The Detroit Tigers roster is full of big name players with larger than life salaries. With the majority of their money allocated in a few key players and their payroll already surpassing the luxury tax threshold would it be wise for the Tigers to add another star into the mix?
The Detroit Tigers are rolling right along early on this season but as I sat there watching a game earlier this week I received a notification on my phone. The always handy MLB at-bat app has just informed me Trevor Story has hit another home run. I cannot believe it but as the alert reads: “Video: We promise, this is new footage. Rockies SS Trevor Story homers again. That makes 6 in his first 4 career games.” I have no choice but to believe it. Once a mid-level prospect in the Rockies organization Trevor Story has started his major league career in historic fashion.
The 45th overall pick in the 2011 draft hit a total of six home runs in his first four major league games, a feat a handful of Hall of Fame caliber players have achieved. Story was ranked 11th in the Colorado Rockies farm system by MLB.com. Regardless of how much merit you give to different experts prospect rankings it is the unanimous opinion the Story is not even the best shortstop in the Rockies farm system. Last July the Rockies spent the third-overall selection in the amateur draft on 19-year-old Brendan Rodgers, a high school shortstop from Florida.
The Rockies are not an organization hurting for infielders. After trading a mainstay in their lineup Troy Tulowitzki at the trade deadline last season the Rockies acquired the talented veteran shortstop Jose Reyes. In the 47 games Reyes appeared in for the Rockies he had a slash line of .259/.291/.368. Reyes was serviceable providing the Rockies the a top of the order bat, dependable defense and was someone pitchers had to be aware of on the base paths.
Things quickly turned south for the 32-year old Reyes. Just before Reyes reported to Spring Training he was suspended with pay by Major League Baseball for an alleged domestic violence incident in October. While Major League Baseball continues to investigate the alleged incident Reyes is still not cleared to play and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to deliver a punishment that he sees fit under the new MLB domestic violence policy. Manfred could make the decision soon, as all legal chargers were dropped earlier this week against Reyes.
So how do the Tigers work into all of this? With the surprising play of Trevor Story and the overwhelming wealth of infielders in the Rockies organization, it is rumored that the Rockies may be looking to rid themselves of Reyes. The Detroit Tigers, a team with a reputation of spending big and trying to make a playoff push, may want to look into acquiring Reyes either via trade or signing Reyes should he be released by Colorado.
Please just hear this out. For all you lovers of Jose “Singlesias” Igelsias and those fans of Nick Castellanos who think this year is the breakout year (again) do not be alarmed, I am right there with you. I think the left side of the Tigers infield has a lot of potential and the youth is a great thing to have but let me play devils advocate for a bit. What if I told you the infield could get better? What if I told you the Tigers could add a veteran player who is a plus defender with speed? You would at least listen wouldn’t you?
Reyes is a career .290 hitter who has hit .300 or better only three times in his 13 year career. His numbers have been on a decline and he is no longer a player who will steal 60 plus bases but he is also no slouch on the bases.
Reyes’ 24 total stolen bases last season were more than any Tigers player swiped. His 3.2 WAR would have been sixth best on the Tigers in 2015, better than players the likes of Justin Verlander, James McCann and shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Another attractive attribute Reyes posses is his ability to put the ball in play. Reyes’ 62 strikeouts last season would have been the second lowest total of any starter behind only Victor Martinez and he also put the ball in play in 80 per cent of his at-bats. The numbers aren’t too bad for an aging veteran.
So at this point I’m assuming you are starting to warm up to the idea, but you are asking yourself, “Where would Reyes even play?” In 2013, Jose Iglesias appeared in 34 games at third base for the Boston Red Sox and three games at third base for the Tigers. He committed only three errors while playing third base that season. With the defensive woes of Nick Castellanos over the seasons, Iglesias would be a defensive upgrade at third.
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Moving Castellanos to the bench would only be an asset to the team. An acquisition of Reyes would essentially leave Mike Aviles without a spot on the team. If the demotion does not alert the 24-year-old infielder than nothing will. Still a promising talent Castellanos is more versatile than given credit for.
A shortstop in high school, the 6′ 4″ Castellanos has experience playing the corner outfield spots in the minor leagues and could be used to spell Victor Martinez at designated hitter or Miguel Cabrera at first base should he be open to learning the position. If a Castellanos move to the bench does not work out there are should be plenty of teams lining up for a 24-year-old third baseman with major league experience and still a lot of potential.
Presumably the Reyes experiment would be on a year-to-year basis and Castellanos could assume the same role Jhonny Peralta did towards the end of the 2013 season. If things do not work out with Reyes, Castellanos would presumably return to his position.
To get a deal done the Rockies would have to eat a large chunk of Jose Reyes’ $22M salary. If the Rockies release Reyes they will be paying him to play against them, much like the Marlins are this season with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The only question is would the Tigers be willing to take on a potential pubic relations issue that may come with Reyes. But that is another topic for another post. The decision obviously is in the hands of Detroit’s front office, but if it was your call to make what would you do?