March 16, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Lynn Henning

Free agent Stephen Drew is not the savior in Tigers' thinking

Free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew has been holding out for a long-term contract, which interests the Tigers not one bit. (Elsa / Getty Images)

Viera, Fla. — The Tigers, as in the front office, are not interested in signing Stephen Drew as a replacement for Jose Iglesias, whose shin problems are sending him to the disabled list and could ruin his 2014 season.

Dave Dombrowski made clear Sunday the Tigers would stick for now with “internal candidates.” It’s the front-office chief’s way of saying the Tigers can probably get by with Danny Worth, or later on with Eugenio Suarez, if not with Hernan Perez, who has done little during the Grapefruit League season to imply he is ready for everyday work.

It’s Dombrowski’s way of saying the Tigers might be interested in Jimmy Rollins — if the Phillies eat a hunk of that remaining $33 million they potentially owe Rollins through 2016. It’s the general manager’s way of saying there might be a potential deal for Darwin Barney of the Cubs, or Nick Franklin of the Mariners, or some such fill-in who is more attractive than Detroit’s current crop.

But no to Drew. Dombrowski is not about to forfeit to the Red Sox a first-round prize in a very deep 2014 draft to sign an expensive shortstop who might contribute only marginally more than his existing cast.

He will make no such concession when Iglesias might return this season. He will not donate a potentially important prospect to Boston when other options exist, even if they thrill Dombrowski no more than his fans.

Expense not right

A separate issue is owner Mike Ilitch’s disposition toward the news Iglesias is likely gone for a long while. Ilitch has acted unilaterally at earlier times when Prince Fielder, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez were sitting around, waiting in tandem with their agent, Scott Boras, for a new home at a happy market price.

Drew is represented by Boras. And sales pitches from Boras can be irresistible. If history is an indicator, Boras has made his usual call to Ilitch offering a perfect remedy to the sobering news about Iglesias.

This time, though, figures to be different. Drew is holding out for a multi-year contract. The Tigers have less than zero interest in handing a 31-year-old Drew, who is hardly an All-Star, a long, expensive paycheck when Iglesias is expected back, eventually, and when Suarez, Javier Betancourt, etc., are moving speedily up the farm chain.

It would require an exorbitant one-year deal — more than the Mets or Red Sox already have offered — to land Drew even if both sides were so disposed. And even then, the Tigers would, almost certainly, not move until after June’s draft, when no longer would they be obligated to part with a No. 1 pick.

Tigers far from beaten

First-round picks have unprecedented value in baseball’s 2014 marketplace. Scouting has become so sophisticated that early picks have a better chance of making the big leagues. They also cost less than free agents or established stars.

And, as the Tigers have demonstrated, they can either become fixtures on a team’s contemporary roster (Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello) or they rank as potentially marvelous trade bait.

First-round picks (Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller) were the blue chips that enabled the Tigers to trade for Miguel Cabrera. A first-rounder (Jacob Turner) was the heavyweight Detroit dangled when Dombrowski two years ago lured Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Marlins.

Iglesias’ shin problems, which are so serious and puzzling he is seeing a specialist in Colorado, have wrecked some grand plans for a showcase defensive infield that was to become a Tigers 2014 trademark.

But they haven’t wrecked an organization or a team’s capacity to compete long-term. That only happens when you make bad mistakes. As in trading away a first-round pick for a shortstop the Tigers may not even need and can hardly afford.

lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

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