Jul 31, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) and shortstop Jhonny Peralta (27) congratulate each other after scoring in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The included quote from Dave Dombrowski makes it very clear, however, that he’s not going to resume his old spot as the starting shortstop:
"“He will take some ground balls, he’ll do some hitting, he’ll take some fly balls,” Dombrowski said. “No decision has been made if he will be activated or not beyond that. I will say he has been told and we have cleared it up: He’s not coming back as our everyday shortstop. We have our everyday shortstop at this point.”"
Dombrowski is apparently maintaining that no official decision has been made regarding his ultimate fate with respect to the postseason roster, but I don’t think that they would be bringing him in for workouts if he wasn’t a very serious candidate.
I think the Tigers are handling this situation in the exactly correct way. We’re still more than three weeks away from the start of the ALDS, so the Tigers are giving avoiding the media trainwreck of having Peralta’s return to the clubhouse dubbed a “distraction” right before the playoffs, and they’re making it very clear from the get-go that he’s not displacing Jose Iglesias. Case closed, no one has to wonder or worry.
But if he’s not the starting shortstop, then what role would Peralta have on the playoff roster?
First, he could be a pinch hitter. It’s not a huge role, but the Tigers will be looking for a bat on the bench that currently includes Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Peralta would out-hit that trio with little trouble, and he’s certainly a more proven option than Nick Castellanos (who also might be in the running for a roster spot).
Secondly, he would be a non-terrible option at third base should Miguel Cabrera be further hampered by his myriad injuries later on. I don’t want to think about a team without Miggy, but if they need a late game replacement for him, Peralta could play in that spot while providing a better bat than either Kelly or Santiago.
Thirdly, there has been some chatter amoungst fans about whether or not Peralta could play some left field to take over Tuiasosopo’s spot in the platoon. While I doubt they would try him in the outfield with very little practice out there, it’s possible that they might try him out in the Miami series as an emergency second baseman. Omar Infante hasn’t been hampered by his injured ankle injury lately, but Peralta is familiar with infield play and could probably find his way around the position if the team was in a tight spot. This isn’t a big factor, obviously, but it could play into a decision.
The biggest thing though is Peralta’s bat. He was having a very nice year at dish and owns a career OPS+ of 102, but outside of him, the team wouldn’t have a sure-fire above average bat on the bench.
I still maintain that Peralta is the best choice for the final bench spot on the roster. I understand that he was the one that put the team into the predicament of having to find a shortstop, but this season is about winning a World Series, and Jhonny is a good baseball player. He cheated, yes, but he served the suspension that was agreed upon by the league and the players’ union, and I think the Tigers are doing the right thing by keeping him in consideration.