Leyland on Inge: “He’s not the happiest camper”
Four years ago, Miguel Cabrera was a man on the move, and Brandon Inge was man without a position, hoping to find a starting job somewhere. The trade that was expected that winter never happened, and Inge ended up back at third base.
Now, the Tigers and Inge might be back in the same spot.
Because Miguel Cabrera was the only player given a heads-up about the signing, Inge found out about being replaced through the media, not the team. Manager Jim Leyland said he finally talked with Inge Thursday once the signing was official.
“I basically apologized [to him] that this got out on the airwaves obviously prior to us wanting it to,” Leyland said. “I’m sorry he had to hear it other than from the horse’s mouth, but at that particular time, I was not at any liberty to discuss this whatsoever.
“I have talked with Brandon. He’s not the happiest camper. We certainly understand. We try to deal with these issues as we’re supposed to be.”
Leyland suggested there still could be a role for Inge on the team. He had Inge penciled in for some starts at third when Cabrera’s DHing or off. He did not indicate any change of positions for Inge.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said he has not talked with Inge yet, or his agents. If Inge wants a trade or release, he hasn’t heard about it. At this point, he isn’t preparing to make a move.
“I can understand he wouldn’t be thrilled,” Dombrowski said, “but I also think at this point, probably the best thing for him to do — he’s not coming off a big year, the market is pretty well set — probably the best thing is to let him come to spring training, let him play well and let’s see what happens. I think he still can play a very important role on our club. Like I said, we’re trying to win.
“I respect his situation. We’ll do what we can. We’ll see what happens, but I think he’s a very important part of our club. He is in good shape, and he’s worked hard, and I think he’s got a chance to put up some nice numbers this year.”
Inge has $6 million in guaranteed money this year — $5.5 million in salary, plus a $500,000 buyout assuming the Tigers don’t pick up his $6 million option for 2013. The Tigers were willing to eat that money last summer when they designated him for assignment for make room for Wilson Betemit. Inge accepted a minor-league assignment after some encouragement from Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.
On the other hand, if Miguel Cabrera’s move to third base doesn’t work out — remember, the Tigers moved him out of third a few weeks into the 2008 season — the Tigers would then need a third baseman. If Inge is gone, the Tigers’ best option at third is Don Kelly. So even if the Tigers could find another team for Inge, or could afford to eat his contract, they have a motivation not to. He’s an insurance policy, or Plan B, or the fallback option, whatever term you want to use.
On a semi-related note, Dombrowski was asked whether Cabrera’s move to third makes top position prospect Nick Castellanos, one of the top third base prospects in the game, expendable? Dombrowski said no.
“We’re in a position where you just take your time with him,” Dombrowski said. “He’s at third base. He’s a tremendous player. He’s going to be a tremendous player. We’re not looking to trade him. He’s just made the [MLB.com] Top 100 players prospectwise along with [Jacob] Turner and [Drew] Smyly.
“So for me, it’s just really a matter of you want to have young players. A guy like Castellanos will be a fine big-league player. He’ll fit in great eventually.”
Getting the picture here?