Detroit Tigers: The Peralta – Iglesias Dilemma of 2014

Jhonny Peralta and Jose Iglesias
Jhonny Peralta and Jose Iglesias USA Today Sports

Jhonny Peralta‘s 50-game suspension is good for baseball. Bud Selig, as much as the XN Sports staff has enjoyed ribbing him over the past year, has got this one right. Bud appears to be nipping it in the bud.

With the wake of the thirteen suspensions now slowly smoothing out, questions begin to arise as to which direction clubs should take in replacing those suspended players. In the Tigers case, they have to look somewhere to replace their All-Star shortstop.

It was clear the Tigers were aware that Peralta would be accepting his punishment when they made a three-way deal with Boston and Chicago. The deal sent outfielder Avisail Garcia to the White Sox, Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, and shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers.

Garcia, having been one of the Tigers’ top minor-league performers, and possibly their highest-ceiling young player, was not easy to let go of. In 147 at-bats with Triple-A Toledo, Garcia racked up 23 RBI with a batting average of .374 and a .948 OPS. He put up a .319 BA in limited playing with the Tigers in 2012, and showed the ability to be cool under pressure by going 5-for-11 with three RBI during the 2012 ALCS against the Yankees.

The Tigers decided it was worth the risk to swap Garcia for 23 year-old Cuban defector, and defensive phenom Jose Iglesias. It was a quick fix to the problem at shortstop, and by some accounts, the Tigers have their shortstop of the future. If Iglesias can hit .250 for the Tigers, his glove will make up for it. The numbers show that Iglesias will likely have a batting average somewhere in that range; during four seasons in the minor leagues, he hit .257 with very limited power.

There’s no reason to believe Iglesias will continue hitting .330, as he’s done this year, and for the record, over the last month, Iglesias has gone 11-for-71. That’s a batting average of .155, any he hasn’t drawn a single walk. Couple his recent decline with his 2012 average of .118 and the picture becomes clearer. There’s nothing nice to say about his bat, so, like grandma told us, we wont’ say anything at all.

These aren’t shortstop-of-the-future numbers. Perhaps the allure of being compared to shortstops like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel was enough for Detroit to pull the trigger. On the money side of things, it was a cheap replacement for the Tigers (not to suggest there were many established shortstops on the market to begin with).

His defensive prowess is enough to warrant leaving him on the field for the time being, but at his current rate, the offensive struggles will surely pose questions as the head down the stretch. His age leaves a glimmer of hope he can find his stroke, but the minor-league numbers simply aren’t there.

This leaves the Tigers with two options: take a shot at bringing Peralta back as a free agent signing, or give Iglesias a shot in the 2014 lineup — wait and see if the bat comes around.

The pros of bringing Peralta back:

  • .268 career hitter – Not bad for a shortstop.
  • Defensively sound (only 4 errors in 435 chances in 2013)
  • Occasional pop
  • His steroid-use/suspension might lower the free agent price tag. (See Melky Cabrera)
  • Iglesias is allowed to season in the minors – work out his batting average.

The cons of bringing Peralta back:

  • While he’s defensively sound, Peralta has limited range.
  • He’s always a regression candidate: After his All-Star year in 2011 when he batted .299, Peralta batted .239 in 2012. This makes his average defense less excusable.
  • Losing Iglesias as the staple to the middle-infield defense.

The Tigers have to weigh Peralta’s offensive production with Iglesias’ defense. Whoever mans the 6-spot next year will be lacking in one of two categories. The question is, which are the Tigers willing to sacrifice?

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