Wednesday afternoon the Detroit Tigers announced a trade, the first in Major League Baseball since Francisco Rodriguez was sent to the Brewers on the night of the All-Star game. The Tigers kicked off what is sure to be a slew of near deadline deals in the next ten days by acquiring third basemen Wilson Betemit from the Royals in exchange for Single-A prospects LHP Antonio Cruz and catcher Julio Rodriguez.
Betemit’s offensive production (.281/.341/.409 in 226 PAs this year) will surely be a welcome addition to Detroit’s lineup, which is ranked fifth in the American League in runs scored despite getting a pathetic .186/.251/.249 line from third base this season. Brandon Inge, the longest tenured Tigers player, is the one responsible for that horrific triple slash line leading many to wonder as to why the organization signed him to a 2-year/$11.5M contract before the season. It’s not as if Inge’s 2011 struggles have come out of the blue as his triple slash line since the start of ‘07 is .226/.307/.375. The Tigers knew they weren’t signing an “offensive” third basemen this off-season, but perhaps they were a little overzealous giving that dollar figure to a middling player approaching his decline years.
The addition of Betemit plugs up the only gaping hole the Tigers had in their lineup. The question now becomes who goes from the 25-man roster to make room for Betemit when he joins the club for the upcoming Minnesota series. The candidates are Inge (of course), Ramon Santiago, and Don Kelly. Despite the fans and Manager’s love affair with Donnie Kelly, I actually believe that Santiago would be the more useful bench piece at the moment. The way the Tigers infield is currently with Betemit and Carlos Guillen, having a good defensive replacement off the bench is going to be key. That comment is directed at Guillen, who has shown very little in terms of range at second base in his short time in the majors. Kelly’s value, on the other hand, lies in the fact that he can play multiple positions which isn’t to say that he can play them all well as he can be quite shaky in the infield.
The prospects going the other way here represent a pretty decent return for Kansas City. Cruz is a young lefty who sits at 89-91 mph and has a potentially plus pitch in his curveball. Rodriguez has been called the best defensive catcher in the Tigers system and his fielding is so strong some think he could make the majors as a backup even if his bat never develops, though he’s hitting .283 at Lakeland. Needless to say, but the Tigers won’t be missing either of these players anytime soon.