DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias is one of the last veteran Tigers standing who doesn't have a long-term contract tempering trade talks. Barring a late offseason surprise, he'll still be a Tiger when they open the season March 29.
After that is anyone's guess, including the general manager's. But one thing Al Avila can confidently say is that Iglesias' future in Detroit isn't long.
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"After this year, he's a free agent," Avila said Thursday on the first episode of the TigerTalk Hot Stove radio program. "I've already talked with Iglesias a couple of times; I've talked with his agent almost monthly. Iglesias right now probably will be our starting shortstop at the beginning of the season, but may very well be traded at the [July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline], if not sooner, depending on the need teams have out there for a shortstop. …
"He's one of those guys that, quite frankly, he probably will not be with us in the long run. We have to make sure that we develop a good shortstop in our system for our future."
Avila's full interview with Tigers radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson and Pat Caputo is available here along with other Tigers podcasts.
Avila has been up front with his veteran players about their situations since first entertaining trade talks and a rebuilding effort a year ago. He has also been fairly public about trade possibilities. While J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler have been traded over the past six months, the Tigers have not found a deal for Iglesias. It has not been for lack of trying.
Though Avila entertained trade interest in Kinsler, Michael Fulmer and others at last month's Winter Meetings, he said there that Iglesias would most likely be staying put for now. Nothing has changed since then. While Iglesias' defensive wizardry is well-known, earning him a couple of Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist selections, his defensive metrics have not reflected that until recently, and even then with muted enthusiasm. Add to that a salary that has escalated through arbitration, and the few teams in need of shortstops over the past year have turned elsewhere.
"The market for shortstops has not been great," Avila said. "Most teams that are in contention, that are good, have good, solid shortstops at this point. There are still some teams that are still rebuilding that have plugged in their holes per se for the short term.
"So right now, Iglesias as I see it, he'll probably be our shortstop Opening Day. How long that is, I don't know. We've talked about it on a regular basis."
Even if the Tigers weren't rebuilding and paring payroll in the process, they might well have reached this point. Detroit values young shortstop Dixon Machado enough to keep him on the roster last year as a little-used reserve rather than risk losing him on waivers and repeat the mistake made with Hernan Perez a few years ago.
With Kinsler gone, Machado has a starting role at second base. However, he's a more natural shortstop, where he has looked good in limited stints over the years and where his defense is more of a premium like Iglesias.
When Iglesias exits, Machado will likely move over. Either way, the Tigers need a middle infielder. Since Machado turns 26 in Spring Training, Detroit arguably needs to figure out its long-term situation at short even with him in line. It doesn't hurt that the Tigers acquired four infield prospects capable of playing shortstop in their summer trades.
Dawel Lugo is the closest, having ended last season at Double-A Erie, but was playing second and third base there and hasn't played shortstop regularly in a while. His strong arm makes up for a bigger frame and longer reaction times. Isaac Paredes was a find down the stretch at West Michigan, but is already big for a shortstop at 18. Sergio Alcantara arrived from the D-backs' system with a standout defensive reputation, but needs to prove he can hit. Fellow shortstop prospect Jose King, also part of the Martinez trade, has generated excitement amongst Tigers officials for his athleticism and speed, though the 18-year-old just finished Rookie ball.