The Detroit Tigers have three players who will be unrestricted free agents after the current season. For a team in rebuilding mode, it stands to reason that the club would want to trade those players, if possible, rather than let them walk away for nothing at season’s end.
Each of the three players are in different situations, from the team’s perspective. Victor Martinez is a 14-year veteran playing at below replacement level with an $18 million salary, without any market value. He should retire. Francisco Liriano is on a one-year contract at a team friendly $4 million per season, and seems like a good trade candidate.
Jose Iglesias is somewhere in between. The Tigers’ slick-fielding shortstop is much younger than the others, and earns $6.25 million thanks to his settlement in his last year of arbitration eligibility. He will be owed about $2 million by the trade deadline, which is very palatable for a team looking for a defensive whiz to play shortstop for their contending team in the pennant race.
Iglesias is not one of the select group of two-way shortstops in the game, but he is an elite defender who comes in just about average in fWAR, and just below average offensively despite ranking at the bottom of the list in home runs. His defense is second among major league shortstops only to the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons in UZR and RZR. Iglesias is also one of the best players in the game at making contact, and he leads the team in stolen bases this season.
The Tigers are unlikely to land a top prospect for Iglesias, nor even a player who will soon be an everyday starter in the major leagues. Just about every team in baseball has at least one glove-first shortstop in their system, and they don’t have to give up a top prospect to plug him in. Most of this year’s contending teams are also set at shortstop, and the lone exception just swung a blockbuster deal for Manny Machado. The incentive for Detroit to trade Iglesias is not very strong. He may have already been traded if the return was enticing.
Instead, they should extend Iglesias
The feeling here is that Iglesias won’t get much of a raise, nor a long-term contract on the free agent market. He would be a backup on half of the teams in the major leagues, and is not enough of an overall upgrade over a pre-arbitration eligible player to cause a team to go running for their checkbook. He will have to find a team with that specific need, like Detroit.
There are also several shortstops who will be free agents this winter, and many are sure to sign for lower salaries and fewer seasons that Iglesias would like. He may have to test the waters to find out how cool they are.
If the Tigers can sign Iglesias for two or three seasons for a modest raise (if any), he could be their most logical option to fill the position until Isaac Paredes or another young shortstop can be developed.
That doesn’t look promising in the near future, though
Should the Tigers decide to trade Iglesias or let him walk away after the season as a free agent, their options for replacements are not very appealing. Dixon Machado may have been thought of as the heir apparent, but he was designated for assignment and cleared waivers after failing to hold the starting job at second base earlier this year. Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez are a pair of 26-year-old utility infielders currently on the team who have played shortstop in the minor leagues, but not very well defensively.
Isaac Paredes is a promising prospect who can hit, but whether he can stick at the shortstop position is questionable. He just moved up to Double-A, but is 19 years old and will be playing plenty of second base with Sergio Alcantara currently entrenched as Erie’s shortstop. Dawel Lugo is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster and recently participated in the Future’s Game during this year’s All-Star festivities, but his time at shortstop has been very limited over the past few seasons. Shortstop is not a position where shaky defense can be easily hidden. Fans could grow impatient if their infield is turning outs into base runners with regularity. Losing will happen, but they don’t want things to get ugly.
The reality is that the Tigers are going to have to go shopping for some of their position players before they can once again contend for a playoff spot. They don’t have the in-house options to field a contending lineup in the near future. They don’t need to give Manny Machado a five-year contract for $100 million plus, but they will need to spend money to put major league players in their lineup. Jose Iglesias feels just about right for the role in Detroit.
What should the Tigers do with Jose Iglesias?
This poll is closed
Trade him for whatever they can get
Sign him to a contract extension
Let him walk after the season