The Detroit Tigers need to find a new shortstop this offseason. While we here at Bless You Boys like to dream big, some of our dear readers do not. The Tigers organization seemingly shares that more measured approach, as they are rumored to be looking at low-cost options like Adeiny Hechavarria, Jordy Mercer, and Freddy Galvis. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press suggested Alcides Escobar as well, which we politely hope does not happen (but we’ll eventually talk about him too).
We provided a quick once-over of those first three players last week, but now it’s time to get a bit more detailed. Our very scientific Twitter poll was won by Hechavarria, but we got this article done first, so Galvis it is.
Who is he?
As we mentioned last week, Galvis is the youngest of this group of low-cost free agent shortstops, at 28 years old. He made his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Phillies as a 22-year-old back in 2012, and spent a few years in a utility role behind Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. After Rollins was traded in December 2014, Galvis slotted in as Philadelphia’s starting shortstop. He didn’t hit well, managing a 79 OPS+ in 151 games, but his glove and baserunning were good enough to be worth 1.6 fWAR in his first full season of duty.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Galvis has produced very similar results in his four seasons as a full-time starter. He followed his 79 OPS+ in 2015 with seasons of 78 and 81, respectively, in 2016 and 2017, even as he saw a big spike in his power. He hit 20 home runs in 2016, but regressed back to just 12 dingers in 2017. He managed a combined 3.9 fWAR in those two seasons before he was traded to the San Diego Padres last December. Petco Park’s metrics helped inflated his OPS+ to a career-best 88, but he still only got on base at a .299 clip and managed a paltry .680 OPS.
Defensively, Galvis’ numbers are a bit odd. He has graded out positively at Baseball Reference, where his glove alone has been worth 3.6 wins above replacement in his career. Ultimate Zone Rating also views him positively, at +16.3 in his seven big league seasons. Defensive Runs Saved grades him three runs below average, but their metrics are not reflected in either version of WAR. The eye test generally agrees with the first two metrics — he grades out fairly well in FanGraphs’ fan scouting reports — and he is also capable of the occasional spectacular play.
Galvis grades out as a strong baserunner as well, although most of his 5.9 career baserunning runs (BsR) came in 2014 and 2015.
If you believe in the prospects, Galvis is a great fit
Assuming the Tigers can turn one of Willi Castro or Sergio Alcantara into a starting caliber shortstop, Galvis is a perfect stopgap option for them this winter. He could be signed to a one or two-year deal — one year with a team option for 2020 seems like the sweet spot to me — and provide solid, if unspectacular production at short while the club grooms their shortstop of the future. Galvis isn’t quite as flashy of a defender as Hechavarria and doesn’t have Mercer’s offensive upside, but he’s a nice blend of the two. He also provides the most power of that group, with 45 home runs over the past three seasons. He is also durable, having missed just 13 games over the past four seasons.
He may also provide a bit of much-needed swag, which would make for a more entertaining 2019 season.
Are there downsides?
I mean, not really. Galvis isn’t going to break the bank — he made $6.825 million last year — and probably won’t fetch more than two years on his next contract. He is what he is at this point, a durable player who will provide slightly below-average production at an important position, and perhaps a GIFable moment or two along the way. He’s a low-risk, low-reward option for the Tigers, one that requires them to get their next move right. If Castro or Alcantara develop into a bonafide starter at short, picking up Galvis (or another short-term option) was the right move. If not, the Tigers will have possibly missed an opportunity to make a bigger splash and fill a position of great need as they look to eventually return to contention.