Tigers eye options to shore up the infield

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat e-newsletter. To learn the full e-newsletter, click on right here. Mrs subscribe to get it repeatedly in your inbox.

DETROIT — Jonathan Schoop was an AL Gold Glove Award finalist at second base. He not solely led all Major League second basemen in Outs Above Average, Statcast’s major defensive metric, he led all Major League defensive gamers in the class. He had twice as many Outs Above Average as the next-best second baseman. He made second base one among simply three positions the place the Tigers had a optimistic quantity in Defensive Runs Saved, one other defensive metric from Sports Info Solutions.

So why would the Tigers contemplate shifting Schoop off of second base? Because if the Tigers are going to get higher, they’ve to take into consideration their total infield, which wants quite a lot of assist other than second base.

While Detroit’s resolution final week to non-tender third baseman Jeimer Candelario didn’t come as a shock given Candelario’s struggles this previous season, it additionally didn’t include an apparent resolution for a alternative. Ryan Kreidler made 11 of his 22 begins at third base as a part of his late-season audition and registered 2 Outs Above Average in that restricted time, however he additionally hit simply .178 (13-for-73) with six walks and 22 strikeouts. in 84 plate appearances. Kody Clemens additionally made 11 begins at third and posted 1 Out Above Average, however hit simply .145 (17-for-117) with eight walks and 33 strikeouts. The next-closest potential resolution in the farm system has but to play above High-A, though No. 6 prospect Colt Keith impressed in the Arizona Fall League regardless of six errors in 10 video games at third.

No surprise the Tigers had been in talks proper up to Friday’s non-tender deadline to strive to re-sign Candelario at a decrease wage than his arbitration projections. At that time, nonetheless, it made sense for Candelario to see what is likely to be out there on the open market first.

That leads Detroit to the free-agent and commerce markets, the place the options at third base drop off rapidly. Justin Turner and Evan Longoria are multi-time All-Stars — and in Longoria’s case, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner — however they’re each 37 years outdated, have spent current years on the West Coast and are possible tied to contenders searching for a World Series ring. Brandon Drury is in the prime of his profession coming off a 28-homer season, however he additionally performed at hitter-friendly parks in Cincinnati and San Diego in almost doubling his earlier profession finest in homers, leaving groups having to resolve in the event that they consider he can repeat it with a fly-ball fee doubling his line-drive proportion. He additionally has battled excessive strikeouts and low stroll charges in his profession, though his swing-and-miss fee was amongst the prime third of Major Leaguers this yr.

The subsequent tier of free brokers might present a chance for president of baseball operations Scott Harris to take a calculated danger. Brian Anderson, non-tendered by the Marlins final week, was a budding younger hitter with a 20-homer season in 2019 earlier than again and shoulder accidents restricted him the final couple of years. His 9.3 p.c profession stroll fee is nearly some extent above the MLB common, whereas his struggles with strikeouts this yr belied a chase fee that’s under common for his profession.

All of the above are right-handed hitters; Harris has stated the Tigers need to add a left-handed hitter to their infield. If they are going to try this at third, their most suitable choice is likely to be former Brewer Jace Peterson. His protection at third was price 7 Outs Above Average for Milwaukee, and he has a 12.5 p.c stroll fee over the previous three years. The 32-year-old has primarily been a barely below-average hitter in that span, with a 97 OPS+ and 96 wRC+ regardless of above-average hard-hit and barrel charges. The Dodgers non-tendered former third base prospect and Triple-A slugger Edwin Rios, though he has battled strikeouts all the method to Triple-A.

Expand the infield search from third base to second base, and the options increase a bit. Adam Frazier has been one among baseball’s higher pure left-handed contact hitters and harder at-bats (7.6 p.c strikeout fee) the final couple of years amongst Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle, though the soon-to-be 31-year-old’s low exit velocity and hard-hit fee present restricted energy. His protection at second was price 6 Outs Above Average. César Hernández is a veteran switch-hitter in the same mode, though he has been properly under common in weighted runs created and OPS the final couple of years. Jean Segura has a profession 14.1 p.c strikeout fee, eight factors under his MLB common, though his stroll fee might enhance. Brandon Lowe might be a commerce possibility if the Rays deal him forward of the heavy years of his contract; he’ll make $14 million over the subsequent two seasons, with workforce options for $10,500,000 in 2025 and $11,500,000 in 2026.

The Tigers have checked out left-handed-hitting center infielders, in accordance to sources, even earlier than non-tendering Harold Castro. With each Harold and Willi Castro gone, it might not be a shock if Detroit signed a number of infielders. The extra open the Tigers are with Schoop positionally, the extra options Detroit has.

Defensively, MLB’s new restrictions on infield positioning additionally play a task. Detroit’s infield positioning was price 24 Defensive Runs Saved in shifts, and -4 with out. Only the Dodgers had a wider hole. Schoop’s protection was price 4 DRS in shifts, and -2 with out, in accordance to Sports Info Solutions. With infield shifts all however gone, supervisor AJ Hinch may have to check out his total protection no matter who Detroit brings in.

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