The silly season is upon us! The Detroit Tigers are kicking off MLB free agency by looking for a new shortstop, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. With Jose Iglesias presumably looking for a multi-year contract, the Tigers are focused on finding a veteran player on a one-year deal to bridge the gap until some of their infield prospects are ready.
Specifically, Morosi hints that the Tigers are looking at players like Freddy Galvis, Jordy Mercer, and Adeiny Hechavarria. All three turned in middling 2018 seasons, and are mostly glove-first options who will play solid defense and offer little else. They should all be available on cheap deals, but their willingness to sign a one-year contract with a non-contender remains to be seen — though all three played for non-playoff teams in 2018.
Of the three, Mercer offers the most offensive upside. He is a career .256/.316/.383 hitter who walks at a decent rate, doesn’t strike out too much, and plays solid defense. He is the oldest of the group at 32, but that shouldn’t be much of a deterrent if the Tigers are able to lock him down for just one season.
We will likely get into the specifics of each player in individual articles over the next few days, but Mercer’s offensive production has held steady over the past few years. His 85 wRC+ in 2018 was slightly lower than the high-80s figures he managed in both 2016 and 2017, but he also managed a higher-than-normal line drive rate. Still, without much power to speak of, he isn’t going to suddenly turn into the next J.D. Martinez.
Galvis is the youngest of the group, at 28. He matched Mercer’s 85 wRC+ with a .248/.299/.380 season for the San Diego Padres, but has just a 77 wRC+ for his career. His road splits are somewhat encouraging — he managed a .307 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and 91 wRC+ away from Petco Park last year — but like Mercer and Hechavarria, Galvis’ carrying tool is his glove. He managed +7 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 1401 innings at shortstop last season.
Hechavarria would be the flashiest of the three signings. His offensive production pales in comparison to the other two, but he easily has the best career defensive numbers of the group, with +22 DRS and a +13.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). He also has fielded the highest percentage of “Remote” and “Unlikely” plays in his career, according to Inside Edge. He would be best paired with a plus defender at second base in hopes of making the Tigers a strong defensive team up the middle.