Tigers reportedly interested in Stephen Drew, but is he an upgrade over Jhonny Peralta?

Ezra Shaw

The Tigers are apparently interested in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, but is he worth it?

ESPN's Jim Bowden reported yesterday that the Tigers were among the teams interested in Oakland Athletics shortstop Stephen Drew. Bowden thinks that the Tigers will then look to trade Jhonny Peralta to either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Boston Red Sox.

Who is he?

Drew was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2004 and made his MLB debut as a 23 year old in 2006. He hit .316/.357/.517 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 59 games and was labeled by many as a budding star. He put up a couple of seasons with an OPS over .800 in 2008 and 2010, but hasn't really approached the hype that he garnered in '06. In 2012, he started off poorly, hitting just .193/.290/.311 in 40 games. He improved after being traded to the Athletics last August, hitting .350/.326/.382 in 39 games.

Why should we care?

Because then maybe people will stop trying to trade Rick Porcello. Drew is regarded as one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball, though the advanced statistics fail to agree. He has a cumulative UZR of -22.3 throughout his career, the majority of which was accumulated from 2006 to 2008. He had positive figures from 2009 to 2011, but stepped back with a -5.2 UZR in 2012. But honestly, none of that matters. We can debate the utility of UZR and other advanced stats until we are all blue in the face -- and FYI, Defensive Runs Saved prefers Peralta -- but the fact of the matter is this: Drew is better defensively than Peralta by a decent margin.

Drew is not as good as Jhonny Peralta offensively, though the difference was much smaller than people think in 2012. Peralta's wOBA was just 10 points higher and his OPS was 32 points higher than that of Drew's. In 2011, Peralta's .356 wOBA and .824 OPS were much higher than Drew's .315 wOBA and .713 OPS. Needless to say, this can go either way, depending on which Peralta you think will show up in 2013. While I am not encouraged by Drew's steady drop off from a 2010 season in which he hit .278/.352/.458 with 15 home runs, I think he will improve on his overall 2012 numbers. I think Peralta will improve more though.

Why should we stay away?

Drew was one of the poorer offensive shortstops in the game last season with a wOBA of just .291. This was lower than the likes of Jamey Carroll and Rafael Furcal -- though to be fair, it was better than JJ Hardy or Mike Aviles, two of the supposed better hitting shortstops in the AL. His OPS dropped off by over 150 points from 2010 to 2012 and his strikeout rate increased from 17.1% in 2010 to 23.2% last season.

There's also the logistics of this whole situation. Anyone who thinks that the Tigers will get more than organizational filler for Peralta after they give away any bargaining edge (i.e. signing Drew) is out of their mind. With Peralta approaching free agency, it will likely take a lot of salary relief -- which isn't out of the question -- for teams to give up more than a middling prospect in exchange for Peralta.

Will he end up in Detroit?

It's tough to say. Bowden has been known to be off before, so this one is hard to read. While Drew would be an upgrade defensively, his bat would be a sharp decline compared to Peralta's 2011 numbers. He will likely be paid more than Peralta as well. Does this provide more stability at the position going forward? Sure, but so would extending Peralta's contract. This move would strictly be based on whether the Tigers favor offense or defense at that position. Would I be OK with Drew? Sure, Brandon Inge was fun for a while. But I'd rather have Peralta going forward.

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