DETROIT -- Dave Dombrowski doesn't know what is going to happen to Jhonny Peralta.
With the trade deadline approaching, he decided he couldn't wait to find out.
In a major trade announced in the first moments of Wednesday morning, the Tigers acquired Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias as part of a three-way trade that saw highly rated outfield prospect Avisail Garcia go to the White Sox and reliever Brayan Villarreal go to Boston. The biggest name in the trade was pitcher Jake Peavy, who travels from Chicago to Boston.
Dombrowski had said earlier Tuesday that the Tigers weren't looking for a bat, but circumstances off the field might have forced him to make a move before Wednesday afternoon's deadline. The acquisition of Iglesias, a 23-year-old Cuban rookie, comes as it becomes more likely that Peralta is facing an imminent suspension at least 50 games due to the Biogenesis scandal.
"The frank reality is that I do not know what is going to happen, but right now we feel very well protected if Jhonny ends up with a long suspension," Dombrowski said in a press conference that didn't start until after midnight. "We didn't feel that well protected with our internal options. If it was a 15-day issue, we would be confident that we could cover it with Ramon Santiago, Hernan Perez or Danny Worth, but if it is 50 days and into a postseason run, this gives us a better feeling."
It also gives the Tigers long-term stability at the position, as Peralta is a free agent at the end of this season, while Iglesias will be under team control until 2019.
"This is a guy who can be our shortstop for a long time," Dombrowski said. "I'm not going to stand him and anoint him as our definite shortstop of the future, but that's something that I definitely could see happening."
Iglesias got off to an incredibly fast start with the bat this season, hitting .415 in his first 40 games. Since then, he's batting .182 in 22 games with only one extra-base hit and two walks. He's considered a Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop -- significantly better than Peralta -- but his bat will be a serious question mark over his long-term future with Detroit. Last season, he hit .118 in 25 games with the Red Sox, and his career line in 222 Triple-A games is just .244.296.292, so his current .330 batting average is misleading.
"I don't think this is a guy who is a .330 career hitter, but he's an outstanding player," Dombrowski said. "I got a message today from someone who has seem him play a lot, and he said that, in a lot of years in this game, the only two better defensive shortstops he's seen are Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel. I'm not sure I want to tag him with that kind of pressure, but our own reports have him as an outstanding defensive shortstop."
Obviously, Iglesias can't be expected to replace Peralta's bat, and will leave Detroit's middle infield as a major hole until second baseman Omar Infante returns from an ankle injury. That said, the upgrade he provides at shortstop will be welcome to Detroit's pitching staff, especially in an infield that already includes Prince Fielder at first and a less-than-healthy Miguel Cabrera at third.
To replace Peralta, the Tigers had to give one of their top prospects to an AL Central rival. At just 22, Garcia hasn't made a mark yet at the major-league level, but he showed enough as a rookie last season to make the postseason roster. He hit .261 in 12 playoff games, including a .455 average in the sweep of the Yankees. Garcia has been crushing the ball this year in Toledo, batting .382 in 32 games. He is expected to report to Chicago's Triple-A team in Charlotte.
"I'm not looking forward to playing against Avisail 18 or 19 times for the next 10 years, I can tell you that," Dombrowski said. "There are going to probably be some games where he beats us and people say that I was dumb to make this trade. We had to give up a very good young player -- and I think Avisail will be a very good player -- to get a very good young player."
Villarreal, 26, will get a second chance at a career that has stagnated in Detroit. After a strong 2012 -- he posted a 2.63 ERA out of the bullpen in 50 outings -- he was expected to play a key late-inning role this year. However, in seven games, he allowed 16 baserunners while only getting 13 outs, accumulating a 0-2 record with a 20.77 ERA. That earned him a trip to Toledo, where he continued to struggle with his control. He hasn't pitched since June 12, due to a freak injury where he slipped in the shower and severely sprained his right thumb.
Dombrowski said that the trade, which he made with the Red Sox with the understanding that Garcia would end up back in the AL Central, came together during Tuesday's game.
"We had some discussions that didn't go anywhere this morning, and as late as 3:00, there really wasn't anything happening," he said. "It probably became a serious discussion around game time, and it probably wasn't a done deal until late in the game. Even then, we had to take care of medical reports and paperwork, which is why it got so late."
The Tigers don't know when a decision will be made about Peralta's suspension, which might lead to both he and his replacement being here for at least part of this weekend's series against Chicago. Dombrowski, though, doesn't think that will be a problem.
"Jhonny Peralta is our shortstop until we're told that he's no longer able to be our shortstop," he said. "If that happens, we are comfortable with Jose at shortstop. Until that point, we have a young player in Iglesias who can play second base and third base very well."
Dombrowski avoided saying he was disappointed that Peralta's suspension forced his hand into trading Garcia, but he acknowledged that he felt he had to do something before Wednesday's deadline.
"There is a lot of uncertainty in this situation, and we don't know exactly what is going to happen," he said. "The reality, though, is that after 4:00, there was no guarantee that we could make the kind of trade we wanted to make. Teams are going to know that we need a shortstop, and that's going to mean that shortstops aren't going to get through waivers. If we wanted to deal with this aggressively, we had to do something before the deadline."
For Peralta, life is about to get very awkward. The team has already traded for his replacement, and did so in a way that says they don't expect him back next season. His Tigers career could be over as soon as Wednesday, or things could drag on longer than expected.
Either way, though, he knows that Detroit has made this move because they don't consider him as part of their future in the short term or the long term. That's a long, hard fall for a player who was wearing a Tigers uniform in the All-Star Game just two weeks ago.