The club essentially has three options when it comes to what to do at third; they can give the role to Brandon Inge on a full-time basis, they can bring back Eric Munson with the plan to give him every opportunity to win the job and move Inge back to the utility role, or they could look outside the organization to solidify the spot.
The biggest issue of course, is that there is no guarantee. Inge had a tremendous 2004 season for the Tigers, but also came into the year with a batting average below .200. The issue also exists that it would be robbing the team of a strong utility player, a necessity on any solid ballclub because of injuries.
The team could elect to bring back Munson, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to raise his average (a necessity with manager Alan Trammell) or improve his horrid defense. The problem of course is that Munson led the team in HR’s per at bat (1 HR for each 16.9 at bats), and on a team where only2 players made it to the 20-homer plateau, power is a tool the Tigers cannot afford to be giving away.
The third option would be appear to be the most desirable – acquiring a new player, adding another big bat to the lineup. This would eliminate both aforementioned problems with using either Munson or Inge at the spot, Inge would remain in the utility role, and you would hopefully be replacing Munson with another player that has a similar bat.
Unfortunately, this particular option has one major issue – there’s no guarantee the Tigers would be able to acquire a top player via free agency. The Tigers were able to land a number of free agents in the previous offseason, but that was largely due to the team’s willingness to overpay for the player’s services. The front office would be much harder pressed to out-spend the richest clubs in baseball. Plus, even if the team could offer a competitive salary, there’s no guarantee that a player such as Adrian Beltre, Troy Glaus, or even Mike Lowell would be interested in coming.
So, with this examination, its clear there’s no one good answer. However, if this particular writer were in charge, he’d take advantage of the extremely strong crop of Third Baseman on the market this offseason and make a strong push for one of them. The Tigers have plenty of potential down on the farm at the position, but no sure-fire prospects in the caliber of David Wright or Dallas McPherson.
The Tigers made great strides in 2004, but they can’t stop now and be content with the advancements they’ve made. To take the next step, the team needs another big bat in the middle of the lineup, to offer protection to the other hitters in the lineup. There’s no guarantee that the Tigers will land one of the premier free agents – and in that case, they’ll still have a very serviceable option in Inge. But the Tigers owe it to themselves, and to the fans of Detroit, to make every effort possible to upgrade this team – and Third Base is just the way to go about it.