Within a matter of a couple of weeks, free agent outfielder Torii Hunter will probably have himself a new contract ad a new set of teammates. If the tea leaves are correct, those teammates will be wearing the Olde English D with the Detroit Tigers.
The fit for both parties is simply too strong to ignore, which is probably why this marriage will happen. Hunter would give Detroit the complete player in right field, drastically improving both the offensive production there and the team defense. Going from Brennan Boesch, who was decidedly below average at the plate and with the glove, to a player with the pedigree of Hunter would be like replacing Delmon Young with Victor Martinez. Oh yeah, the Tigers get to do that, too.
For a team that won the American League pennant last season, it would be an embarrassment of riches.
But beyond the surface improvements a Hunter signing would bring the Tigers, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News sees an opportunity for Detroit to improve their defense even more.
If Tigers get Hunter, who was always a top target, they add a bat in LF and a bat in V-Mart. Allows a trade of Peralta and making Worth SS.
— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) November 12, 2012
Earlier in the off-season, the Tigers picked up the $6 million option on shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Though Peralta is coming off a down season at the plate, his glove work was steady all season and outstanding during the playoffs. Danny Worth, however, has a reputation as an elite defender. The only question is whether or not he can hit enough to hold down the position.
If the Tigers can add Hunter, however, some of that offensive slack is already picked up.
The market for shortstops is exceptionally thin this Winter and third base is probably the only position thinner. Peralta is an attractive option thanks to his affordable salary and experience at either position. That he’s still just 30 years old and only one year removed from a 21-homer season in which he produced an .824 OPS suggests he has something left in the tank.
Peralta is a solid hitter. In fact, over his 10 year career, he’s been exactly average with a .750 career OPS and a 100 career OPS+. He’s also shown himself to be a sure-handed defender, though one without ideal range. Any ball he gets to, however, Peralta is as close to automatic as they come.
If the Tigers view Worth as a significant upgrade defensively, and range-wise he is, they may like the idea of moving Peralta. But Worth has spent a career in the minor leagues getting the bat knocked out of his hands. He’s improved in recent seasons, but still has never seen an OPS in the minor leagues higher than the .785 mark he produced in just over 200 at bats in Triple-A Toledo in 2012. In parts of three big league campaigns, Worth is a career .244/.310/.318 hitter. At age 27, Worth is no longer young and doesn’t figure to improve much. At this point, he is what he is, which is a capable defender at three infield positions. Anything he adds offensively would be pure gravy.
That just doesn’t seem like enough for a team that expects to contend not only for the playoffs, but for their first World Championship since 1984.
Henning, for those of you not familiar, has a history of being right about these hunches he gets. While all of Detroit was swooning over Curtis Granderson in 2007 and 2008, it was Henning who saw blockbuster trade to the Yankees coming when no one else did. Of course, like any prognosticator, Henning has missed on his fair share as well. Still, he’s got a better sense of Detroit’s front office and their line of thinking than most do.
I can see Peralta’s value to other clubs that need what he can offer and I can also see why the Tigers would desire an upgrade at shortstop, even if Peralta is the best they have today. Detroit’s minor league system is devoid of middle infield talent, so there’s no one coming up to challenge for the job anytime soon. Be it for the 2013 season or beyond, GM Dave Dombrowski will be tasked with finding the next Tigers shortstop and he’ll do it by looking outside the organization.
But if Worth is their alternative, Dombrowski should just go ahead an hold on to Peralta for another year.