I know, asking if the Tigers need to acquire a second baseman is like asking if someone wants $500 with no strings attached. You're not going to to think about it. OF COURSE they need to upgrade second base.
You don't even even need to know the stats -- but the stats aren't pretty.
Traditional figures: Tigers second baseman have the worst average in the American League (but at least it's improved to .203). They also have the second-fewest home runs in the AL (two, tied with Oakland, ahead of Minnesota's zero).
Saber figures: Detroit's .273 OBP is the worst in baseball. The .271 slugging is just above the GIants for the worst in baseball. And, as you might assume, the OPS of .544 is easily the worst in baseball. So is the wOBA (.237) for you folks out there that think OPS isn't a very good stat. Then we have WAR, the Fangraphs' version of WAR putting the Tigers at a dead-last -2.1.
Not even halfway though the season and Tigers second basemen have been worse than replacement players. Like I said, you didn't need stats to tell you that. It would seem clear the Tigers could use an upgrade there.
But here's something interesting to consider: After starting off incredibly cold -- and that was mainly Ryan Raburn's extended slump to begin the season -- the numbers have been much more in line with league figures. Ramon Santiago has quietly put together six good weeks of baseball. Dating back to May 14, Santiago is batting .271 with a .354 OBP and .365 slugging. (His BABIP of .292 during that time is in line with his career numbers, too.) Raburn, since returning from exile in Toledo, is batting .320 with .346 OBP and .480 slugging. Santiago hits right-handed pitchers better; Raburn hits left-handers. They can combine for a decent platoon. Maybe the position isn't quite in dire straits as much as we thought?
Of course, batting is only part of the equation. Fielding is part of it, too, unfortunately for the Tigers. Both players fail the tests there, as does the rest of the infield. Santiago's UZR/150 currently sits at -12.2. Raburn's is -11.3. Defensive Runs Saved paints a similar picture in reverse, with Santiago at -3 and Raburn at -5.
Given what we think we know about the market for acquiring second basemen -- it doesn't appear pretty -- I think you have to wonder if the Tigers are going to find a significant upgrade there, or if they're just going to be giving up prospects for modest gains. Or, some have posited, maybe this team just isn't good enough as it is constructed and a trade would be giving up potentially-useful assets to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Honestly, I'm not sure where I stand right now. I'm just not convinced there are a lot of reasonable options out there that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski can acquire. Maybe Jed Lowrie of the Astros, who is finally healthy and playing excellent at shortstop in Houston. But I fear he's going to cost a fortune in prospects.
Is that a price Detroit needs to pay or can they get by with what they've got? That is the question that I ask.