Taking his post on the left side of infield, shortstop/third baseman Dawel Lugo just squeezed into John Sickels’ preseason top 200. On July 18th, he headlined a three-player package from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder J.D. Martinez.
The market for outfielders —or anybody not toeing the rubber— was regrettably thin this year and the Tigers found themselves on a steep climb to net anything for the impending free agent Martinez.
Still just 29, Martinez is absolutely going to fetch a king’s ransom this winter and Detroit’s hearty commitments to Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman will make things difficult for them. (Anibal Sanchez, who barely holds down a Major League roster spot and makes $16 million, will thankfully be off the books at year’s end.)
The Tigers netted Lugo as well as middle infielders Sergio Alcantara and Jose King for Martinez, who Detroit snagged off waivers from the Astros in 2014.
Once upon a time, Alcantara had some fire behind his name while 18-year old King was signed in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. His development is in the Tigers’ hands now.
The prize of the deal —though many doubt there is one— is undoubtedly the 22-year old Lugo. Already occupying a 40-man roster spot, his stock has kicked into hyperdrive since the D-Backs acquired him from Toronto for Cliff Pennington in 2015.
Primarily playing the hot corner, Lugo also entertains his original position of shortstop. He picked up third base in 2016 and while his fielding tool has room to grow, he’s been more polished at third.
He’s carried by his bat and he’s got a good one. He hit .270 in 2015 with an average of .335 between Low-A clubs Lansing (TOR) and Kane County (ARI). 2016 saw him graduate High-A (.314 average) and acclimate beautifully to Double-A (.306).
The breakout campaign earned him an invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he would appear in the annual Fall Stars Game.
His power isn’t coming along in flying colors and Lugo’s maturation in size has diminished his running game, but he continues to hit and that’s the one tool that supersedes all others.
The trade made perfect sense for the Tigers, but an untimely market crushed their return. There is a prize to be reaped out of Lugo and potentially the others, but if not then it appears Detroit went to dah-well one too many times.