Utility man showdown: Ramon Santiago vs. Danny Worth

USA TODAY Sports

The final position battle on Tigers' roster is between 11 year veteran infielder Ramon Santiago and his younger, cheaper, and statistically similar doppelganger, Danny Worth.

The Tigers have one last decision to make before they break camp. Who will be their backup middle infielder, Ramon Santiago or Danny Worth?

Well, they say numbers never lie.

Tale of the tape:

Age:
Santiago: 11 years MLB experience, 33 years of age
Worth: 3 years MLB experience, 27 years of age

Winner: Considering middle infielders tend to not age well, youth trumps experience. Worth gets the nod.

Worth 1, Santiago 0

Salary:
Santiago: 1 year, $2.1 million.
Worth: Major league minimum, $490K.

Winner: Worth in a walk. Worth isn't arbitration eligible until 2014 and under team control until 2017. Barring a miracle, blackmail or Dave Dombrowski unearthing a general manager suffering from temporary insanity, the Tigers would be forced to eat much, if not all, of Santiago's contract in a trade. Santiago's $2.1 million deal looks more and more like a Worth blocking albatross.

Worth 2, Santiago 0.

2012 Defense:
Santiago: Runs saved, 2B (-1), 3B (1), SS (-2)
Worth: Runs saved, 2B (-3), 3B (0), SS (0)

Winner: Worth, due to the fact the both the numbers and the eye test say he is a better defensive shortstop. There's a huge difference in rage factor at short as well, Worth at 5.79 to Santiago's 3.40. The Tigers also believe Worth can play in the outfield, making him a more versatile defensive asset. Santiago was once a solid defender, but age is quickly catching up with him...if it hasn't already.

Worth 3, Santiago 0

2012 Stats:
Santiago: 93 games, 228 at bats - .206/.283/ .272, .555 OPS, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 20 BB, 1 SB
Worth: 43 games, 73 at bats - .216/.330/.257, .586 OPS, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 13 BB, 0 SB

Winner: Their career OBP is almost identical (Worth .310, Santiago .313), but in 2012 Worth got on base at a far higher rate than Santiago. Neither hit for any semblance of power or flashed much in the way of speed, but Worth's semi-respectable 2012 OBP puts him over the top.

Worth 4, Santiago 0

2012 WAR:
Santiago: B/R, -0.8, Fangraphs, -0.4
Worth: B/R, -0.2, Fangraphs, -0.2

Winner: Draw. Worth's WAR is a hair under replacement level, Santiago's slightly worse. Neither would be called anything but mediocre, at best. To Santiago's credit, he was positive 4.1 WAR combined the two years previous, including a career high 2.5 in 2010. But his WAR, much like the rest of Santiago's game, has been in steady decline since.

Worth 4, Santiago 0, Draw 1

2013 ZiPS:
Santiago: .247/.312/.341, .653 OPS, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB, .289 wOBA, 0.4 WAR, 0 fielding runs above average
Worth: .230/.293/.328, .621 OPS, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .276 wOBA, 0.5 WAR, 3 FRAA

Winner: Let's call projections for the coming season a draw. Santiago is getting credit for previous performance, while Worth is hampered by a smaller sample size. Regardless, ZiPS gives Santiago a slight advantage at the plate, Worth better with the glove. Though when it comes to a backup infielder who will see time in the late innings, you can make a case the glove is more important.

Worth 4, Santiago 0, Draw 2

Intangibles:

Santiago: Dombrowski has (reportedly) put Santiago on the trading block.
Worth: Dombrowski - "I think Danny Worth is ready to play at the big league level."

Winner: Danny Worth. When the boss gives you your props in the media, you win automatically.

Worth 5, Santiago 0, Draw 2

Decision:

It's official, we have a KO. Danny Worth takes out Ramon Santiago 5-0-2.

Aftermath:

But there's $2.1 million reasons why the tale of the tape could still end up heavily in Santiago's favor. Keep in mind Worth still has minor league options remaining. At this point, he can make the drive from Toledo to Detroit with his eyes closed and the Tigers realize it.

Will team owner Mike Ilitch be the final ruling judge? In the end, it may come down to if Ilitch is willing to eat a serious amount of coin in order to make room for Worth on the roster. The numbers are in Worth's favor, but aren't overwhelmingly so. The payroll is reaching ridiculous ludicrous plaid levels. So I'm not sure if Ilitch believes the approximate $1.6 million difference in salary would be Worth it.

Worth may win this battle, but Santiago's contract could win the war. We'll know shortly who gets to write history.

Epilogue:

Tigers announce Ramon Santiago heads north. Danny Worth loses on a $2.1 million technicality.

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