Recent comments by Tigers’ owner Chris Ilitch suggest that the Tigers might finally be ready to spend some real money in free agency this coming off season have gotten fans and local media talking about what might, or might not happen before the 2022 season begins. The team’s greatest needs are at shortstop where they have nobody close to major league average on the roster either offensively or defensively, and in the middle of the batting order where the team lacks a consistent run producer. They also badly need to upgrade their infield defense.
Mlive reported the Tiger owner’s comments here:
After five years of a slimmed-down payroll, Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch appeared to open the door to more spending this winter when he spoke with reporters on Tuesday.
“Undoubtedly, that could happen this winter,” he said.
It just happens that this winter is possibly the best off season ever for teams shopping for a free agent shortstop. There are some very high priced options among the potential free agents. Some may sign quickly with their current clubs, or with new clubs, but let’s dig in and go shopping.
Here is a custom chart that I’ve created on Fangraphs that includes the major free agent shortstops who will be on the market this coming off season, as of now. This is fully sortable, although it’s presently set for the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined.
Carlos Correa– The youngest player of the group at just 26 years old, and with ties to former Astros and current Tigers’ manager AJ Hinch. Could be in for a very long term contract. A combination of very good on base ability, occasional power, and very solid defense make him one of the more attractive options on the market.
Cory Seager– Possibly the top free agent on the entire market before getting injured earlier this season with a fractured hand that landed him on the 60 day injured list. He also missed significant time in 2018. At age 27, his offensive numbers stack up with anyone in the class and his defense has been solid when healthy. The Dodgers recently traded for All Star Trea Turner who has a year of control left, so that could be an indication that they’ll let Seager walk. He’ll get paid, wherever he lands.
Chris Taylor– The 30 year old versatile player filled in for Seager while he was injured and has quietly put up numbers that compare favorably to others in this free agent class. The Dodgers could have signed Taylor and let Seager go, but the addition of Turner could mean that both will be free to leave. One of my personal favorites as he figures to sign for fewer years and fewer dollars.
Trevor Story- How the Rockies managed to let the trade deadline pass without getting a haul of younger prospects for Story is a mystery, but that’s not our problem now. The 28 year old is having a sub par season at the plate, but has produced consistently in his career, posting two seasons with 35+ home runs, 97 steals and more impressive defensive metrics than his peers on this list. He’s a switch hitter who shows better splits batting right handed and at home than on the road. Yeah, Coors.
Brandon Crawford– The elder statesman of the group at age 34 is having a banner campaign with offensive stats that place him in the top three with the two rival Dodgers in this time frame, but not as well over a five year span. If the price is too high for the younger guys, maybe a shorter term deal can be had here.
Marcus Semien– A 30 year old former White Sox and A’s player signed a one year deal with Toronto for the current season, shifting from shortstop to second base, although is defense at either position has been more than fine. He has all the tools and would be a fine addition to any lineup.
Miguel Rojas– One of the less heralded members of this class, actually has the best defensive metrics on the list to go with an impressive 116 wRC+. He too started out with the Dodgers before moving to Miami. He doesn’t have the kind of power that others here possess, so he won’t come as pricey and at 32, he figures to get a shorter term contract.
Freddy Galvis– Just a very good defensive shortstop with decent offensive numbers that have been just a bit below major league average that play well at this position. If this is the Tigers’ choice for shortstop, they’ll have to keep looking for middle of the order bats, because Freddy’s not that.
Jose Iglesias– Tigers’ fans are familiar with the human highlight reel who has gone on to play not only spectacular defense, but actually put up above average numbers at the plate. Without home run power, or even much speed on the bases, he manages to match the slugging percentage of Javier Baez in this time frame. Still just 31, he probably lands a shorter term contract.
Javier Baez– One of several Cubs to be traded in July has landed with the Mets. His offensive numbers in this time frame are unimpressive mainly due to a poor 2020 season. He has rebounded to above average production this year, as has been the case in his career. He doesn’t have the kind of power or on base ability that others here possess, and the Mets figure to make him a big offer that most teams won’t want to match.
Honorable mentions: Jonathan Villar, Andrelton Simmons, Leury Garcia, Greg Garcia. There, they’ve been mentioned, now let’s move on.
Factors to consider: Of course, cost is a big consideration for a team that has gone to great lengths to cut payroll by over $ 100 million since paying a luxury tax in 2016 and 2017. Detroit has not signed a free agent player to more than a one year contract, nor for more than a $6 million annual salary since Al Avila’s first winter as general manager, when the club signed Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, and Mike Pelfrey, and we know how that went.
Many, if not most Tiger fans are anxious to see if Chris Ilitch is serious about spending money, and therefore is he serious about fielding a winning team. How they handle this decision will go a long way to answering that question for the fan base.
Compensation: While we don’t really know exactly what rules will be in place after the next collective bargaining agreement is signed, the Tigers would stand to lose either a first or second round draft pick if they should sign a free agent player who has declined a qualifying offer under the current rules. The top seven or eight players on this list figure to get qualifying offers. The first ten picks are protected, and they’d be picking 11th right now, but that is subject to change before season’s end. If the pick is protected, the compensation would be a second round pick. Big difference. But that’s if the rules stay the same. Giving up No 11 overall would be a tough pill to swallow.
The owners offered to abandon payment of compensation for these elite free agent players in the last round of talks if the players would agree to an international draft. As the story goes, they got hard bonus slots that accomplish much of the same purpose without getting rid of compensation, but the point is that they were willing to take that step. If a new CBA takes a long time to hammer out, that could stall the market well into the winter for many teams.
Which Free Agent Shortstop should the Tigers sign this winter?
None of the Above
59 votes total