Detroit Tigers Rumors
The Astros have optioned top prospect George Springer to the minors, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets. The demotion comes shortly after the news that the Astros had offered Springer a seven-year, $23MM contract before he had even played a day in the Majors. Springer's demotion will likely raise further questions about the effect of MLB service time on teams' promotion decisions. As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal put it last night, "If Springer was good enough to be offered $23 million, why isn't he good enough to crack the 25-man roster of a team that has finished with the worst record in the majors in each of the past three seasons?" By having Springer start the season in the minors, the Astros can ensure that he will become a free agent after the 2020 season, rather than after the 2019 season. And if they wait to promote him until the early summer, they can limit his number of arbitration-eligible seasons to three rather than four. As Rosenthal points out, if Springer had agreed to the Astros' contract offer, these service-time issues would have been moot.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says he has not been engaged in any serious trade talks recently, MLB.com's Andrew Simon tweets. Dombrowski offered no specific details about free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. Meanwhile, it looks like shortstop Jose Iglesias may miss the entire 2014 season with stress fractures in his shins, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes. Iglesias should be able to play in 2015, however.
- Orioles executive Dan Duquette recounts his team's strange offseason in an interview with MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski. The Orioles endured plenty of criticism for their quiet offseason before they swooped in late to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. "We were trying to sign a number of players and it didn't work out the way we thought it might," Duquette says. "But if we signed the players we signed back in November or December, people would say the Orioles are gearing up." Duquette also says the Orioles will not comment on any extension discussions with shortstop J.J. Hardy.
It's already been a busy day for shortstop news as we've heard that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade Didi Gregorius for pitching, the Cardinals are shopping Pete Kozma, and the Tigers have been asking teams about available shortstops, even scouting such options as Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. Here are some more shortstop-related rumors...
- The Tigers aren't likely "to make a serious push" for Kozma, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports opines (Twitter link), because they have a similar player in Danny Worth.
- There haven't been any reports linking the Tigers to the Mariners' Nick Franklin, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Franklin is perhaps better suited as a second baseman and may not have the glove to handle short, Heyman suggests.
- One scout suggested that Adeiny Hechavarria might be the sort of defensive specialist that Detroit would want at short. A Marlins source, however, tells Heyman that the Fish have yet to be contacted about Hechavarria.
- Several executives around baseball believe that signing Drew would be the best solution to the Mets' shortstop problem, Heyman reports. A multiyear deal for Drew would give the Mets an answer at short for 2015, when the team could look to contend once Matt Harvey is healthy.
- The Mets would be interested in Drew on a one-year, $9MM contract or possibly a two-year, $20MM deal, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. There haven't been any signs that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, would settle for either price.
- Also from Martino, the view on current Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada from opposing scouts is that he's "a solid player, who appears spooked by the pressures of playing in the New York market, and hearing criticism from his own front office." One scout believes that Tejada “could be OK, but he needs to get out of New York. [He's] a classic change-of-scenery guy.”
- A source not connected to either the Mets or Diamondbacks tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link) that the rumor of Gregorius going to New York "has legs" and is a situation to watch.
The Tigers' best way to address their shortstop issue is to try an internal option, like Danny Worth, then reevaluate the matter if Worth struggles, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. At that point, if Stephen Drew is still a free agent, the Tigers could call agent Scott Boras. Schmehl also doesn't think the Tigers should pay a high price for the Diamondbacks' Chris Owings when the injured Jose Iglesias remains their shortstop of the future. Drew was the top option in an MLBTR readers poll earlier today, as over 37% of voters felt that the Tigers will ultimately just sign the veteran shortstop to replace Iglesias.
Here are more notes from around the AL Central...
- The Phillies and Cubs were among the many teams who had scouts watching the Tigers' minor leaguers in action on Wednesday, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. Earlier today, we heard that the Tigers were scouting Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs to address their holes at short and left field, respectively.
