NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Other than Justin Verlander, no current Tiger has been in the organization as long as utility infielder Ramon Santiago. Given his contract paying him $2.1 million for next season, he seems poised to add another year to that.
With Danny Worth potentially on the brink of breaking into the big leagues for good, though, it isn't nearly as safe of an assumption as it seemed coming into this week's Winter Meetings, where Santiago's name has generated some discussion from opposing teams.
Whether the Tigers would actually move him, and at what cost, isn't clear. But as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski explained Detroit's situation with potentially two utility infielders, the decision process didn't sound altogether clear at this point.
To hear Dombrowski describe the situation Tuesday, Worth is ready for a big league job, but there might not be a job for him with the roster as it is. The Tigers carried both Worth and Santiago at times last season, but not consistently, which led to Worth going back and forth between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo five times.
"I don't know if we're going to carry two extra infielders or not. We don't know that at this point," Dombrowski said. "I think Danny Worth is ready to play at the big league level. I don't know how much he's going to hit, but he's a very good defensive player at short and second, and he can go over and play third. He's got a little athleticism where he can run some. He's hit enough, but you don't look at carrying him from his offensive perspective.
"Santiago is a veteran who did not have a very good season last year. He had a very good year the year before. He does a lot of nice things for the ballclub when he plays well. He's a switch-hitter who can play short and second well defensively."
The Tigers believe the 33-year-old Santiago, who finished with a negative number in Wins Above Replacement for the first time since he rejoined the Tigers, is in for a better season. He's playing winter ball again at the Tigers' request, batting .324 (11-for-34) in eight games for Escogido in the Dominican Republic.
Other talent evaluators appear to believe winter ball will help him, too. However, Detroit might decide it's better off with its depth.
"A lot of times when guys are really close [in evaluations], we talk about [how] you have to remember it's a 162-game season," Dombrowski said. "It's six months. You're going to need that depth at Triple-A. So that comes into play in that regard."