Jhonny Peralta is working out this winter with the same folks who prepared Miguel Cabrera to make the move to third base. Whether Peralta gets a shot to show what it does for him at shortstop in Detroit depends more on the Tigers' offseason program than his.
As the Tigers' front office packed up and left Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, their Winter Meetings work wrapped up, and their lineup the same as it was coming in, their status on that was slightly clearer than it was coming in, though not necessarily settled.
"We're happy with Peralta," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said after Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. "What happens is a lot of times, people talk about getting more athletic with our club. There are very few positions we can get more athletic. That is one of the spots that is often discussed, but we're happy with Jhonny Peralta. When you look at his numbers over the last couple years, we're very happy with him.
"I know he's committed to going out and having a good year. He's already working out hard this wintertime. He's working out hard with Cabrera and [Alex] Avila down in South Florida, so I think he's going to go out and have a real good year for us."
It's that last part that ranks as the strongest statement from the Tigers yet on Peralta -- not that he's going to have a good year, but that he'll have that good year for them.
Dombrowski doesn't talk about specific free agents, so there wasn't going to be an answer regarding Stephen Drew. About the only public remarks on Drew out of the Winter Meetings came from agent Scott Boras, who characterized the overall market for Drew as "ever-growing."
"I think he's looked at as the shortstop in this market, so there are a number of clubs that have looked at him, both for their current needs and for teams that may be making trades as well. They may be interested as well," Boras said.
Boras did not refer to the Tigers on Drew. The only team Boras mentioned by name in regard to Drew was Oakland, where Drew ended last season. Boras said he met with A's general manager Billy Beane.
The Tigers would have little choice but to try to trade Peralta if they were going to sign Drew. They don't have another infield position for Peralta, and with the market limited at both shortstop and third base, he'd have more value to another team in a starting role than to the Tigers without an everyday spot.
Of all the speculation surrounding the Tigers at the Winter Meetings, that potential shuffle was the one that wouldn't go away. There was speculation that Drew could sign somewhere before the Meetings broke up, but nothing happened.
The belief at the Winter Meetings was that Tigers interest in Drew would be on a one-year offer, while Drew is supposedly seeking at least a two-year contract. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle cited one baseball official saying he expected Drew to stay with the A's on a one-year contract with a player option for 2014, essentially a two-year deal.
There's reason behind that. While Drew has a reputation as a strong defensive shortstop, especially in range, he has something to prove with durability and production. Thanks to a fractured ankle, he hasn't had a full season since 2010, and his offensive numbers have been below his average in the two partial seasons since.
Drew struck out seven times in 19 at-bats against the Tigers in the American League Division Series and was thrown out trying to stretch out a triple. Still, he impressed with his defensive range.
Peralta has one year left on his deal, the result of the Tigers picking up their $6 million option on the contract he signed to stay in Detroit after the 2010 season. Detroit doesn't have a long-term answer at short. Its best shortstop prospect in the Minor Leagues, Dixon Machado, just finished a .195 season at high Class A Advanced Lakeland.
No other shortstop has been connected with Detroit with any consistency. Though rumors about the Indians trading Asdrubal Cabrera generated buzz for most of the week, the idea of Cleveland trading a star player to a division rival it has spent two years trying to beat died quickly. The Tigers had no interest in Miami's Yunel Escobar, who was flipped to the Rays for a prospect.
Perhaps there's a reason for Dombrowski to come out stronger in his remarks about Peralta now. Perhaps it was simply a status point made heading into the holidays, which has increasingly become the halftime of the Hot Stove season as more signings and deals wait for January. For now, in any case, Peralta is the shortstop.