- Shaun Marcum would like to stay in the Indians organization even if he doesn't make their rotation, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. Marcum can opt out of his deal if he does not make the team out of spring training. Marcum was supposed to compete for the Indians' fifth starter job, but he has fallen behind as he has continued to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
- The Pirates have reportedly been shopping outfielder Jose Tabata, but the Twins are probably not among the interested teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
- The Twins' final roster decisions are being complicated by both a number of out-of-options players and the fact that several players competing for jobs simply haven't performed well at Spring Training, MLB.com's Andrew Simon reports. "Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away," Twins assistant GM Mark Antony told reporters, including Simon.
MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also contributed to this post
Here's the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- The Mariners have made a series of attempts to re-sign DH Kendrys Morales since he turned down their qualifying offer, but the Mariners' proposals probably reflected the reality that if they re-signed Morales, they would lose the compensatory draft pick they would gain if another team signed him. Some Mariners personnel believe the team's greatest need right now is another hitter.
- After Jose Iglesias' injury, the Tigers' shortstop options (Danny Worth, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez) do not impress scouts. The Tigers likely won't pursue free agent Stephen Drew, and trade target Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks doesn't look likely either. Rosenthal speculates the Tigers could look to Clint Barmes of the Pirates or Tyler Pastornicky of the Braves instead.
- The White Sox are excited about Maikel Cleto, who they recently claimed off waivers from the Royals. He's now throwing 96-98 MPH down in the zone with good secondary pitches. Since Cleto is out of options, the White Sox had originally considered trying to sneak him through waivers after they claimed him, but now that seems very unlikely.
- The Reds are worried about their depth of starting pitching, but they don't have enough room in their budget to make a significant addition.
Tigers executive Scott Reid is scouting Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz and infielder Darwin Barney, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports. The Cubs would be looking for pitching in return. The Tigers have lost outfielder Andy Dirks and shortstop Jose Iglesias to serious injuries. Dirks was slated to form the left-handed side of a left-field platoon with Rajai Davis. The left-handed Scherholtz would seem to fit the bill as his replacement, even though he has mostly played right field in recent years.
Barney has played shortstop only sparingly since 2010, and the Tigers have no real need at second base, with Ian Kinsler in tow. Barney is a strong defensive second baseman, however, and he has played a bit of shortstop this spring with Starlin Castro dealing with a hamstring injury. Barney recently told the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales that he would be fine playing shortstop. "Shortstop is my natural position," he said. "I feel very comfortable over there. The past three years at second base I've still taken balls at short almost every day as part of my workout to stretch my arm out. So I don't look at it as a transition." Barney hit poorly in 2013, with a line of .208/.266/.303 in 555 plate appearances, but he produced enough value with his defense to be above replacement level.
It's never good for a team with its sights set on the World Series to incur a major injury in Spring Training, as there often few viable alternatives to be had. That's not necessarily the case for the Tigers, who recently suffered the loss of defensive wizard Jose Iglesias for what appears to be most of the 2014 season. The Tigers have seemingly have three legitimate routes to address the problem: stick with internal options, sign a free agent (i.e. Stephen Drew) or swing a trade for a suitable alternative.
Detroit GM Dave Dombroswki said at the time of the deal that the club planned on sticking with internal options. That means some combination of Danny Worth, Eugenio Suarez and and Hernan Perez would see the bulk of the time at shortstop. The 29-year-old Worth has a .622 career OPS in 246 Major League plate appearances to go along with just 219 big league innings at shortstop. Suarez, 22, has yet to play a game above Double-A and owns just a .253/.332/.387 batting line at that level. Perez, also 22, has gotten a brief taste of the Majors and possesses plus speed, but he's OPSed a meager .642 in parts of six minor league seasons. He's also played just 16 games at the Triple-A level. Suffice it to say, none of these three represents a particularly exciting option for a contending club.
