Now typically at MCB we tend to write these pieces about guys that we think the Tigers ought to be pursuing (whether they ultimately do or not). Not this time – I’m writing this because rumors are flying that the Tigers actually are pursuing free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. Tony Paul at the Detroit News put it best, I’d say: “Well – this is curious”.
Drew – as was mentioned here at MCB during the season and after – actually provides very much the same “stuff” as Jhonny Peralta does. He’s an inconsistent offense-first shortstop coming off a weak 2012 campaign. Over their careers, both Peralta and Drew have been below average fielders (Drew gets a -4.6 UZR/150 while Peralta gets a -1.6) and above average hitters – with a career .749 OPS for Peralta and a career .761 OPS for Drew. Just look at those numbers and you’d say the Tigers were making a lateral move – but one that added a little offense and subtracted a little defense. That isn’t all there is, though. As far as “advanced metrics” go, Defensive Runs Saved is probably the most sophisticated – and DRS likes Drew on D a lot more than Peralta. Drew also hits left-handed (and would, therefore, fit better with a backup named Danny Worth) and is about 10 months younger than Peralta. And the big reason to sign him? The Tigers would still have a valuable commodity in Peralta to trade – thereby acquiring something (whatever they get for Peralta) for nothing if the two guys could be expected to provide exactly the same production. That’s my definition of a “brilliant lateral move”. And Peralta probably does have significant value on the trade market this year – since options at both shortstop and third base are scarce in the free agent pool.
There is a catch, unfortunately. The big reason that Tigers fans might like to see Peralta go is his bad 2012 at the plate – which wasn’t really bad by the standards of shortstops in general but definitely bad by his own standard and compared to his stellar 5.2 WAR 2011. In addition – while Peralta was statistically awful at short earlier in his career he has been (statistically) average over the past couple of seasons with the Tigers. Peralta might very well rebound – or that 2011 might be an extreme aberration. Who knows? But Peralta’s “bad” 2012 is nothing like Drew’s “bad” 2012 – in which he put up a .657 OPS along with the worst defense of his career. Maybe that can all be chalked up to injuries, but whoever signs Drew to a multi-year deal would be taking a real gamble.