Panic in Panic Town! "Savior" Stephen Drew has decided to go back to Boston, and accept the same one year, $14 million deal that he declined to sign this past winter when the Red Sox extended him a qualifying offer. Instead, Drew signed a deal for that figure but prorated for the rest of the season, which will pay him about $10 million. So, where do the Tigers go from here?
Andrew Romine - Acquired in return for Jose Alvarez, Romine had a respectable first three weeks of the season. His triple slash of .179/.256/.192 doesn't look good in any context, unless you consider his May OPS of .329 -- that's not a typo. Romine can certainly defend the position at an above average rate, but a .450 OPS isn't going to cut it for everyday reps. While plenty of teams have had World Series runs with a light-hitting shortstop, I doubt Romine is going to be left out there to flounder much longer.
Danny Worth - Worth, like Romine, is above average on defense, yet lacks prowess with the bat. There's been a lot of Worth-clamoring in the past few years, which is odd considering he's best suited for a utility role. He is a .244/.304/.313 career hitter in parts of five seasons with the Tigers. To be candid, he has been in the organization for seven years, and the writing is on the wall here. If the organization felt that Danny Worth could handle more reps, he would have more than 275 career big league plate appearances. Worth may be able to handle the weak side of a platoon, or even a glorified utility role, but not much more.
Eugenio Suarez - Suarez has put up impressive numbers this year repeating Double A, hitting .284/.347/.503 with 21 extra base hits in 42 games. I have written extensively about him in the past, and he can virtually be summed up in these anecdotes:
At the plate, Suarez has an advanced approach, and works the count into his favor. I'd estimate that he saw roughly 5 pitches per plate appearance, and worked himself back from 0-2 to 3-2 counts two different times. While he doesn't have a world of pop, he's got a pretty nice little hit tool, and hits the ball hard often. Suarez takes a bunch of pitches, and even though his approach is a bit passive, he shortens up with two strikes, and often works himself a walk or puts the ball in play. That's fine with me. If Suarez can somehow figure out how to hit .260-.270 and continue to walk at close to a 10% rate, you may really have something here. Even if he doesn't hit for pop, if he can get on base 34 or 35% of the time, that's damn good for a middle infielder, let alone a shortstop.
On defense, he is still a bit raw, but the tools are certainly there for him to be an every day shortstop. His arm is major league average, and the hands are good as well. The actions and demeanor are superior to Hernan Perez' and it's no contest, to me at least, who of the two of them is the long term shortstop. Suarez has a bit of a ways to go, as he still needs to work on qualifying runners and making routine plays, and that's fine.
To reaffirm this notion, the Tigers called up Eugenio Suarez from Double A to Triple A yesterday, pushing Hernan Perez back to his natural position of second base. Suarez should handle the shortstop duty in Toledo, and I'm sure the Tigers will be monitoring his progress closely.
I truly wouldn't be shocked to see Suarez up soon, as the organization may be curious to see what he can do at the big league level for about 100 plate appearances before making a determination about the shortstop situation for 2014. He should be around average on defense, and will likely contribute more offensively than Romine or Worth.
Jimmy Rollins - This is a tricky situation. Rollins seems like the perfect fit on paper. He is a capable defender, can contribute on offense, and, for lack of a better term, has "been there" before. Wherever "there" is. He's a veteran, has been a part of World Series quality teams in the past, and can play a major league quality shortstop. Of course, this has to be a two-way street. Before the season, Rollins was quoted as saying:
"It doesn’t matter. I don’t care which way it is tried to be twisted or said, or if it is exactly how it was said, or even if it was said, I can’t be traded. It doesn’t matter. If I was tradable it may have weight because that means I could be moving soon. But I am not tradable and so it doesn’t matter."
Maybe he will change his mind and will want to leave a non-contender in order to jump to a playoff bound team, but that's far from a certainty. The 35 year old shortstop has had a nice start to the season, hitting .268/.366/.450, and while his defense is not quite as impressive as it was in his younger years, he would no doubt be an improvement on the current shortstop tandem.
Cliff Pennington - An under-the-radar type acquisition, Pennington may not be a sexy choice, but could provide dividends. He's above average defensively, and although he's not an offensive threat (OPS is a tick above .600 the last 3 years), he's not a giant black hole at the plate, either. A utility man on a non-contender, Pennington is stuck behind Chris Owings, who gets a bulk of the reps. If Owings went down, Didi Gregorious would be there to take his place. Pennington would not cost much, and could provide production similar to the best case scenario of the Romine/Worth platoon.
Nick Franklin - There has been a ton of Franklin-to-the-Tigers hype, but frankly, I just don't see it. He is not cut out to play shortstop everyday defensively. If anything, the organization has sided toward the defensive side of the ball at the position since Jhonny Peralta left. While Franklin can certainly hit -- he would be a useful player in a super-utility role -- I don't see a fit. Plus, he would be much more expensive in terms of prospect return than the other options listed. Franklin won't be a free agent until after the 2019 season, so the haul would be more substantial.
I don't believe Hernan Perez or Dixon Machado are options down on the farm, either. Perez is really a second baseman, not a shortstop. Machado's hot start won't be parlayed into an every day gig in Detroit at this time. Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will be on the move before the deadline is up, but I doubt he heads to Detroit.