Brandon Inge will be the Tigers' regular third baseman next year. This is a move that is sure to improve the team's infield defense and provide some more stability at a third base position that was bound to have question marks.
Wait, wait, wait, some of you are probably asking? Don't the Tigers have an all star at third base? How will this provide more stability? The answer to that has to do with Carlos Guillen's health. Although he has missed countless games in his career for knee or hamstring injuries, the soreness in his back will prove to be a big deal. Those reading this with sore backs, bend over to field a ground ball and you will see why the Tigers chose this route. (Yes, outfielders have to field grounders as well, but they have to field less and they tend to be weakly hit).
But what about Matt Joyce? I wouldn't cry for him quite yet. This year's left fielder should get plenty of playing time despite this move. First, you have to count on Carlos Guillen to miss some time. He has played 109, 148, 149, 75, and 135 games in the field in his years as a Tiger. Even in his healthy seasons, he seems likely to miss at least 15 games for some nagging injury. Throw in the fact that he will be completing a rehab of some severe back spasms, and he's not likely to be counted on for more than 130 games next year. You have to think that this could spell the end for Gary Sheffield. Would they release him in Spring Training with 499 career homers? Root for him to reach his milestone today so he's not forced into the lineup when he doesn't deserve to be. Regardless, Sheffield is not likely to play 153 games at designated hitter next year. It will be Magglio Ordonez and Guillen who will be taking his place, meaning plenty of playing time for Matt Joyce.
The real intriguing story here is the catcher situation. This decision means one of two things: Dusty Ryan has done enough to earn the starting catching job next year or the Tigers have a trade in place for next year's catcher. Remember last season when it was announced Carlos Guillen's move to first was permanent? It seems likely to me that the Edgar Renteria deal had already been agreed upon at that point, only to be announced right after the World Series. Who could it be? Taylor Teagarden's strong September has probably left the Rangers willing to trade Gerald Laird and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Matt Wieters' emergence may have the Orioles shopping Ramon Hernandez. Those aren't great names, but they are all better than Sardinha.
As for Dusty Ryan, he has shown himself to be ready for at least a part time catching role next year. The thought of he and Inge "platooning" didn't make much sense to me, because both are much better against left-handed pitching. It seems likely that he will be teamed up with one of the many veteran catchers available this offseason. More on them later when I put up final projections for the Elias Rankings.