Ramon Santiago is one of seven players on the Tiger roster who will be free agents at the end of the World Series when his contract which paid him a $2.1 million annual salary expires. No player on the roster has been a Tiger for a longer period of time, but that time is likely to come to an end as the club has younger, faster, and cheaper options in the organization waiting to fill his utility infield role.
Santiago was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in the summer of 1998, and made his major league debut with the team as a 22 year old in 2002. He started 63 games at shortstop for a struggling team that season, and returned the following season to start 84 games at short and another 50 games at second base. The light hitting, switch-hitting infielder was better known for his glove than his bat.
In winter of 2004, Tigers traded Santiago to the Seattle Mariners for Carlos Guillen, who then became the Tiger shortstop for the next eight seasons. After playing in just 27 games for Seattle in the majors, hitting only .170 and slugging .191 with just one extra base hit, Seattle released him following the 2005 season. Dave Dombrowski quickly resigned him as a free agent, making the theft of Carlos Guillen complete. Cha-ching!
With Guillen at shortstop, Placido Polanco starting full time at second base, and Omar Infante as a capable backup at both positions, Santiago spent part of the 2006 season and most of 2007 in Toledo. Although he started just 18 games between shortstop and second base in 2006, he was selected to the post season roster by new Tiger manager Jim Leyland. He managed to log 14 plate appearances in the post season, going 0-for-8 in the League Championship Series and 1-for-6 in the World Series.
Santiago saw limited major league action in 2007, making just 17 starts at shortstop in 31 game appearances. He gained a reputation as a reliable defender, making just 3 errors across the 2006 and 2007 seasons combined, and only three errors more in 2008. His best season at the plate was in 2008, when he posted a batting line of .282/.411/.460/.870 in 156 plate appearances while playing three infield positions.
Over the past five seasons beginning in 2009, Santiago has averaged 290 plate appearances per season. His playing time and his batting numbers have gradually declined from hitting in the .280's for a couple of seasons to the .260's, and more recently, approaching the Mendoza line.
Over his career with the Tigers, Santiago has played in over 800 games, logged over 2500 plate appearances, and hit .243/.311/.330/.641 with 28 sneaky home runs, 197 RBI and 28 steals. His 77 career sacrifice bunts lead all current Tigers.
In his place the Tigers could have Danny Worth, who spent virtually all of 2013 in the minor leagues with periods on the disabled list. Worth is out of options, and would have to clear waivers before being returned to the minor leagues.
Hernan Perez who has split time in the minor leagues between second base and shortstop -- more recently at second base -- appears to have surpassed Worth on the organizational depth chart. Perez saw 71 plate appearances in 34 games with the Tigers in 2013 and was on the playoff roster, though mostly for pinch running duties.
Also on the 40 man roster is shortstop Dixon Machado, and Eugenio Suarez is virtually certain to be added to the roster in November. Each of these four alternatives would earn the major league minimum.
Over his career spanning parts of 12 major league seasons, 10 with Detroit, Santiago has earned over $8.8 million.