While it's rare for a viable free agent option to be present at this stage in Spring Training, the Tigers have one of the premier free agents of the offseason available to them in the form of Drew. Saddled by a qualifying offer that has helped drive down his value, Drew is working out at the Scott Boras Training Institute in Miami. Fresh off a season in which he batted .253/.333/.443 with plus defense, Drew would require the Tigers to forfeit their No. 23 pick in the upcoming draft. It remains to be seen whether Drew would be amenable to a one-year deal (perhaps with a player option to coax the shorter guaranteed term out of Boras), but he appears to be a natural fit despite Dombrowski's comments. After all, it wasn't that long ago that the Tigers signed a high profile Boras client in light of an injury; Detroit inked Prince Fielder to a nine-year deal after losing Victor Martinez for the year prior to the 2012 campaign.
One has to wonder how genuine those comments from the GM were, in light of recent reports. FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted yesterday that Detroit placed a call to Arizona regarding shortstop Chris Owings, though talks didn't progress far. Today, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that several scouts tell him they've been asked by the Tigers if their clubs have shortstops available in trades. One such candidate could be the man Owings beat out for the shortstop gig in Arizona -- Didi Gregorius. The D'Backs are said to be making Gregorius available for MLB-ready pitching. He, of course, represents more of a long-term solution than a stopgap until Iglesias is healthy, but the Tigers could always move one of their defensively inclined shortstops next offseason should they swing a deal for Gregorius. Other names that could be available (my own speculation) are Cliff Pennington, Pete Kozma and Elliot Johnson, each of whom could provide solid defense without a heavy cost of acquisition.
It's hard to imagine the Tigers truly being closed off to the possibility of Drew or a trade, should either become available at a price with which Dombrowski is comfortable. However, he may prefer to stick with internal options rather than overpay at this juncture. A summer trade is always possible as well, as more shortstops could be available at that time.
Here's the latest from the A.L. Central:
- While the picture remains somewhat unclear, it seems apparent that the Tigers are preparing to deal with life without young shortstop Jose Iglesias for some time. The club made an inquiry with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Chris Owings, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, but the discussions were not fruitful.
- Of course, one obvious possibility involves the signing of free agent Stephen Drew, which seems not to be the club's first option. While there is a seeming fit -- Drew is a solid veteran, the Tigers are a win-now club -- some pundits agree with Detroit's inclination to look internally while exploring the trade market. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, for example, argues that Detroit is better off patching things over to start the year and evaluating as time goes on. The performance of the fill-ins, recovery of Iglesias, and developments in the market could all lead to solutions and increase clarity, and Cameron says the team is likely good enough to absorb some performance decline in the meantime.
- The Royals are expected to tab prospect Yordano Ventura to open the season in the rotation, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The 22-year-old has backed up his billing as one of the game's top pitching prospects with a stellar spring. Of course, if Ventura breaks camp on the active roster, the Royals will lose the chance to delay his service clock and retain control for an additional season.
- There is an increasing sense of urgency in Minnesota with ticket sales lagging, and the Twins will be aggressive with roster changes if need be in the early going, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider piece). The club already spent the sixth-most cash in the game through free agency, and Olney says it may be willing to move up some high-end talent if it struggles out of the gate. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted today that he was intrigued by the possibility of utilizing the towering Alex Meyer out of the pen for his first taste of MLB action, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
MONDAY: Iglesias tells reporters, including MLB.com's Jason Beck, that he has been diagnosed with stress fractures in each shin, but he believes he can play at some point this season (Twitter links). Beck tweets that Iglesias will see a specialist tomorrow, which will give Detroit a better idea on his timeframe for a return.
MLB Network Radio's Jim Duquette first reported (via Twitter) that Iglesias' injury had worsened from shin spints to stress fractures earlier this morning.
SUNDAY, 1:09pm: Iglesias will need "extended rehab" for months and possibly the entire season, a source with knowledge of the injury tells the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters, including Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, he feels for Iglesias, who played for him last year, but was "aware (the shins were an issue) to the extent we had to monitor. We had to get him off his feet because he felt some pain and soreness there."
11:22am: The Tigers are sending Iglesias for a third opinion, but GM Dave Dombrowski says that the shortstop will definitely start the year on the DL, reports Tom Gage of the Detroit News (Twitter links). Initially, at least, the team will look to fill in for Iglesias internally, said Dombrowski.
