San Francisco's Brandon Hicks steals second as Seattle's Nick Franklin takes the throw during an exhibition game Saturday. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)
Stephen Drew may be the name you recognize, but the Tigers probably should pursue Nick Franklin if they are forced to bring in a shortstop candidate from outside the organization.
With Jose Iglesias’ shin injury growing into the kind of issue that is talked about in terms of months, not days or weeks, something has to be done.
The Tigers want to look at internal solutions first, and who can blame them? Nothing good can come of rash decisions. If the team were to acquire Franklin, a former top prospect with the Mariners suddenly blocked behind All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, there would be a cost in prospects for an organization that already does not have many. If the team went after Drew, they’d still pay a prospect — in the form of a 2014 first-round draft pick — but they’d also have to pony up a large sum of money.
In other words, it’s in everyone’s best interest that a player like Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez or Danny Worth can hold down the fort until Iglesias returns.
And the only problem is none of the solutions in camp really seem like they’ll be able to hold their own in the majors, and Iglesias seems as if he’s going to be gone for a while. Something else has to be done.
The cost of doing business
A lot of people would probably take Drew. Outside of the name recognition, however, what’s the argument for Drew? He’s coming off a solid season in 2013, one in which he won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox. Drew hit .253 with a .333 on-base percentage and .443 slugging average, driving his most home runs (13) since 2010 to go with 67 RBIs. Add to that playing above average defense and you’ve got a pretty solid ballplayer.
Drew and his agent Scott Boras saw it that way, too. So when Drew was offered $14.1 million to remain with the Red Sox in 2014, they turned it down to go for a multi-year deal. That hasn’t worked out. The qualifying offer means a new team doesn’t just have to pay in dollars, it has to pay in a draft pick. Teams have balked at that so far.
So more than midway through the spring, Drew finds himself a free agent. And the Tigers probably aren’t going to go in that rather costly direction.
Franklin, however, is more intriguing, although not without issues of his own. The Mariners do not see him as a starting shortstop, and he’s behind Brad Miller on the depth chart.
However, the 2009 first-round draft pick has played 261 games at the position in the minor leagues and has put up some decent numbers in the minors, as well.
In 335 plate appearances in Double A, he hit a line of .326/.392/.498. In 473 plate appearances in Triple A, he hit .271/.358/.475. Solid numbers that can translate to the big leagues.
The only problem, beyond being blocked by players at both of his infield positions, is that Franklin stumbled during his time there.
The former top-100 prospect hit a dreadful .225/.303/.382 in 412 plate appearances with the Mariners, pulled down mainly by an awful second half. He batted under the Mendoza line after the break, hitting just .194 after batting .276 in the first half. He also struck out more than 27 percent of the time for the year.
The metrics deemed his defense, almost entirely at second, to be below average. Observers, too, question whether he’ll be able to stick at short due to defensive issues at the position.
Might make sense
Although that makes Franklin hardly appear better than Detroit’s current internal candidates, it may help keep the cost tamped down a bit while allowing the Tigers to see if a change in scenery helps re-ignite the bat.
If Iglesias’ problems linger, he could be the temporary shortstop for the future in Detroit. If Iglesias returns, the possibility of trading one of the two remains.
There’s truly no good solution here, but Franklin is the one that makes the most sense.