With the Biogenesis Affair hanging over the heads of everyone in MLB, and the Detroit Tigers especially, the trade deadline became a very intriguing time for Tigers GM David Dombrowski. As usual he navigated aggressively to attempt to button down his roster for the late summer push into Autumn and, hopefully, a post-season berth.
Jhonny Peralta's possible suspension is a black cloud hanging over a club that has been mostly having sunny days of late...but it's being slightly tempered now by two factors. First, the team is humming along having won 9 out of 10 and hanging out in first place. Second, the big move on Tuesday night to get a replacement in the slick-gloved Jose Iglesias has given the Tigers a very acceptable safety net should Peralta get tagged with a 50-game suspension.
Peralta has hinted at a possible fight over his suspension if one gets levied at him. Peralta should absolutely fight this suspension and the player's union should support him. We do not know the complete extent of the "evidence" against Peralta...but we can see that it appears that MLB is taking the word of Tony Bosch, who for all intents and purposes is nothing more than a common drug dealer, and is looking to throw the book at Peralta and others even though they have not failed a test under what Bud Selig has consistently called one of the best drug testing programs in the world. Bosch is providing MLB with the information in order to avoid getting sued. He has incentives to tell MLB what it wants to hear. MLB also seems to be threatening the players involved to waive their rights to appeal or else they'll get slapped with additional penalties. This certainly gives one the whiff of caring more about "winning" instead of finding out what really happened.
Jhonny Peralta might be completely guilty. He might have been "cheating" for a long time. I simply don't know. But being threatened to capitulate to the penalty like this without having failed a test and based on "facts" from Bosch seems very fishy to me and I hope Peralta takes on MLB. Yes, it threatens his employability next season if the suspension is still looming at that time. It's a very personal decision he needs to make and I won't fault him over that whichever way he goes. I just hope he takes them on.
If Peralta does get 50-games and accepts the penalty, I also hope the Tigers welcome him back. No matter how well Iglesias plays down the stretch, I would want Peralta available in some fashion for the post-season. The San Francisco Giants obviously did fine in the post-season last year by letting Melky Cabrera sit out...but that doesn't mean it was the smartest move. It was also a bit hypocritical since they had two-time PED suspendee Guillermo Mota on their post-season roster.
It will be a relief when the situation gets resolved one way or the other. If Peralta appeals and continues to play, then Iglesias gives them great depth and versatility around the infield with a standout defensive replacement. Also with Miguel Cabrera's lingering physical issues, we could see Iglesias play a little at third-base as well. If Peralta does sit out 50-games then we'll see what kind of impact a top defensive shortstop will have for the Tigers high-octane rotation. We'll also get a glimpse at how his glove carries his bat in the lineup. That should be very entertaining to monitor.
The Big Three Way
Dombrowski took out a very solid Biogenesis Insurance Policy with his move to get Iglesias in the three-way deal with Boston and Chicago. Each club seemed to meet it's needs in some fashion. Boston adds Jake Peavy to ready themselves for the stretch, the White Sox add young depth to their woeful minor league system, and the Tigers add their shortstop of the future.
The young Cuban shortstop has been dazzling Tigers fans all week via Youtube videos showing his eye-popping defensive theatrics. He promises to bring that level of play to Detroit's infield and the difference it makes should be fairly sizable. Peralta's bat has been terrific this year but most would agree that his defense is "acceptable" at best and "deficient" in the eyes of many (Phil Coke's Brain is looking at you Lynn Henning!). Iglesias immediately makes the infield defense measurably better and the Tigers now have a fairly strong "up the middle" defense to emulate the '84 Tigers with the gloves.
But subbing in 2013 for Peralta is only part of the deal. The Tigers didn't give up their good looking outfielder Avisail Garcia (and Brayan Villarreal for that matter) just to have Iglesias play for two months. With Peralta a free agent at year's end it's also a good bet that Iglesias is now the shortstop of the future and for the first time in well over a decade the position looks like it will be a defensive plus. It will be exciting to see how that alters the landscape for the club over the long haul of a full season.
Will Iglesias hit? He has in 2013 for the Red Sox. He surprisingly hit well over .400 for over a month when he was recalled. However, he has been slumping of late. His current slash of .330/.376/.409 is almost certainly a mirage for the most part. Expectations can't be based on that line. Looking at his Triple A numbers for the Boston organization from 2012 and you see .266/.318/.306. It would not be very surprising to see Iglesias post a slash long term in Detroit similar to that Pawtucket set of numbers. The glove work, however, may carry it just fine. Iglesias is also only 23 years old. He definitely has some time on his side to fill out and add some punch. He also may develop a tad more plate discipline to draw just an extra walk or two per week which would make all the difference in his OBP.
Finding a "shortstop of the future" who is already major league ready is not an easy accomplishment at any point in the league year. To find one in late July while your contending club is possibly about to lose it's established shortstop is really testimony to Dombrowski's abilities to find solutions to fortify his roster. Whether it works out in the end or not, this seems like a move Dombrowski had to make and one that took a lot of moxie to pull together late in the game as the clock ticked down to the deadline which was less than a day away.
I believe the Tigers will in time be very pleased they committed to this deal. Iglesias is young enough that his top defensive work should still be ahead of him. If his skill level with the glove is indeed so far beyond the norm as scouts rave, then the Tigers should carry his bat quite comfortably even if he only takes minor steps ahead offensively. If his bat evolves at all to "league average" then he's probably a player that you can win a title, or titles, with at the position.
Jose Veras takes a back seat suddenly in the news, but not in reality
The Tigers made an initial splash on Monday by acquiring Jose Veras and that has been slightly overlooked as a decision comes on Peralta and the Iglesias trade came along. The impact that Veras may have on the Tigers down the stretch is very important. Jim Leyland has been publicly worried about overworking Joaquin Benoit and Benoit's recent 36th birthday only served as a reminder that Benoit probably needs to be watched closely.
Veras provides the Tigers with an alternative that will give Leyland options. This should alleviate them having to push Benoit to the mound in three consecutive games and hopefully have Benoit ready to pitch the highest of high leverage innings in October (should the Tigers get there).
With Drew Smyly continuing to hum along in fine fashion, Veras gives the Tigers three solid options late in games. If young Bruce Rondon continues to take steps ahead he'll also be counted in 7th-inning spots where triple digit heat may quash the occasional rally.
As often is the case around MLB relief corps, the bullpen is evolving from a weakness into a workable unit. It may not be a "strength" but it is looking more and more like it won't be the train wreck that derails the club that some had been worried about throughout the early weeks of the season.
The Veras deal is also one that comes with a bonus. Veras has a very affordable option in 2014 and it would seem like almost a certainty that will get picked up as long as he doesn't completely tank down the stretch or get hurt in Detroit. With Benoit's impending free agency and advancing years, having Veras under contract gives the Tigers something to hang their hat on in the off-season for covering the Closer role should Benoit hit the market.