Monday, March 24, 2014
Tigers now conducting open tryouts for SS
By David Schoenfield
It's safe to say that the Detroit Tigers didn't really have a backup plan at shortstop in case Jose Iglesias suffered a long-term injury. Yes, general manager Dave Dombrowski had acquired Steve Lombardozzi from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade during the offseason and penciled him in as the team's utility infielder, but Lombardozzi has played just 18 innings at shortstop in the majors and just 20 games there in the minors. As the Tigers undoubtedly learned this spring, Lombardozzi doesn't have the range or arm to play there on a regular basis.
So, with Iglesias out with stress fractures in both shins, the Tigers acquired Andrew Romine over the weekend from the Angels for Jose Alvarez and now reportedly acquired veteran Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles for Lombardozzi. Gonzalez, who played sparingly the past two seasons with the Brewers (67 games) because of his own injury problems, had been in Orioles camp as a non-roster invite. In case you're confused, this is the Alex Gonzalez who came up with the Marlins, made the All-Star team at age 22, hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, has drifted around in recent seasons and is now 37 years old. It's not the Alex Gonzalez who came up with the Blue Jays, made that crucial error for the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS and last played in the majors in 2006.
It's hard to say which guy is the better bet to take over the shortstop job for the Tigers. Romine is a regarded as a good fielder but has spent most of the past three seasons at Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .281, .285 and .287 but with limited power (four home runs each season). In 189 innings at shortstop in the majors, spread out over four seasons, he's been rated at minus-3 defensive runs saved, so it's possible he projects as an average defender at shortstop. Gonzalez, hitting .429 this spring with two home runs, last played shortstop regularly for the Braves in 2011 and hit .241/.270/.372 with a plus-9 DRS. It's possible they work into a platoon because Gonzalez bats right-handed and Romine is a switch-hitter.
For the Orioles, they pick up a free body for a guy who probably wasn't going to make their roster. With Manny Machado beginning the year on the disabled list, Lombardozzi can fill in at third base and then join the fray at second base that includes Ryan Flaherty and Jemile Weeks. Flaherty has had the best spring, hitting .310 with a couple of homers, while Weeks has struggled to a .143 average in 35 at-bats. This could end up being another platoon situation with Flaherty against right-handers and Lombardozzi against left-handers.
Anyway, it adds up to a minor trade that could help both teams, but give Orioles GM Dan Duquette credit for adding depth at his weakest position and not being content with Weeks merely because he was acquired for closer Jim Johnson.