Mired with injuries over the last couple weeks, the Detroit Tigers realized that their best option for a viable replacement in the infield was to acquire a veteran in shortstop Erick Aybar in place of the injured Jose Iglesias. Iglesias last played on August 10 during the team’s recent road trip through Seattle and Texas and to fill in, the team promoted Dixon Machado from Triple-A Toledo. However, Tigers general manager Al Avila felt there was a better answer at short, so he made the call to Atlanta and struck a deal for Aybar.
The 32-year-old 11-year veteran has filled in smoothly into the lineup. He’s held down the fort at shortstop as he has done the entirety of his career and while he’s hitting only .241 (7 for 29) with three extra-base-hits and two RBI, he adds immense value to the club because of his glove and ability to hit on both sides of the plate. His track record as a solid .274 career hitter also suggests he can catch fire and come through when called upon.
However, with Iglesias slated to come back this weekend against the Angels, it could mean that playing time for Aybar is limited down the stretch. But if you ask Tigers manager Brad Ausmus how he will handle the influx of shortstops at his disposal, he’s leaning towards a combination of favorable match-ups and playing the hot hand.
“Iglesias will get time at short, but if Aybar is playing well, it’s not like we’re going to not play him,” Ausmus said. “If he’s producing, he’s going to play… It’s just going to boil down to who we think is going to help us win,” Ausmus added. “Pretty simple.”
Both Iglesias and Aybar have always been heralded for their glove first and have evolved into above-average contact hitters in their career. Ausmus also suggested that they could see time at third base since Nick Castellanos is still no where near resuming baseball activities and the timetable remains four weeks minimum and up to seven weeks, which would linger on into mid-September. In his absence, veteran Casey McGehee has played very solid defensively at third base and is hitting a modest .250 in 17 games, but not much to show in terms of on-base percentage or power (not that power is his game to begin with).
McGehee and certainly Andrew Romine are capable reserves to play the hot corner in Castellanos’ absence. Ausmus has even not ruled out giving either Aybar or Iglesias time at third base to get them both in the lineup, if they are playing well for a certain stretch. “Aybar hasn’t played much at third, not that he couldn’t handle it,” Ausmus said.
In fact, Aybar has played just one game at the hot corner in his career – May 30, 2007. One could easily suggest that someone as good of a defender as Aybar has been in his career can seemingly make the smooth transition to third base if need be, and it would be hard to argue that. Iglesias doesn’t have a whole lot of playing time at third in his career either, but it’s a much larger sample size. The Red Sox showcased him at third for 34 games in 2013 prior to being traded to Detroit, and then he played three games at the hot corner for the Tigers that year. In total, Iglesias has played 309.0 innings at third base and registered a .966 fielding percentage.
If there is anything to take away from the addition of Aybar to the Tigers, it’s that it gives the Tigers an upgrade on the bench and some flexibility in the field, especially when Castellanos returns down the road.