(Written earlier but delayed by chasing my daughter around the living room, this article goes along with Matt’s previous piece which, if you haven’t read it, please do – the news about Jose Iglesias is…sad)
It wasn’t too long ago that Andrew Romine was winning hearts and minds with his play at shortstop.
May 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Andrew Romine (27) throws his bat after striking out during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
With Alex Gonzalez jettisoned, Romine stepped in with some terrific defense and occasionally chipped in some good hits and some quality speed on the basepaths. It was as if all he needed was some regular playing time to get his stuff together, as was the case the previous year for him in Anaheim (Los Angeles? Wherever Arte Moreno chooses to assign the Angels to), and the results seemed to back up the sentiment.
Yet after a while Romine’s offense kept sliding and sliding, and soon it was like he was stepping up to the plate with a toddler’s twisty straw. Recently, things have gotten bad for Romine on defense as well, as evidenced by a mishandled Jose Bautista single last night.
On one hand, it’s a bummer for Romine that, after all this time trying to find a starting shortstop job, he finally found one and is playing his way out of it (getting the job in the first place via competing with the mummified remains of Alex Gonzalez was quite fortuitous…). On the other hand, he’s displaying why he shouldn’t be a regular, and could be forcing the Tigers’ hand to find a replacement.
Now that Stephen Drew has been snatched up by the Red Sox, what is Dave Dombrowski to do? (Aside from combing his miraculous coif of hair, that is. Sigh, I’m jealous)
1) Give Eugenio Suarez a shot – Since his promotion to AAA Suarez has been going bonkers offensively, which is a bit of a shock to me, at least: seeing him in spring training left a lot to be desired, but he’s slashing .33/.447/.590 with a crazy walk rate of 12.8% and an ISO of .256(!!!!!). Primarily known for his potentially-elite glove, Suarez’s offensive output is either a revelation or an aberration. If it’s for real, then injured incumbent Jose Iglesias might have a battle on his hands for the future spot.
This seems to be the most logical move, considering Suarez is already in the system and wouldn’t cost Detroit a trade.
2) Trade for Asdrubal Cabrera – the Indians currently have shortstop-of-the-future Francisco Lindor being great in AA, and current shorstop Asdrubal Cabrera has a contract running out. Now, if I were a general manager staring down the barrel of losing a solid major league shortstop for nothing due to a younger player taking his job, I would probably want to do something to mitigate the situation. The Indians followed the same plan several years earlier when they traded Jhonny Peralta to Detroit for a minor prospect, so why again?
Cabrera is having a solid season where his walk rate is up from last year, and his strikeout rate is down. He’s flashing some speed, and he even has a better defensive WAR (1.7) than offensive WAR (0.7). He’s a switch-hitter, which is always nice, and he’s only 29, so if he does well enough the rest of the way resigning him for depth wouldn’t be a bad decision. The only problem with acquiring him is meeting the Indians’ demands: even though Lindor is the future of the position, he’s still young enough that a leap from AA to the majors is not ideal, and Cabrera is, like I said, having a solid season. Dombrowski would have to pony up for a quality player, even though odds are he’d be a rental.
Hardy has been only excelling at one of those two fields in 2014, though, with exactly zero home runs through 48 games. His defense is still fantastic, of course, with an UZR, UZR/150, and RZR all higher than last year. He’s on pace to finish with a better OOZ this offseason and anyone who’s seen an Orioles game knows his arm is still deadly. But as for his power? He’s currently sporting an ISO of .065 – the lowest it’s ever been in his career. Heck, all his offensive peripherals are down except his batting average. Sooooo, why get a guy like this?
With all the benefits of Detroit, we’ve seen that all a new player has to do is simply buy into the system (defense, speed, hard work), and that player will fit in great, and perhaps even carve out a new niche. Hardy, who is also on an expiring deal with Manny Machado ready to take over SS, has decent speed, amazing defense, and will work as hard as anyone on the roster. Am I saying that his power will return? Maybe. Hitting in a lineup with the Greatest Hitter of our Generation, Vic Martinez, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler, etc. would be great for a player formerly counted on for his power, wherein the pressure is considerably less. At this point, Hardy seems like an easier get than Cabrera simply because he’s older, as is his potential replacement.
4) Trade for Danny Espinosa – Yes, yes, I know he’s officially listed as a second baseman (…and I’ve written about him before…), but he does have some experience at short, and he does have the potential for some pop: his ISO is the highest it’s been since 2011, and his walk rate is up from last season. Sure, so is his strikeout rate, but beggars can’t be choosers.
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With Espinosa you get a player who doesn’t really have a place in Washington, where Desmond is at short, Zimmerman is the long-term third baseman, andAnthony Rendon
can play any infield position well. Espinosa’s also in a contract year, and hasn’t seen consistent playing time since 2012. This could be a real opportunity to shine, and if/when Iglesias comes back he can be a good sub for short, second, or third. His price probably wouldn’t be too high, considering Washington seems to have soured on him in recent years, and would just want something in return for him.
So really, this all falls on the decision-making of Dave Dombrowski. He can stay with the hand he dealt for, or try to make a move to solidify the team’s weakest offensive position. The choice is easier to make than fielding a routine grounder.