Tigers acquire Betemit for two prospects
The Tigers remain on the lookout for a starting pitcher on the trade market, but they decided they couldn’t wait any longer to find some offense at third base. Detroit swung a deal Wednesday to add veteran infielder Wilson Betemit from Kansas City for prospects Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez.
The move fills a void at the hot corner, where Brandon Inge’s struggles — first with mononucleosis, then with his bat and energy level since — had become a lingering issue. It also puts Brandon Inge’s future as the longest-tenured current Tiger into question.
“We like Betemit,” Dombrowski said. “We feel like he upgrades us at third base at this time. We’re in a position where, you know, we’ve scuffled offensively at that spot.”
Once a highly-touted infield prospect with the Braves, Betemit has found a fit as a corner infielder with some pop, bouncing around teams. His .297 averagewith 20 doubles, 13 home runs and 43 RBIs in 84 games last year with Kansas City helped him find a fit there.
That put the 29-year-old Betemit in a position to get a good share of playing time with the Royals at the start of this season. However, he was a placeholder for Royals third-base prospect Mike Moustakas. Once Kansas City called him up last month, Betemit was out of a role.
Betemit batted .281 (57-for-203) this year with 15 doubles, three homers and 27 RBIs. His .750 OPS is 139 points lower than last year, but higher than in any season since 2007.
By comparison, five different Tigers had combined at third base for a .186 average, a .500 OPS, two home runs, 27 RBIs and 79 strikeouts in 334 at-bats.
“He has swung the bat well the last couple years with Kansas City,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a very solid third baseman. He’s got a good arm over there, probably a little bit better left-handed hitter than right-handed hitter, but he is a switch-hitter and he’s got pop on both sides of the plate. He puts fear in us any time he comes to the plate, can drive in a run.
“He’s going to be hitting at the bottom of the lineup, so it’s a spot where all of a sudden you have a guy like that down below that can add, from an offensive perspective, we feel good about that.”
He’ll get a good share of at-bats to build on those numbers in Detroit.
Betemit is working on a one-year contract worth $1 million for the season.
Dombrowski hinted that they had been working on other options at third base. Those options dried up, though, and with Inge’s 0-for-4 game Wednesday dropping his average to .177 on the season, the Tigers made their move.
“It’s a tough situation,” Dombrowski said. “Brandon has done a lot for the organization. We would not have signed him this winter if we didn’t think he was going to come out and he was going to do very well for us, or do solidly. We never projected him to be a .300 hitter, but thought he’s come out and be a guy that could hit .230 or .240 with some home runs and play real good defense and maybe drive in runs. It hasn’t happened this year, and I think we’re at the point where playing him every day, we just don’t see it happening right now.”
The aforementioned contract was a two-year, $11.5 million deal signed last November, which plays a big role in any decision the Tigers make on Inge. Judging from Dombrowski’s remarks, it appears contracts played a role in the Tigers’ trade options as well.
“It’s just come to a point where it’s decision time in the sense that you get to July 31 and you may not be able to make a move,” Dombrowski said. “I was talking to a couple other clubs, but one primarily about a third baseman that isn’t going to go anywhere, so really your choices at third base are really limited if you’re going to do something. So we didn’t want to get caught where we were sitting there and you come to July 31 and all of a sudden you say, ‘Well, he’s still scuffling at this point, what do we do at this time?” It was the right time to make the move and Kansas City was willing to do it.”
Betemit is scheduled to join the team on Thursday in Minnesota, where the Tigers will open a four-game series against the Twins. Dombrowski said they’ll add Betemit to the active roster then. They have the room on the 40-man roster to fit him, but they’ll have to take somebody off the 25-man roster to create space.
Dombrowski also deferred questions about Inge’s future role on the team to Thursday.