The Detroit Tigers have been relatively quiet so far this offseason. There’s no particular rush right now, and the rest of the league isn’t exactly buzzing with activity. There have been a handful of moves here and there, but nothing earth-shattering. It feels a bit like the calm before the storm.
This isn’t to say the Tigers have been idle. They are certainly in contact with players and agents across the sport. And they recently parted ways with several of the longest-tenured members of the team. But the plus side of this relative inactivity is it gives us time to take a longer look at options. Rogelio has offered names for starting pitching and the outfield, and today we focus on the infield.
The Big Names
First of all, it ain’t happening. There are four big-time shortstops on the free agent market this year in Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, and Trea Turner. Each can expect a contract exceeding five years and $150 million.
To be fair, the Tigers haven’t come out and said they won’t sign any of the four. But they also haven’t been publicly connected to any member of the quartet. And Tigers president Scott Harris has shown little desire to sign players to long-term deals.
Remember, Harris came right out and said the team was looking for left-handed hitting infielders. There are currently nine infielders on Detroit’s 40-man roster, and seven of them are right-handed. Wenceel Perez is a switch hitter, while Kody Clemens is the lone lefty bat. There’s no rule that says teams must have a balanced roster. So Harris’ comments suggest the team is probably looking more for platoon bats than a big-time free agent.
With Jeimer Candelario off to Washington, the team’s biggest need appears to be at third base. There’s a little bit of positional flexibility on the roster, with most of the infielders at least theoretically capable of playing third. So, the Tigers could also pursue a second baseman. But who are the best realistic options?
Adam Frazier – Frazier is a bit of a throwback. He offers very little in the way of power, with just three home runs last season, but he’s one of the hardest players in baseball to strike out. He also graded out well as a second baseman last year, and he owns a career 104 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Frazier is probably best used as a platoon player, but he may not be ready to accept that role.
César Hernández – Two years ago César Hernández hit 21 home runs while posting above-average walk and strikeout rates. And then last year his power completely evaporated. He hit just one home run in 617 plate appearances, and his average exit velocity of 84.8 MPH was tied for the 4th worst among qualified hitters. He has been a below-average second baseman for most of his career. At this point he’s a candidate to sign a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training.
Jace Peterson – As free agents go, Jace Peterson is probably the closest to what the Tigers want. He’s not going to provide much in the way of power or batting average (a career .231 hitter with a .112 ISO). But, he also owns a career double-digit walk rate, he can steal 10-15 bases, and he has proven to be an above-average defender at third base. He’d be a solid platoon partner for Ryan Kreidler or Andre Lipcius.
Jason Vosler – Jason Vosler was originally drafted by the Cubs in 2014, and he spent the last two seasons with the San Francisco Giants. It’s safe to assume Scott Harris is familiar with his work. Vosler is a 29-year-old, left-handed hitting third baseman who produced a 127 wRC+ in 111 big-league plate appearances last year. But the Giants designated him for assignment a few weeks ago, probably because he’s a bad defender, and he wasn’t particularly good in Triple-A.
The free agent options are underwhelming, to say the least. But what if the Detroit Tigers decide to go the trade route? Here are a few potential targets:
Kolten Wong – The biggest name of this group, Kolten Wong is in the final year of his contract and he’s making $10 million this season. He’s been a solid-average player for his career, capable of providing double-digit home runs and steals while limiting strikeouts and walking at an average clip. He’s a second baseman only, so Jonathan Schoop would likely have to move to third. While Wong would be a clear upgrade for the Tigers, and he probably wouldn’t cost much to acquire, his status as an impending free agent makes him a better fit for a contender. That’s probably why the Mariners are reportedly after him.
Luis Guillorme – A 10th round pick of the Mets in 2013, Luis Guillorme is sort of like Harold Castro with walks (11.5% career walk rate). He has very little power, and while he can play multiple positions, he’s a good defender at second base and pretty bad everywhere else. But, Guillorme has a career wRC+ of 111 against right-handed pitching and he’s under team control through the 2025 season. He’s far from a game changer, but he would represent a solid upgrade over last year’s options at a minimal prospect cost.
Josh Rojas – There’s been no indication the Diamondbacks are looking to trade the 28-year-old Rojas, who put up 3.2 bWAR in just 125 games last year. But Arizona has a few interesting infield prospects knocking on the door, so perhaps they want to sell high. The Dbacks don’t have much in the way of catching prospects, and everyone can use pitching. Maybe a deal involving Dillon Dingler or Josh Crouch, and a pitcher like Ty Madden or Dylan Smith would get the job done.