There is a lot of talk about whether or not Detroit should try to bring Placido Polanco back for another season at second base. Regardless of what they decide to do, and I’ll bet that Polly is playing elsewhere in 2010, the best area for potential upgrade is at shortstop.
When Adam Everett was signed to man short prior to last season, the Tigers needed an upgrade defensively. Everett was exactly who we thought he was, a slick fielder with no bat. His defense help solidify the infield and helped the Tigers surprise many a folk by staying in the race until the last possible day. For the Tigers, it is now time to move on.
In an offseason filled with bullpen questions and wondering what to do with Marcus Thames, the best way for Detroit to pick up its stagnant offense is to acquire a shortstop who can lead off.
Curtis Granderson has evolved into what most baseball people thought he would become. He was never a prototypical lead off man, but he became a middle of the order type hitter in 2009. For the betterment of the lineup, he should be batting fifth or sixth, not first.
No matter who is playing second, the lineup next season is fairly set. Grandy will play center, flanked by Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, with Ryan Raburn playing when Maggs or Guillen are DH-ing. Brandon Inge is set at third and Miguel Cabrera plays first with Gerald Laird and Alex Avila catching. As is stands now, assuming Everett or Ramon Santiago is the shortstop, the lineup projects as follows:
But if you can get a leadoff hitting shortstop, the lineup looks much deeper.
This lineup allows for Inge to bat at the bottom of the order, providing some thump along with Avila. Raburn also moves down as does Guillen to sixth, where his all around skills are better suited. Granderson would provide the LH power bat the Tigers have been seeking to hit behind Cabrera. And all you have to do is replace Granderson’s .319 OBP at the top of the order.
So who should the Tigers target? MLB Trade Rumors has a fairly comprehensive look at the 2010 free agent class, and there are a couple of names that could be interesting. Jerry Hairston, Jr. has played short capably in the past, but he doesn’t excite me all that much. He has never been a high on base guy, but he could be had on a short term deal.
Marco Scutaro is a type-A free agent coming off the best season of his career. He hit leadoff in Toronto last year, but the Tigers would have to surrender a first round pick to sign him. At 34, he’s not young, so Detroit might want to pass. But he does fit the need. His OBP has increased each of the past two seasons and he might want to play for a team that figures to contend. He shouldn’t cost a whole bunch and most teams will be scared away by his type-A status, which could open the door for the Tigers if they are willing to lose the draft pick.
Another, if less appealing, option is Felipe Lopez. Lopez is a type-B free agent who did not play shortstop at all in 2009, but has played the majority of his big league games at that position. His defense at shortstop rates as below average, but he swings a good bat. He was passable with the glove at second base last season with Milwaukee and Arizona, so he does have some defensive ability. He has a career .349 OBP as a leadoff hitter and he is a switch hitter with some pop. He also has played extensively at second base, so the Tigers could use him there if Sizemore is not ready.
If the Tigers try the trade market, they likely will have to add salary or convince a team to take back a bad contract. Rafael Furcal had a terrible year in LA in 2009 and has had injury issues in the past, but the Dodgers might be willing to move him.
Detroit could try the Angels and attempt to pry away either Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar, though the price would be steep. Perennial prospect Brandon Wood could also fit, but the Angels will likely keep him with Chone Figgins being a free agent.
Another possible fit would be Ryan Theriot of the Cubs. Chicago could be persuaded to part with Theriot if they were also able to deal Milton Bradley. Theriot has a solid glove at short and carries a good OBP.
If the much talked about Bradley deal were to happen, The Tigers could use Bradley, Maggs and Guillen in a three way rotation between Left, Right and DH, while inserting Theriot into the leadoff spot. Plus a trade of that kind would rid the Tigers of either Nate Robertson or Jeremy Bonderman. Of course, in order to add Theriot to the deal, Detroit would either have to take on more of Bradley’s salary or add another player to the deal.