Last night Brandon Inge earned 10/5 rights, for having served 10 years in the major leagues, 5 with the same team. In reality, he is a 10/10 player and is the longest tenured Tiger on the team. Brandon Inge.
The implications of this are not entirely insignificant. With 10/5 status, Inge can't be traded without his consent. Considering he is the only Tiger to actually live in Michigan, is extremely involved in the community (especially with UM Mott Children's Hospital) and is a beloved off the field player, I'd say that the Tigers would have to pry consent from his cold, dead hands.
“I guess loyalty is something big that I believe in and Detroit’s been very loyal to me for many years now, through thick and thin,” Inge said. “It’s one of those things where they’ve treated me with respect and I’ve treated them with respect as well.”
It’s an affiliation Inge would like to continue beyond 2013, the last year he’s under team control.
“Absolutely,” Inge said. “I’ll stay as long as they’ll let me.”
So yeah, Inge isn't getting traded. Of course, that all assumes that a trade was even a realistic possibility, considering that the Tigers have stuck with the career .236/.306/.390 hitter claiming that he will break out of his .211/.279/.286 season and return to what his proven track record shows. Oh, the excitement!
Look. Inge almost hit 30 home runs in 2006 and then again in 2009. We get it. But the reality is that even in those seasons he has been a below average offensive 3rd baseman. In fact, the only year that he was an above average player was way back in 2004 (OPS+ 109). I remember when Inge started with the Tigers back in 2001. He couldn't hit then. He can't hit now, and he has really never been able to hit in between. That the Tigers have committed to Inge for 10 years is absolutely shocking. That they signed him to a two year extension with a 3rd year option prior to this season borders on criminal.
Oh, but the Defense! THE DEFENSE!
Yes, Inge is a phenomenal defensive 3rd baseman. In 2006 and 2007 he was arguably the best in the game. And while he trailed off from those peaks, he has remained a very good defensive ballplayer, often times enough to make up for his anemic output.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case this year, where he has struggled in the field as well. His range looks to be down a bit, his errors up a bit. Those things, combined with a mediocre fielding neighbor in Jhonny Peralta and a mystery player at Second Base has come back to bite a Tigers team at times.
Which brings us back to the central theme. How is it that Brandon Inge has made it for 10 years as a Major League starter (and at multiple positions, no less!)? How have the Tigers stuck with him this long?
The answer seems to be pretty simple: his post-2006 contract made him untradable and his was performing well. His Post 2010 contract has made him untradable and he is performing poorly. Now his 10/5 rights just make him untradable.
He'll stay as long as the Tigers let them, and they have already let him stay too long.
Brandon Inge is the most controversial player in Tigers history. This is not up for debate. I too find myself frequently conflicted about how I feel about Inge. I've never liked his bat, and find him more frustrating than not, but since he moved to 3B (and even somewhat when he was a catcher) I loved his defensive prowess, his hustle, his demeanor and just the way he played the game. His off the field contributions and personality have endeared him to countless Tigers fans and it would be wrong to have simply discarded him at any point--the loyalty that he cites is important to me.
At the same time, there are times where he was a whiner, a bad clubhouse presence and a general malcontent, most of which surrounding his 2007 displacement by Miguel Cabrera and his shift into Catcher/Utility land. Also, he is really, really hurting the Tigers right now, and has hurt them at times throughout his career.
This isn't all his fault. In fact, blame should be placed squarely on the Tigers--not for extending contracts or sticking with Inge, but for failing to produce anything that even begins to resemble a replacement option. There have been ZERO 3B prospects in the Tigers system for years. The main legitimate prospect was just drafted last year which, a little late, no? What's more, they've ignored alternative replacement possibilities, like using the acquisition of Jhonny Peralta to end Inge's tenure with the team after last season and keep Peralta around at 3B. Instead the Tigers signed both.
If it wasn't the de facto truth before is now set in stone: Inge will be a Tiger for the rest of his life, and that means this year and next year. God help us all if it means 2013 as well.