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Brendan Ryan would significantly upgrade the Tigers' infield defense, but is his bat a bigger problem?

Does Brendan Ryan's excellent glove outweigh his horrible bat? Is he even available? Will we survive until Spring Training? Hopefully this post answers at least one of those questions.

The facial hair is definitely a point in Ryan's favor
The facial hair is definitely a point in Ryan's favor
Brad White

Since his name was so controversial in the previous Stephen Drew thread, let's stir the pot a bit more. Today's target is Seattle Mariners defensive wunderkind shortstop Brendan Ryan, who is a possible non-tender candidate.

Who is he?

Ryan will be 31 years old at the start of next season, which is probably older than most people think he is. He didn't make his major league debut until he was 26, first appearing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. He was traded to the Mariners prior to the 2011 season and has played 264 games for the M's over the last two years. He hit the disabled list in August of 2011 for a few weeks with a shoulder strain but otherwise hasn't missed an extended period of time over the past three seasons due to injury. Last season, he hit .194/.277/.278 in 470 plate appearances for Seattle.

Why should we care?

If he's not the best defensive shortstop in baseball, he's part of a very short list at the top. I did a double take when looking at his advanced defensive statistics, because even despite their inconsistencies, his are bananas. He was worth a whopping 27 defensive runs saved -- which crudely translates to 2.7 wins -- and had a UZR of 14.7 in 2012 alone. His range is also excellent, something that Doug Fister and Rick Porcello will greatly appreciate.

He also has decent speed, swiping a combined 49 bases in the past four seasons. Considering how infrequently he gets on base -- though a career 7.2% walk rate helps -- this is a pretty decent clip. He would definitely be an upgrade over the clodding Jhonny Peralta in that regard.

Why should we stay away?

As The Right Reverend Terrence J. Ice a.k.a. 29 Recs Chapman a.k.a. Trout Jefferson pointed out yesterday, Ryan's bat is pretty awful.

Among 25 shortstops who have at least 400 PAs, Ryan is dead last in:
Weighted On Base Average
Weighted Runs Created Plus

To put it bluntly, Ryan can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. He is a career .244/.306/.327 hitter who hasn't even hit 20 doubles in a season yet, let alone home runs (his career high is four). By comparison, Adam Everett is a career .242/.294/.346 hitter. One point in Ryan's favor is that his career OPS+ of 75 is much higher than Everett's 66 -- though both are still terrible (100 is average).

That being said, Ryan has been worth positive offensive bWAR in three of the past four seasons. Whether you use this to make a case for Ryan or against WAR as a viable statistic is up to you.

Will he end up in Detroit?

Probably not, but given Dave Dombrowski's recent history with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik -- assuming Ryan is tendered a contract, of course -- I wouldn't rule it out. It seems like the Tigers want to get better defensively up the middle, but I don't think they will do so to the extreme that Adam Everett provided a couple years ago and Ryan would provide now. With Peralta still in the fold for another year, the Tigers can afford to wait for the right opportunity to pick up their shortstop of the future. Their timetable on Ryan will depend on whether the Mariners tender him a contract today; if offered a contract, he will be a free agent after the 2013 season.