Detroit's newest infielder hasn't made his debut, but Tigers say Zack Short is 'MLB-ready'

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At times this summer, incoming Detroit Tigers infielder Zack Short found himself watching live baseball with a bat in his hands, attempting to get the pitcher’s timing down.

Short, who spent last season with the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, wasn’t invited to Chicago’s alternative site despite making their 40-man roster last November following an injury-shortened season. Short described it as a “gut punch,” but he understood the logic.

The Cubs have a stacked infield led by Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and recent first-rounder Nico Hoerner, mixed with veteran reserves Jason Kipnis and David Bote. So they decided to prioritize other positions with their summer camp roster.

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“They told me it was a numbers thing,” Short said. “As I said, with the infielders they have, they didn’t want to use up a guy who — they have plenty of infield depth whether it’s starting or guys coming off the bench. They wanted to have a revolving door with the pitching.”

Short stayed ready, working out from his home in upstate New York. Now, he’s going to a Tigers team that can better use his talents.

As the deadline neared Monday, the Tigers traded outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Chicago for Short, who was ranked as the Cubs' No. 21 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He was drafted in the 17th round (No. 524 overall) in 2016 from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

After clearing COVID-19 testing, he will be assigned to the Tigers’ alternate site. And he’s excited for the opportunity — particularly after an extended layoff from live play.

"It’s been tough not to do it for sure, especially I was expecting a call from an alternate site and it was always in the back of my mind,” Short said. “I haven’t seen live pitching in a month or so, two months as the days went by.

“This year didn’t go as planned so far. It’s like getting out of jail, almost, where you’re free in a new opportunity. Very thankful for what they’ve done to me and just ready to get started with you guys.”

Short has built up a reputation as a utility player, and general manager Al Avila agrees with the assessment. The Tigers made the trade based on information from last season. Short hit .211 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 41 games for Triple-A Iowa in 2019. A hand injury limited him early in the season, but Avila is confident in his health.

“We know that he was working out and in shape,” Avila said. “We’ll see the degree he is when we bring him into our camp, believe he arrives tomorrow. He lives in upstate New York, it’ll be an easy flight into Detroit. He’s going to go through protocol testing. We’re hoping that by the end of the week at the latest he’s in our camp.”

Avila said last week that he didn’t want to make a move that would interfere with the Tigers’ playoff chase. After winning five straight games and three consecutive series against opponents with winning records, the Tigers have reached .500 (16-16) and are two games out of the American League's final playoff spot.

Their lone move of the trade deadline follows Avila’s recent comments. The 33-year-old Maybin, who batted .244 in 14 games, signed a one-year deal with the Tigers in February. Avila believes Short can be an immediate contributor.

“We like him a lot in the sense that from a makeup perspective, he’s one of those guys that managers love to manage because he’s a high energy — sort of a baseball rat who plays hard,” Avila said. “He’s a very good shortstop, from our reports, and from our data. He’s really major league ready right now from a defensive perspective. He’s got some pop in his bat, knows how to play the game well, can play all infield positions, has some options, which is really good and really upgrades our depth at that position as we move forward for the upcoming years.”

The Tigers held onto Jonathan Schoop and left-hander Daniel Norris, who the Tampa Bay Rays reportedly inquired about.

“We’re very hesitant to do a trade for players that we feel are not going to upgrade us like that as we move forward,” Avila said. “Rather keep the players now and keep going all the way as much as we can and we’ll make adjustments as we go as we go into this winter and we get into next year. We’ll continue to make adjustments.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Tigers GM Al Avila on prospect Zack Short: Infielder is 'MLB-ready'