MLB Trade Rumors came out with their list of contenders in need of help at third base. Here’s what they said about the Tigers:
"Tigers: The Tigers committed to Brandon Inge‘s defensive-minded contributions in the offseason. Inge’s bat was worse than expected in April and May, but he’ll be returning soon from a bout with mononucleosis."
He doesn’t come out and say it, but I think author Tim Dierkes is implying that he doesn’t think the Tigers will necessarily make a move. I’m inclined to agree with him. Inge’s contract, while not massive, is sizable enough that the organization will likely elect to stick it out with him at third.
But it’s fun to speculate about potential trades, so I’ll carry on.
"The trade market is fairly bleak. Speculative trade candidates include Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit, Casey Blake, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Ian Stewart, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Teahen, Figgins, Mike Aviles, Brian Barden, Cody Ransom, and Josh Fields."
Here’s the other reason why the Tigers will likely stand pat with Inge (and Don Kelly) at third base: none of the names immediately stand out as being all that attractive. Mark Reynolds would bring a potentially exciting bat into the lineup, but he doesn’t have a very good glove, and having him in the lineup with Austin Jackson might make strikeout totals unbearable.
The only other name on the list that is even remotely interesting to me is Ian Stewart of the Colorado Rockies (or, rather, AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox). He has been awful at the plate this season (just three singles in 47 at-bats), and that’s lead to two separate demotions to the minor leagues. But Stewart has hit well in AAA this season. His OPS is north of 1.000 in 123 plate appearances (33 games), so he hasn’t completely lost his ability to hit a baseball.
I don’t think that Stewart is another Scott Sizemore-type of player that hits well in the minor but not the majors; he posted an OPS above .780 in 2008, 2009, and 2010 in the major leages. He had a track record of being an average MLB hitter coming into the year.
But any potential trade for Stewart would hinge on the idea that the Rockies would be willing to “sell low” on the former top-five prospect. He’s not making a ton of money (his 2011 salary is $2.29 million), he’s still under team control (this was his first arbitration year), and, at 26, he’s still fairly young.
I don’t think that Stewart will ever be the type of player that he was projected to be early in his minor league career, but I think it would be reasonable to expect him to give a team average overall value at third base, and I think that’s more than we can say for Brandon Inge (and Don Kelly) at this point.
Trading for a player that’s currently hitting .064 is a scary idea, but the potential upside of adding Ian Stewart (for this year and the future) is intriguing. The Tigers don’t have a third baseman in the system that is particularly close to being major-league ready, so someone like Stewart could “keep the seat warm” until Nick Castellanos is ready for the big leagues.