Jose Iglesias is suffering from shin splint issues which are expected to keep him out a long time, even till after the All-Star some are reporting. According to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
“Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. Pain typically occurs along the inner border of the tibia, where muscles attach to the bone.”
Routine treatment for shin splint issues usually involves rest and orthopedic inserts in the injured persons shoes. These treatments have been pursued by the team for sure. If not the whole medical staff needs to be canned but the Tigers have publicly talked about his shoe inserts, so they’ve gone that route already.
In very rare instances is surgical treatment pursued but there’s no guarantee that the surgery would even work.
“Very few people need surgery for shin splints. Surgery has been done in very severe cases that do not respond to non-surgical treatment. It is not clear how effective surgery is, however.” says the AAOS.
Likely Iglesias will just try to rest it out and let his body fix the problem. But that hasn’t worked so far, so pursuing surgery may be the only option. Recovery time may be as long as 3 months from the surgery which isn’t terribly effective. Ultimately the Tigers have a conundrum. Their in-house shortstop options aren’t appealing so they will have to pursue outside help if Iglesias misses more than a month.
When explaining the replacement options for Jose Iglesias I will reference UZR which is FanGraphs’ ultimate defensive rating. The scale to help understand UZR is as follows:
In House Options:
- Hernan Perez
- Defense: Talk about inexperienced. Perez has all of two and two-thirds of an inning and only one defensive chance as a major league shortstop. His UZR rating is a -0.3, but this metric comes only over those 2.2 inning of evaluation, so it’s hardly a complete evaluation. The eye test says he has plenty of range, but doesn’t have more than average arm strength to make the plus level throws. You could do worse, but you very much could do better.
- Offense: Perez isn’t considered offensively mature enough to hold down an everyday big league job yet, but he’s only 23 so it may still come in time. He’s a .206/.225/.235 career big league hitter, but all of those at bats came way before he was even close to big league ready. He will likely do better this year, but .225/.275/.300 might even be a stretch in 2014. He’s an almost identical hitter against both left and right-handed pitching, so using him as the other side of a platoon probably isn’t the best idea.
- Steve Lombardozzi
- Defense: Lombardozzi has played 2 of his 165 career games at shortstop in the major leagues, and only 20 games in the minors. You can’t trust a guy to play shortstop every day for a contending ball club that has struggled to throw the ball across the diamond this spring training. Statistically he hasn’t committed an error in 76 total chances at shortstop, but FanGraphs puts Lombardozzi as a -1.2 UZR, at shortstop, making him a less than desirable option defensively. You could do worse than him with the glove, but compared to Iglesias’s 9.3 UZR, you’ll lose a lot comparatively.
- Offense: Career Lombardozzi is a .264/.297/.342 hitter, but was only a .259/.278/.338 in 307 plate appearances in 2013. He will struggle to get on base or hit for any sort of extra base power, but is the kind of secondary/bench player that every team needs to have, but probably isn’t suited for a full-time role. In 2011 when he played full time his major appeal is that he is a switch hitter. If the Tigers are interested in platooning him, he’s a .269/.305/.351 against right-handed pitching and a .249/.273/.314 against lefties.
- Danny Worth
- Defense: Has the most experience out of all the in-house options for the Tigers with 27 major league games at shortstop and 106 total defensive chances. He is also yet to make an error like the other options, but FanGraphs pegs him as a sightly below defender at shortstop with a -0.6 rating, unlike his above average +2.6 rating as a second baseman. The eye test says he’s the best fit of the internal options defensively, but I wouldn’t count on him being chosen considering he’s a 28-year-old guy who’s yet to make a splash in the big leagues.
- Offense: Worth is a .242/.307/.315 career hitter in 246 plate appearances over the course of four years, but only got 2 at bats in 2013 with the big club. Here’s his advantage; he’s a .298/.373/.375 hitter against left-handed pitching, which makes him an attractive platoon player, but couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat against righties with a putrid .191/.244/.261 against them.
- Eugenio Suarez
- Since he’s never played above AA, there isn’t any advanced defensive metrics available on him. He has a .950 fielding percentage in 352 career minor league games at shortstop. On the standard 80-20 scouting scale, MLB.com lists him as a 50 field and 60 arm. He’s only 22 and isn’t ready for the big time. He hit .264/.347/.396 between A+ and AA last year. He’d be lucky to hit .180 if he had to be a full-time player this season in the big leagues.
