Putting together a deal to acquire Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus makes perfect sense for the Tigers.
By STEVE KORNACKIFS Detroit
DETROIT — What now for the Tigers?
Signing right fielder Torii Hunter was a great start, but my guess is that there will be at least two more significant deals or signings.
Deciding what to offer pitcher Anibal Sanchez, whose interest will heighten after top pitcher free-agent Zack Greinke signs, and making at least one significant starting lineup move appear to be in the offing.
Much of the talk has been about pursuing an everyday left fielder. But neither trading for Justin Upton, who looks to be staying with the Diamondbacks, nor signing free agents such as Cody Ross or Ryan Ludwick make much sense.
What makes perfect sense is putting together a deal to acquire
Elvis Andrus. He would plug the club’s most glaring weakness — a porous infield. Andrus also happens to be available.
The Tigers are interested in free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, but he wouldn't make the impact that Andrus would. What's clear is that the Tigers are looking to upgrade at shortstop and trade Jhonny Peralta.
It’s odd when a young player of Andrus’ caliber makes sense to move, but the Rangers would like to get their super shortstop prospect, Jurickson Profar, into the lineup. And there's no way to move Andrus to second or third, with Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre locking down those respective positions.
Andrus, 24, is a two-time All-Star from Venezuela and signed for an economical $11.3 million for the next two seasons. He batted .286 last season with 21 steals, 31 doubles, nine triples, three homers and 62 RBI.
The Tigers picked up the option on ALCS hero Peralta, but nobody expected GM Dave Dombrowski to keep the 30-year-old shortstop after a woeful offensive season. After Peralta hit .299 with 21 homers and 86 RBI in 2011, his stats dramatically declined (.239, 13, 63) last season.
Defensively, the Tigers put up with Peralta's lack of range because of his sure hands. Still, far too many balls get through the left side of the infield, where MVP Miguel Cabrera also lacks range.
Peralta was signed because it was an economical move ($6 million for 2013), and there's not a premier free-agent shortstop available.
The Rangers don’t really need him in a package, but what do they need? If they re-sign center fielder Josh Hamilton, they remain a team with no glaring weakness.
Deal the Rangers prospects — something even deep teams covet — and it likely will take one very strong prospect to make it happen. The Tigers don't want to part with outfielder Avisail Garcia or third baseman-outfielder Nick Castellanos, but they'll have to give up something to get something.
Starter Rick Porcello could sweeten the pot. He might not have a rotation spot in Detroit if Sanchez is signed and the club opts for left-hander Drew Smyly in the fifth spot.
The Rangers do have some health issues with their No. 5 starter possibilities. They could use Porcello in the rotation and kick Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, where he can be devastating.
The Tigers, according to a CBSSports.com report on Wednesday, are interested in free-agent shortstop Drew. The A’s declined their half of a $10 million option on him but remain interested at a lower price.
Drew was a top shortstop until suffering a grotesque leg fracture and tearing ankle ligaments on a slide on July 20, 2011. He batted .223 with limited power in playing half of last season with Arizona and Oakland.
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden wrote that if the Tigers sign Drew, they would look to trade Peralta to the Red Sox or Diamondbacks. Arizona has the makings of being an interesting trade partner for the Detroit.
The D-backs have two closers — Heath Bell and Trenton’s J.J. Putz — and one of them would be nice insurance in case rookie Bruce Rondon isn't ready for that demanding role.
Dombrowski was interested in Putz when he was an All-Star closer for the Mariners, but he was just 32-of-37 in save situations last season. However, I’d rather see him get the ball in the ninth than Joaquin Benoit or Phil Coke.
The Diamondbacks also have a definite need in center field, where Quintin Berry could be attractive. Frankly, Berry should get more of a shot at the left-field spot before conceding a platooning role with Andy Dirks. I believe we’ve seen the best of Dirks, and Berry brings the potential to steal 40 to 50 bases and a better glove.
The Tigers brass seems inclined to go with Dirks and perhaps pick up a free-agent right-handed hitting outfielder, such as Scott Hairston (Yankees have a big interest), Jonny Gomes or Reed Johnson to complement Dirks.
Position-player moves should be the focus until Greinke signs because so many of the teams interested in Sanchez also are after Greinke. The Red Sox and Dodgers appear to be among the most interested in Sanchez.
The Winter Meetings begin Dec. 3 in Nashville, and that’s the likely point of action. But if something comes together quickly, there will be no waiting to make it happen.