The Winter Meetings are about to start and snow is flying in the Midwest. While some of the Tigers are home in the tropics or enjoying 18 holes in Florida, The Hammer Toss will keep you warm with the hot stove!
The middle infield for the Detroit Tigers is in for a significant overhaul this offseason.
The Tigers firmly committed to a new second baseman by declining to offer salary arbitration to Placido Polanco and allowing him to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.
Likewise, the Tigers declined salary arbitration on shortstop Adam Everett, and therefore have another glaring hole in the middle infield to fill this offseason.
Of course, General Manager David Dombrowski is in a bit of a budget pickle now after years of doling out overloaded contracts. Without much money to spend, the Tigers will be staying clear of premier free agents this winter.
Then again, there is not much talent in the free agent shortstop pool as it is. As always, however, The Hammer Toss has solutions! Here are five guys the Tigers might consider for 2010. The big caveat is: if the price is right.
Ok, so I started the list with someone who is not actually a free agent, bear with me. Santiago would be the leading in-house candidate to play everyday if no one else is signed, which could be a reality.
Let us not forget that Santiago was once a moderately touted prospect in the Tigers' system before floundering that status away playing for the 2003 team of failure.
He came back to Detroit as a free agent in 2006 after being sent to Seattle in the Carlos Guillen trade before the 2004 season.
Santiago started 56 games at short and 17 at second base, his most starts in a season since 2003.
He acquitted himself well with his glove, playing praise-worthy defense, but that is about all he has going for him, besides being cheap. However, with the budget pinch the Tigers find themselves in, that might be enough to hand him the job for 2010.
Jerry Hairston Jr.
The once-upon-a-time everyday second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles has floated around as a journeyman utility player the past few years.
As a bonus, Hairston Jr. still has the speed to steal 15-20 bases and could profile as a leadoff hitter for a team willing to play him everyday.
The downside is that he will most likely be highly coveted by contending teams to be a utility player. Thus he would earn a better paycheck and have a chance at another World Series ring, which he might opt to do, unless Dombrowski can win him over.
Carroll is another utility player who carries a tremendous glove. While he has never truly been an everyday player, he has averaged 300 at-bats per season since his first full season in 2003.
The at-bats come from the fact that this is a guy you want to get into your lineup. On top of his good fielding, he is also a competent hitter who will draw walks, come up with timely hits, and score some runs.
Again, however, his skills will be highly coveted by contending teams. Still, if the price is right he could be had by the Tigers to start 110-plus games at shortstop and possibly hit second in the batting order. His ability to get on base definitely warrants it.
Forget about the fact that Counsell is 39 and will be 40 by the end of the season. You can also forget most of the statistics, as well.
Here is what you need to know: He's another player from the David Dombrowski era in Florida, and that of course makes him attractive.
Ok, I will bring in some statistics here to complete the picture about why we should not groan about this guy.
For one, Counsell won a ring in Florida in '97 and again in Arizona in 2001. He's another guy with a great glove, and he hit .285 this year in 404 at-bats in Milwaukee. The first half he filled in at second for the injured Rickie Weeks, and the second half he played short and third to cover the inconsistencies of the starters there.
This is another guy who could hit second in the order or at the bottom. Despite his age, this guy still has it. His offensive performance from 2009 was among the best of his career.
Finally, 2009 at shortstop could be rehashed again. I will admit to being very excited when Everett first signed to play in Detroit. The guy had built a reputation of being a groundball vacuum cleaner out in Houston.
To that end, it was hard to be disappointed in what we got out of him in 2009. He played great defense, as he always does, and had some timely hits.
The biggest knock against Everett is that he does not have many timely hits, for he can barely hit his weight, and at times was a major hole in the lineup.
Still, if the price is right, he could be back to tandem with Santiago again in 2010. As choices go, he might not be the best one, but he is still not a bad one.
Are there other guys on the market who could play shortstop for Detroit in 2010? Absolutely, but write them all off. Marco Scutaro is a type-A free agent who is too likely to regress, and other teams will be willing to pay decently for Juan Uribe's power.
Of course, there is always room for a trade, but we will get to that one at a later date.
If the price is right, will the 2010 Tigers' shortstop come on down?
This and many other burning topics are going to warm up your world as the hot stove lights on fire! Stay tuned to The Hammer Toss.