November 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

If Detroit Tigers sign Stephen Drew, trade of Jhonny Peralta could follow

Drew, 29, the No. 15 overall pick in 2004, hasnt lived up to the hype, batting just .265 in his seven-year career. His best season was 2008, when he batted .291 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Detroit — Well, this is curious.

Reports started circulating Tuesday afternoon, from CBS Sports and ESPN's Jim Bowden, that the Tigers have restarted their pursuit of shortstop Stephen Drew — a move that, certainly, would set in motion another: the trading of Jhonny Peralta.

The Tigers and Diamondbacks were believed to have discussions on a trade before the July 31 deadline, but Detroit ultimately passed and Drew, instead, was shipped off to Oakland.

That development seemed to indicate the Tigers didn't value Drew much more than Peralta, who has limited range at shortstop but is steady on his throws and provides some pop at the plate.

But that might notnecessarily have been the case.

The Tigers, rather, could've opted to hold on to Peralta — whom the Diamondbacks were believed to have wanted in a Drew deal — for insurance purposes, since the Tigers held a $6 million option on him for 2013, which they abruptly picked up after the World Series came to an end.

Had they instead traded for Drew, who now is a free agent,they would'verisked finding themselves with no appealing option at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Danny Worth most certainly is a reserve infielder, the minor leagueshave very little to offer, and the free-agent market at the position is as weak as ever — which is why Drew, a second- or third-tier shortstop, seems to be generating plenty of interest.

Possible multi-year deal

Drew, 29, the No. 15 overall pick in 2004, hasn't lived up to the hype, batting just .265 in his seven-year career. His best season was 2008, when he batted .291 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs.

This past season — his second straight battling injuries — Drew hit .223 with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 79 games. In the first-round playoff series against the Tigers, he batted .221 and also made a critical base running mistake.

Drew is a better defender than Peralta, but he's nowhere close to being a Gold Glover, either.

Drew had his $10 million option for 2013 declined by the thrifty A's, and probably won't get that as an annual salary elsewhere — but he could fare well on a multi-year deal, say two years for $16 million or three years for $24 million.

If the Tigers pull the trigger on the move — and they may have some competition from the Red Sox or Rays — they then would work on trading Peralta, who can play third or short, and second and first in a pinch, but probably wouldn't be interested in a super-sub role here.

And again, the Tigers probably would target the Diamondbacks.

Earlier this winter, Arizona GM Kevin Towers acquired Cliff Pennington from Oakland, but he's a career .249 hitter, and the Diamondbacks have to believe they can do better.

And Peralta, 30, would qualify as better, even though he just hit a career-worst .239 in 2012. He made up for that with clutch hitting and fielding in the first two rounds of the postseason.

Big question is: What could Peralta net the Tigers in return? Certainly no impact player, on his own — rather, maybe a slightly above-average reliever, or some quality bench help.

Upton lurks

But here's something to chew on: The Diamondbacks are known to be shopping outfielder Justin Upton, and the Tigers were believed to be interested before signing Torii Hunter — and might actually still be. GM Dave Dombrowski wants another right-handed-hitting outfielder. He's probably thinking along the lines of a reserve, but could he balk at adding another star to a roster loaded with them, especially when Mike Ilitch, 83, desperately wants that elusive World Series ring?

The Tigers have the prospect chips to get a deal done there — most notably, third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia. Perhaps by adding Peralta to the mix, maybe the Tigers could save one of their blue-chippers, like Garcia. Say, instead part with something like Peralta, Castellanos and a top-tier pitching prospect, or even throw in outfielder Andy Dirks.

Sure, it seems like a stretch now, but Dombrowski doesn't shy from blockbusters, and the Tigers have to love the idea of a lockdown outfield like Upton in left, Austin Jackson in center and Hunter in right.

Upton, 25, a two-time All-Star, also brings an impact bat who has the potential to hit 30 homers and bat .300. He's also signed through 2015.

Another possible landing spot for Peralta, if the Tigers do, indeed, sign Drew: Boston.

The Red Sox traded their starting shortstop from a year ago, Mike Aviles, after the season to the Blue Jays (who later traded him to the Indians).

The Rays could use some more pop, too, especially since they're almost certain to lose outfielder B.J. Upton, Justin's brother, to free agency. Peralta, the Tigers' starting shortstopsince July 2010, is a .333 career hitter at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.

tpaul@detnews.comtwitter.com/tonypaul1984