Detroit Tigers Free Agent Target: Stephen Drew


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”.

Oct 11, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop

Jhonny Peralta

(27) steals second base against Oakland Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew (5) during the seventh inning of game five of the 2012 ALDS at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

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.