won't consider waiving his no-trade clause unless the Phillies' season spirals out of control.
I don’t know. If we’re in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I’d think about it. But anything short of a complete disaster, I’m wearing red and white pinstripes.
For now, Rollins is last on this list. By June, this could be revisited. If Rollins struggles to adjust to manager Ryne Sandberg's personality or the team falls behind the NL East pack, the longtime Phillies shortstop could allow the organization to field offers.
If Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro shops him, the Tigers would be wise to make a play for the sure-handed veteran.
Which shortstop option should the Tigers pursue to replace Iglesias?
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