None of the options are exactly appealing. The Tigers aren’t replacing a core offensive piece in their lineup, they’re replacing their 9th hitter, but at the same time a gold glove shortstop. Nine hole hitters are replaceable, but don’t expect any of these internal options to have a pretty offensive stat line. You can survive for a little while playing these guys if the rest of the lineup is producing, but you won’t be able to make up for the lack of performance in another spot in the lineup with an in-house replacement option.
Free Agent Options:
- Stephen Drew
- Drew’s a left-handed batting shortstop with a solid glove. His career UZR rating is ugly but he posted a 5.3 rating playing full-time for the Red Sox in 2013. He’s a .264/.329/.435 career hitter and has been pretty close to his career average since returning from that horrendous leg break suffered when he played for Arizona. He’s got a decent size platoon split, hitting .275/.343/.451 against righties and .235/.291/.390 against same handed pitching. He has a slight injury risk, having not played in a full season since 2010 with Arizona.
- There’s just one problem with this. He’s going to cost over $10 million dollars this year and will cost you the 23rd overall pick in this years draft because he was tendered a qualifying offer by the Red Sox and turned it down.
- Drew will be a rental player as he’s likely just aiming for a “pillow” contract and will try his luck in free agency again next year. Regardless, you’re forking over a draft pick, that will become ever valuable shortly. With everyday players like Austin Jackson, Rick Porcello, and Max Scherzer all heading for free agency after this season, big money will have to be handed out to keep them in town, making the young and cheap talent that a 1st round pick brings even more valuable. Forfeiting the draft pick won’t be worth the marginal increase in performance that you would get from bringing Drew on board for only this season.
- Alex Gonzalez
- He’s 37 years old.
- He’s been a full-time player once since 2010.
- His best slash line as a full-time player since 2009 has been .250/.294/.447
- He hasn’t been considered to be an average shortstop in either range or overall play since 2008.
- He’s hit .211 since 2011.
- But hey, he comes cheap and might hit a few bombs. But he’s played more 1st base the last two years than shortstop.
- One of the two guys that doesn’t win the starting shortstop job in Arizona.
- The unofficial depth chart at MLB.com has rookie Chris Owings ahead of 6 year veteran Cliff Pennington and second year man Didi Gregorius, who was the primary starter in 2013. Pennington and Gregorius might be available if they don’t win the starting job, whereas Owings won’t be moved if he doesn’t win the job out of spring training.
- Pennington is still arbitration eligible one more time and is making $3.25 million this year. Gregorius is not yet arbitration eligible.
- How they’ve done in spring training so far:
- Owings: .279/.326/.372, 0 HR, 1 RBI
- Gregorius: .222/.263/.278, 0 HR, 4 RBI
- Pennington: .258/.333/.355, 0 HR, 2 RBI
- I wouldn’t mind Pennington as a trade target. He’s a veteran who’s been a full-time starter three of his six seasons. He’s also a switch hitter with a .968 career fielding percentage at shortstop and has a 6.1 UZR at short in 2013. Pennington is only a .248 /.313/.350 career hitter, but his glove will more than make up for it.
- Gregorius is younger than Pennington and more offensively talented, so he will cost more to acquire. His glove is considered to be average, holding a -0.6 UZR last season. However,he has a huge platoon split. Didi is a .275/.355/.419 hitter against right-handed pitching and a putrid .205/.270/.250 against lefties.
- The Mariners’ Nick Franklin
- The only problem with acquiring Franklin is that you’ll have to give up a bunch and he’s too young and talented to just be a stop-gap. He might have to be a permanent solution at the position if he is acquired.
- Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies
- He’s not in the good graces of the new manager in Philly Ryne Sandberg, so he might get shipped out-of-town at a good price. But when Iglesias comes back and he’s asked to take a back seat, will he be a clubhouse disruption?
- He’s owed $11 million this year and has an option that will vest for $11 million in 2015 if he gets 434 plate appearances, which he’d likely reach if he plays in about 100-110 games.
- His offense has slipped in recent years, hitting a .252/.318/.348 clip in 2013. His glove has also fallen off, posting a -2.7 UZR in 2013 after many above average years prior.
I would like to see Cliff Pennington in a Tigers uniform if I only had the choices to choose from in the list above. He’s a veteran, switch hitter with starting experience. He also features a damn good glove and still has a role on the team when Iglesias returns later in the year. The price tag won’t be astronomical financially or prospect wise to make a deal happen, especially because the Diamondbacks have three guys for one spot right now.
Iglesias will be sorely missed. Hopefully he can get back healthy sooner rather than later so he can vacuum all the ground balls to the left side of the Tiger infield.