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Second Base Opening Remains Unclear for Detroit Tigers


We first discussed the possibility of a trade involving Ramon Santiago a couple weeks back. Yesterday, the folks over at MLive and Bless You Boys got in on the fun as well. The reason? Santiago made consecutive starts at second base for the Tigers.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland explained the starts as simply wanting to get Santiago more at bats, noting that he was behind a bit compared to the other middle infielders.

From Steve Kornacki’s MLive piece:

"“It doesn’t mean anything other than that I want to get Santiago some at-bats.”One National League scout, requesting anonymity, said he had not heard of a Santiago trade being discussed. But he added, “That sounds like a showcase for somebody.”"

Kurt went into specifics with the Santiago issue and examined the possibilities all around, including that Santiago himself may be in the mix for the starting job. If we look deeper into Leyland’s musing about the roster so far, we may be able to take a guess about the answers.

Leyland has said that two extra outfielders will make this team. We can take guesses as to which ones, but the number is really the key as it pertains to this discussion. Based on a 12-man pitching staff, that leaves two spots for reserve infielders. We know that Don Kelly will be on the club, and we had assumed that Santiago would be there as well. What that would mean is that whomever won the second base job would watch as the other two competitors were dispatched to the minor leagues. Scott Sizemore was the front-runner in my view, but it doesn’t sound like Leyland is on board with my thinking there.

Leyland has been heaping praise on Danny Worth, and for good reason. Worth is an outstanding defender and is physically stronger than he was last season. The Tigers think he’ll hit enough to stick as a big leaguer and with his glove already being a plus, he would probably provide more pure value to the everyday lineup than any of his competitors for the job. If they go with Sizemore or even Rhymes, the Tigers would have below average defense at three infield positions. It’s tough to win that way.

The Tigers haven’t ever viewed Santiago as a regular player before and I find it hard to believe that that stance suddenly changed, especially given the praise of Worth. More likely, in my mind anyway, is that they are now trying to drum up trade interest in the veteran switch hitter. If they are able to trade Santiago, they could bring Sizemore north with the club in addition to Worth. this would cost them an extra left handed bat, but Sizemore has much more thump in his bat than Santiago does and he can play second or third. Worth can fill-in at short if need be and Kelly has major league experience at second, third, and first.

Kornacki’s piece discussed the Orioles and Phillies as possible landing spot for Ramon, but Brian Roberts has since made his way back into the O’s lineup and Philadelphia agreed to sign Mets cast-off Luis Castillo this morning. There wasn’t going to be a host of clubs fighting over the chance to acquire Santiago anyhow, so these recent turns might make it tougher to deal him;. But there is usually a need for a versatile infielder, especially one who has been through the fires before. Santiago is a professional role player and a good clubhouse guy. If he’s on the market, and I assume he is, I don’t think the Tigers will have trouble finding a taker.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that the Tigers have a handful of guys that essentially fill the same role within the organization. It no longer makes sense to keep Santiago with the big club while holding guys like Worth and Sizemore back. I have purposely left Will Rhymes out of this discussion. As much as he is a nice guy and a feel-good story, he’s also 28 years old. His age, while certainly not old, is a detriment here. Both Sizemore and Worth are a couple of years younger than Rhymes and both have a higher upside, while already being at least his equal on the field. His left-handedness helps his cause, but Rhymes lacks the defensive versatility of Sizemore and prowess of Worth.

There is still the issue of what will happen when Carlos Guillen returns from injury, but for now my money is on a Santiago trade and Worth opening the season at second base, with Sizemore in tow as a reserve infielder as well. The more I think about it, the more giving Jhonny Peralta two years seems like a bad move. A Sizemore/Worth combo up-the-middle would have looked good in 2012.

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