Could the Tigers and Stephen Drew rescue each other?
News surfaced over the past couple of days that Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias could spend most of the 2014 season on the shelf with long-term injuries to both of his shins. Detroit’s only internal replacement is Hernan Perez, who turns 23 on March 26 and did little at the plate in a 71-plate-appearance sample last year.
Not surprisingly, speculation immediately turned to Stephen Drew, who reportedly regrets turning down a qualifying offer from the Red Sox last fall and appears unlikely to garner a new offer from Boston, which has top prospect Xander Bogaerts ready to fill his shoes. ESPN’s Jim Bowden made the connection while delivering the bad news on Iglesias’ injury. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that agent Scott Boras represents both Iglesias and Drew and has a history of coaxing general manager Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch into late-spring outlays for seemingly desperate free agents.
Whether the Tigers are an ideal fit for Drew, though, remains unclear. The 31-year-old is coming off his best season since 2010 and has been hoping to cash in on it with the first multi-year commitment of his big-league career. Meanwhile, the Tigers are content with the 24-year-old Iglesias, a defensive wizard, as their shortstop of the present and future, as long as he gets and stays healthy. As MLB.com’s Phil Rogers pointed out, Dombrowski needs a stopgap, but Drew wants to be much more than that.
On the other hand, the chance to head to a contender’s camp with about two weeks remaining before the regular season might be too attractive for Drew to pass up. If he can turn in another strong season, the Tigers might let him leave without a qualifying offer, knowing that they have Iglesias waiting in the wings and that Drew might accept it the second time around after learning his lesson the hard way this winter.
The Mets are the only other club to which Drew has recently been tied, but Sandy Alderson and company have played hard to get with Boras for most of the offseason. Boras did his best to drum up interest from Queens by telling Newsday that the Mets’ “desire to win” would be called into question if they don’t pony up for an upgrade over incumbent Ruben Tejada. But Boras’ rhetoric appears to be falling on deaf ears, because—as Anthony Rieber noted—manager Terry Collins has assured Tejada that he will be the club’s Opening Day shortstop.
Drew’s options could widen if he were willing to spend most of 2014 playing a new position. The Yankees might view him as insurance for the (almost) quadragenarian Derek Jeter, but only if Drew were willing to play the keystone or hot corner when Jeter is healthy. Drew could also fit with two National League West clubs: the Dodgers, who have penciled in the light-hitting Dee Gordon as their Opening Day second baseman, and the Giants, who are in a touch-and-go situation with Marco Scutaro’s back. Then again, the Giants might still view the draft-pick cost associated with Drew as a significant deterrent.
If there’s a match to be found in Detroit, then it’s likely to come early this week. As long as Drew is open to a one-year pact, there’s little reason for either side to wait.
Yordano Ventura on track to round out Royals rotation
The Royals reinforced their rotation this offseason by adding Jason Vargas on a four-year, $32 million contract. Vargas joined three other veterans—right-handers James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie, plus left-hander Bruce Chen—leaving one spot open for a couple of hard-throwing homegrown arms.
Now, Kansas City Star beat writer Andy McCullough believes that manager Ned Yost is quietly close to deciding between Danny Duffy, whose last two seasons were derailed by Tommy John surgery, and Yordano Ventura, who would instantly become an American League Rookie of the Year hopeful if he were to win the job.
The 22-year-old Ventura is the favorite, based on spring results to date, with a 2.89 ERA to state his case against Duffy’s 11.00 mark entering play on Sunday. He made three starts for the Royals down the stretch last year, posting a 3.52 ERA, 5.36 FIP, and 11-to-6 K:BB ratio over 15 2/3 innings. From our own Jason Parks:
Yordano Ventura was 95-100 in his first inning. He didn't look sharp and it was still electric. I have love in my once lifeless heart.
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) March 7, 2014
to an A’s official who spoke with Peter Gammons:
A's saw KC's Yordano Ventura. "Best I've seen," said one A's official. "100. Change unbelievable. Two breaking balls. Chance for greatness"
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 13, 2014
just about everyone who has seen Ventura has been blown away by his triple-digit heat and secondary stuff. The question, as Parks noted while naming Ventura the Royals’ no. 1 prospect, is whether the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder can maintain his top-shelf arsenal over a 200-inning workload.
If McCullough’s take on the situation is prescient, we might learn the answer later this year. PECOTA has projected a modest 0.5 WARP for Ventura over 94 2/3 big-league innings, but the Royals are clearly hoping for much more. In PECOTA’s eyes, they’ll need Ventura to emerge as a force in short order to keep up in the wild card race this year.