Following Jose Iglesias' injury during spring training in 2014, there was a brief period of desperation for the Tigers. They held open tryouts in camp and quickly determined that neither Danny Worth, Hernan Perez, nor Steve Lombardozzi would be viable solutions for Detroit. The team made a couple of minor moves to acquire Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine in an attempt to fill the void. While Gonzalez may have held the title of starting Tigers shortstop briefly, Romine was the one who ultimately stuck.
Drafted in the fifth round by the Angels out of Arizona State, Romine was a highly regarded young shortstop. When he made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2010, Romine had never played an inning of professional baseball at a position other than shortstop. He struggled to break into the major leagues over the next few seasons, but was finally given an opportunity in 2013 when Erick Aybar suffered a heel injury.
The Angels were forced to use Romine as their primary shortstop for most of the month of April, and he struggled his way to a .297 OPS . When Aybar returned to the Angels, Romine returned to Triple-A, at least until mid-August, when he was recalled to help out a team that was going nowhere. The Angels had traded Alberto Callaspo at the trade deadline, and both of his replacements -- Chris Nelson and Luis Jimenez -- had suffered season-ending injuries. Enter Romine, who posted a .294/.344/.329 line to finish the season, playing third base almost exclusively.
So, when the Tigers found themselves between a rock and a hard place the next spring, Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski took the advice of his team's new infield coach, Omar Vizquel, who had worked with Romine in the Angels' organization. Romine joined the flock of shortstop candidates and began the season as a backup. He quickly won the starting job only to lose it soon after to Eugenio Suarez. But by season's end he had regained the starting role.
He posted an underwhelming batting line of .227/.279/.275, but was able to reach an even 0.0 WAR with solid defense and excellent baserunning. His 94 games played with the Tigers eclipsed his career total of 74 played with the Angels over the course of four seasons. While Romine wasn't providing much excitement for fans, he filled the hole created by Iglesias' injury adequately and performed the job the Tigers needed.
Defensively, Romine is a sure-handed shortstop with a solid arm, his only detriment perhaps being average range. A few early-season miscues may have dragged his overall defensive metrics down a bit, as the numbers don't necessarily meet the eye test. His -4 DRS and -4.8 UZR/150 in a very small sample size don't reflect his actual abilities -- those of an above-average shortstop.
Romine also possesses underrated speed, as his 12-for-14 stolen bases and his 3.4 BsR exhibit. That baserunning ability, along with solid plate discipline, give a slight bump to an otherwise grim offensive profile. Romine has almost no power to speak of, not even of the extra-base variety, but his on-base abilities are good for a glove-first utility infielder.
One thing Romine does have going for him is a solid track record against left-handed pitchers. He's posted a career .678 OPS against southpaws, including a .333/.357/.389 line in 56 plate appearances last year. While it's a small sample, it's also supported by a .302/.351/.390 line in the minor leagues.
Romine is out of minor league options, meaning that he can't be sent down to Triple-A without first passing through waivers. That simple fact could have an impact on the Tigers' early-season roster construction, but we'll get into the details of that a little later. Romine has a little more than two years of service time, and will become eligible for arbitration if he stays on a team's MLB roster for the entire season. As such, he stands to become a free agent in 2019 at the age of 33, if he remains on a roster the entire time.
Stats and projections
While Romine played shortstop almost exclusively last year, and really throughout his career, the Tigers are hoping that he has the skills to play other positions. So far this spring he's seen time at every defensive position on the field, with the exceptions of center field and catcher. We already knew that he could play third base and second base in a pinch, but if he can prove that he can also handle the corner outfield spots and first base, he would add significant value to his profile.
The Tigers are trying Hernan Perez in the outfield and at first base as well. As mentioned above, Romine is out of options, and so is Perez. What that means is that the Tigers will have to risk losing one of them via waivers unless they carry both on the roster all season. While the Tigers might normally prefer to carry someone who could be used as a pinch hitter, to do so would require them to DFA either Romine or Perez. If that happens, the smart bet is that Romine would be the one receiving his walking papers, as Perez still has potential to improve.
If Romine were to be put on waivers at some point during the regular season, another team would likely snatch him up and put him on their roster. However, if the Tigers opt to DFA him right at the end of spring training, when every other team has just decided on their final roster, he does have a chance to slip through waivers and be sent to Toledo. Either way, there's a good chance he ends up at the end of someone else's bench in 2015, and he should prove to be an effective utility player wherever he ends up.