Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With the news that Jose Iglesias will miss a portion of the 2014 season, a lot of talk has been brewing on how Detroit plans on replacing him. They do not have great options within the organization, so attention has turned towards free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. This then sparked a debate from baseball fans across the globe of which defensive specialist you would rather have. Of course, both guys played with the Boston Red Sox at some point last year, flashing sparks of excellence and hiatus of disappointment. However, there is a clear superior and inferior.
Drew is more fundamentally sound, which is expected with a seasoned veteran. Iglesias is more flashy and makes the routine play, albeit not quite as often as Drew. With more experience, it seems likely Iglesias will improve on his fundamentals and become an elite defensive shortstop — if he is not already. The odd thing is advanced metrics do not chalk either player as a “great defensive player.” Drew compiled a -2 DRS (defensive runs saved) and 5.3 UZR (ultimate zone rating), whereas Iglesias totaled a -1 DRS and 0.7 UZR in 2013. Defensive metrics have been known for its inaccuracy, so do not read too much into this.
As much as people like to poke fun at Drew’s abysmal offensive performance in the postseason, he was actually a solid contributor with the stick. His line read a .253/.333/.443 slash, administering above average on-base and power. Drew complemented this with a 109 wRC+ (park and league adjusted .wOBA) and a sustainable .320 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Iglesias produced a .303/.349/.386 clip, along with a 102 wRC+ and an unsustainable .356 BABIP. Anyway you slice it, Drew was the paramount hitter of the two. Looking at their respected fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) Drew amassed an admirable 3.4 fWAR, compared to Iglesias’ mediocre 1.8 WAR.
The fact Iglesias actually hit in the major-leagues, was a miracle on its own. Any scout would tell you, this kid could not hit a lick. Let’s take a gander at his minor-league numbers in which a decent sample size can be judged:
2010 (AA): 236 PA- .285/.315/.357
2011 (AAA): 387 PA- .235/.285/.269
2012 (AAA): 396 PA- .266/.318/.306
2013 (AAA): 133 PA- .202/.262/.319
It is blatant the spike in offensive performance was most likely a fluke and his high, unendurable BABIP backs that up.
It is sometimes forgotten that before encountering a gruesome ankle injury in 2011, Drew was a reliable bat and glove, averaging a 3.3 WAR from 2008-2010. He proved this year he is healthy and there is no reason to think he will not continue to have success 2014 and beyond.
The Detroit Tigers demonstrated they do not have the most analytic or intelligent front office. A perfect example being earlier in the offseason when dealing Doug Fister to Washington for pennies-on-the-dime. The Red Sox, who are an avid sabermetric franchise, knew Jose Iglesias was not the real deal, and it was the perfect time to sell high on him. The Tigers’ window is closing, and if they really want to deliver their fanbase a much deserved ring, then it is time to make a wise move and sign Drew for 2014.