The long and grueling off-season if officially here. The winter months bring many speculations. Writers, Fans and even members of the Tigers organization will be frying up the best solutions for the 2010 Tigers. Ideas will pan out. Decisions will be made. Payrolls will be set.
Twins fans are already seeing it unfold. Minnesota has taken what they find is a strength in the outfield and have used it to fill a need at the shortstop position. It has become custom for the Twins to lay low and keep the same payroll. The Twins have grown their base from within. With a great nucleus now in place, this could be the time for expansion.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will be paying 22 million dollars to two pitchers who most likely wont make the rotation (Willis, Robertson). Offensively Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and Miguel Cabrera will see pay raises. Putting talent on the field from the free agent market at a low price will be tough. Holes need to be filled, especially at the shortstop position. Ramon Santiago and Adam Everett are both free agents. Just one off-season ago, you would of hoped that the one year deal handed to Everett was given with the understanding that Cale Iorg would be ready to handle the full-time duties at shortstop. Now, the Tigers Front Office will reevaluate the position the best they can with the payroll the will be given to work with.
Since it is November, there are still many options Detroit will mull over. Since I love wondering what if and weighing in on all the scenarios, MCB will take a look at many of the options available to the Tigers and what type of approach they will take at what some argue is the most important position in the infield.
When the Twins acquired J.J. Hardy, the possibility of adding a shortstop via trade became nearly impossible. Even if the Tigers believe keep the same payroll as last year and don’t resign Placido Polanco, there is not many names out there that the Tigers can afford. Here are some that could be a possibility, with the pros and cons.
Christian Guzman, Nationals– Who the heck knows what you will get from Guzman, but he has proven that he can get on base and hits for a high average. The Tigers would like more offensive production at this position, but when you factor in the 8 million dollars still owed, his injury history, and his continuing decline defensively, it doesn’t fit. Nobody knows what to expect from him after off-season shoulder surgery and the Nats plan to move him to second base if that says anything. Guzman is probably not the answer the Tigers are looking for.
Yunel Escobar, Braves– His name has been raked through trade rumor muck more than any other player at his position, yet I really think that he is available for the right price. Escobar has yet to put together all of his talents, but he is one of the better shortstops that could be available via trade. Though Escobar still makes the minimum, I don’t see this trade happening. The rumors have been swirling that Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson are available for the right price, but I don’t see Dave Dombrowski dealing either of them at that price.
Mike Aviles, Royals– It never seems possible to trade within your division, but when you need the help the Royals do, anything is possible (see Mark Teahen trade.) Aviles is coming off Tommy John Surgery and could be a risk at shortstop, but at the right risk you could find a player that could fill the position for years to come. The Royals have Alberto Callaspo and Yuniesky Betancourt up the middle and GM Dayton Moore is looking at all the trade possibilities to fill their roster needs. Another long shot, but a long shot that is definitely worth noting.
Maicer Izturis/Brandon Wood, Anaheim– Just a few weeks ago I would have thought it was insane for these guys to come to Detroit. Now with the Angels interested in Curtis Granderson, it is less than far fetched. What Dave Dombrowski is looking for is talent without the salary burden. In a package that includes pitching, Izturis and Wood offer someone that could play right away regularly at the shortstop position. Wood was once the number one prospect in the Angels system, but hasn’t panned out. Izturis can play all around the infield, which would spell time for Brandon Inge, next year’s second baseman, and could allow for a youngster like Cale Iorg to get some playing time.
The One Year Wonder:
This year’s free agent market isn’t the deepest at shortstop. There are journeyman, phonies, and guys with a bunch of potential that have done everything but shine that ability. With so much money on the books clearing next year, and with Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes and Maicer Izturis possibly available via free agency, a one year wonder like Adam Everett in 2009 could be a possibility.
When last season started, the Tigers had hoped that Cale Iorg would be ready for this upcoming season. After struggling with his stick, one or more years of development might be needed. Here are some names that could spark interest if they are willing to sign a one year deal.
Omar Vizquel, Rangers– Last week many thought that the seasoned vet was going to return to the Rangers in pre-determined back up role. Now the vet with the golden glove is searching the free agent market looking for the best job available. If Vizquel is willing to give up some of the money, he could return to his seem to be favored American League and have at least a 50/50 share in the starting gig in Detroit. Who else could be a better teacher to not only the younger shortstop who makes this team, but to Scott Sizemore. Vizquel will help Sizemore defensively on the double play and in the hole with his range even at the age of 43.