SATURDAY: Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias will miss most of the 2014 season with a shin injury, Jim Bowden of ESPN tweets, citing a player close to Iglesias. The injury has fueled speculation that the Tigers will now pursue Stephen Drew, Bowden notes.
Iglesias hit just .259/.306/.348 for the Tigers in 46 games after arriving in a trade with Boston in 2013, but is widely regarded as one of the game's top defensive shortstops. The Tigers were relying on Iglesias to serve as the cog in a more defense-oriented infield, so replacing him at this point in the offseason will be a challenge. Drew likely represents the simplest option for doing so.
Drew, 31, hit .253/.333/.443 with typically strong defense at short for the World Champion Red Sox in 2013, but his 124 games played was his highest total since 2010. The Scott Boras client managed just 79 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2011. That fragility is likely one major factor in his continued availability. Another, of course, is the draft pick compensation Drew is tied to after declining a qualifying offer from the Red Sox. If the Tigers do sign him, they'll lose what is currently the 23rd pick in the 2014 draft. Forfeiting that pick could be a tough pill for Detroit to swallow. GM Dave Dombrowski has managed to avoid doing so thus far this offseason, with his major acquisition, second baseman Ian Kinsler, coming via trade rather than free agency.
However, Detroit ultimately has few alternatives if the goal is replacing Iglesias with an impact player. Indeed, this situation -- team with playoff aspirations loses middle infielder to injury late in Spring Training -- seems to be precisely what Boras has waited for.
Mariners infielder Nick Franklin is another possibility. The 23-year-old's name has appeared frequently in trade rumors since the Robinson Cano signing, and as the owner of less than a year of service time, he'd pair with third baseman Nick Castellanos to give the Tigers two talented, cost-controlled infielders. On the other hand, Dombrowski may be hesistant to hand two starting infield jobs to unproven players in a season in which the Tigers expect to contend for a championship.
For the Tigers, signing free agent shortstop Stephen Drew would make "a great deal of sense," Dayn Perry of CBS Sports writes. Jose Iglesias looks likely to miss much of the season with a leg injury. The Tigers are lucky, in a sense, that a player as good as Drew is still out there to pursue. And though they would have to sacrifice the No. 23 overall pick in the draft to sign Drew, they need to focus on their goal of winning the 2014 World Series, Perry suggests. If Iglesias were to return at midseason, the Tigers could potentially move Drew to third base if Nick Castellanos isn't performing well there. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, however, has recently indicated that he is not interested in signing Drew. Here's more from the American League.
- The Blue Jays are building their 25-man roster with the purpose of keeping out-of-options players in the organization, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports. Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Perez, Esmil Rogers, Sergio Santos, Todd Redmond and Moises Sierra are all out of options. Recent cuts Chad Jenkins and Neil Wagner might have received more consideration if the Blue Jays hadn't had the ability to send them to the minors.
- Orioles executive Dan Duquette has done a nice job finding talent on the fringes, writes MLB.com's Richard Justice. That includes pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who the Orioles signed from the Mexican League as a 27-year-old, and outfielder Nate McLouth, who the O's acquired after he was released by the Pirates and who played a key role down the stretch in 2012.
GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers will not pursue free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, the Detroit News' Lynn Henning reports. Dombrowski says the Tigers will go with "internal candidates" to replace the injured Jose Iglesias at shortstop, perhaps including Danny Worth, Eugenio Suarez or Hernan Perez.
Henning takes that to mean that the Tigers might still have interest in pursuing trades as a way of finding a new shortstop, but they will not pursue Drew. The Tigers have the No. 23 pick in the upcoming draft, and Henning suggests they do not want to give that up in order to sign Drew. They also do not want to sign Drew to a long-term deal when Iglesias still figures to be their long-term answer at shortstop.
It emerged this weekend that Iglesias' shin injury would cause him to miss most of the 2014 season. That news has led to increased speculation that the Tigers would sign Drew, who previously had not been able to find much of a market after rejecting a qualifying offer from the Red Sox.