Starting pitching has been the priority for the Detroit Tigers as MLB's July 31 trade deadline approaches. But anyone who's watched the Tigers this season knows they need infield help, as well. And now that Carlos Guillen is back to play second base, that leaves third base as a hole to fill.
The Tigers went about fixing that problem Wednesday afternoon, picking up Wilson Betemit from the Kansas City Royals. Betemit is hitting .281/.341/.409 with three homers and 27 RBIs this season, pretty much in line with his career numbers. That provides an instant upgrade from the (lack of) production Detroit has received from Brandon Inge (.177, one home run) and Don Kelly (.239) at third base.
Betemit doesn't provide the defense that Inge and Kelly are known for. But it's safe to say that the Tigers are willing to deal with poorer defense if it means adding some punch to their lineup.
Additionally, this is pretty cheap pick-up for Detroit. Betemit is owed the remainder of the $1 million salary on his contract and is a free agent after the season. In exchange, the Tigers dealt minor league reliever Antonio Cruz and catcher Julio Rodriguez to Kansas City. Both were playing at the Single-A level.
Betemit has played all over the field during his career, but most of his major league time has been spent at third base. And it's a pretty safe guess the Tigers didn't pick him up to play shortstop.
The question now, of course, is who must go to make room on the roster for Betemit. The first impulse is to say this doesn't look good for Inge. Tuesday night against the Athletics, his season-long struggles continued as he went 0-for-4. He's also not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game. A turnaround seems nowhere in sight for him.
Yet Inge is still owed at least $6 million after this season ($5.5 next year, along with a $500,000 buyout if his $6 million option for 2013 isn't picked up). That (along with the remainder of his $5.5 million salary for this year) is quite a bit of money for the Tigers to eat.
Ryan Raburn is also a possibility to go. But he offers position flexibility, also able to play the outfield. And as poorly as he's been hitting, it's still better than Inge right now. He also has a history of good second-half performances (.291/.342/.480, 27 homers, 104 RBIs for his career) in his favor. Raburn is set to be paid $2.1 million next season.
The Tigers have one night to mull over the roster move. Betemit will join the Tigers Thursday in Minnesota.