Craig Counsell, Brewers– At 39, Counsell is a veteran who is looking for one last chance to make a contribution on a contending team. Like Adam Everett, Counsell has a solid glove and can be sneaky on offense. He could be a candidate to split time with a younger player and can also play all over the infield. He kept the offense together in Milwaukee somehow.
John McDonald, Toronto– His bat is thinner than a door jamb, but defensively he is one of the better in teh league. At 35 he has something in his tank and he doesn’t have a major injury history, but you have to factor in the fact that he has never really had a full time gig in the major leagues. McDonald would have to be just a one year filler until the Tigers can find the optimal talent at the position through either trade, the free agent market, or the minor leagues.
Jerry Hairston Jr, New York– Hairston has not been a full time player since 2001, but he has shown at time, is that his bat can be major league efficient as his utility makes him a great player to stack on the bench. With that in mind, his share at the starting position would probably be less than Ramon Santiago’s in 2009.
Alex S. Gonzalez, Boston– Gonzalez will probably be out of reach for what the Tigers are interested in signing him for, but here is a guy that plays solid defense and has a decent stick to go with it. The biggest thing that scares me is the fact that he has never been able to sustain health. Somebody, including his former team, could throw a multi year deal on the table or a more lucrative deal. He is the Adam Everett of this 2010 class, looking for the right deal that could land him an even bigger deal next off-season.
Adam Everett, Detroit– Would you have ever thought that Everett would be one of the most pursued at the position after filing for free agency? He is still one of the best shortstops defensively and teams will be after him. Some, like the Nationals might even be willing to sign him to a multi-year contract. The question will be if a market allows him to become as rich as he is, or if he returns to a “contender.” Everett and his agent seem to be all about the money, but you never know what will happen in this market. After last season’s .238 performance, I don’t think he is a two year answer.
The Two Year Plan:
Even if the Tigers are looking at cutting payroll, there is a very good possibility that the right situation would lead to a multi-year signing at the shortstop position. If Dave Dombrowski and company believe that Cale Iorg is not an option anymore full time, and that Daniel Fields is now the true shortstop of the future, then two years at the position at a decent rate might just have to be an option Detroit weighs. To me, it seems very unlikely. That doesn’t mean though that we can’t explore it.
Bobby Crosby, Oakland– At 30 years old, Crosby is supposed to be at the point where he has hit his peak and is excelling at the highest level. The Athletics had so much hope for him that at some level it had at least a small part in the eventual trading of Miguel Tejada. Six seasons later in Major League Baseball, Crosby has just two seasons with over 100 games played. Only once has he hit over .240. He has never had an on base percentage over .350. If he is an option for the Tigers, it won’t be with the thought that he wins the job outright. He hasn’t showed it but as a younger player there might be one more surge in him. The only multi-year deal that Crosby could land is a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He could be part of the continued patching until the Tigers can find a franchise player at the position.
Orlando Cabrera, Minnesota– Have I gone crazy? Partially. With the Twins recently bringing in J.J. Hardy, it was thought that Cabrera’s time there was done. Not quite yet. Ron Gardenhire has interest in bringing him back at second base and the Twins look like buyers this off-season. If the Tigers do not bring back Polanco, they could pursue Cabrera and allow the Twins to try and bring in Polanco to fill their gap. What would lure Cabrera? A two year deal. Nobody has been willing to commit to that, but if the Tigers are desperate enough for a top of the lineup type hitter to fill Placido’s shoes, then this could be the player worth taking a chance on two years of production. His price will be high though.
Marco Scutaro, Toronto– As much as I would like to see this happen, I don’t think the Tigers will ever have a shot at Scutaro for a few reasons. 1.) I don’t think they will want to offer him the money he is asking for. 2). Can the Tigers control the market at a prime position? Who knows if they even get a chance to begin talks. 3.) Is shortstop that big of a glaring hole to this organization to go more than two years on a contract? Is Marco Scutaro that guy that can fill this role for multiple years? As much as I love the balance that Marco brings to the game, he is most likely the least likely of any player at the position to don the old english D next season.
Chances are this off-season the Tigers are not looking for the big name or everyday guy. It seems they are content with the local products they have (Dlugach, Iorg) in place. It only makes sense with the state of this organization to ride the season out with a Craig Counsell or Omar Vizquel type to help out the youngsters the tigers have in the middle infield.
With plenty of winter months ahead of us, anything can happen. Anyway you look at it though, the Tigers will most likely be short on production at the shortstop position in 2010.
(Joe Dexter is the man behind Motor City Bengals. Follow him on Twitter for the latest 140 letter thought provoking Tigers Bites.)