Moments after the final out of Detroit’s 7-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics was recorded, Tigers’ general manager addressed the media for the second time today. When Dombrowski spoke with reporters before the game, he was announcing the trade that will bring third baseman Wilson Betemit to the club. When he spoke afterward, he was announcing the possible end of the Tigers tenure of Brandon Inge, who was designated for assignment (or will be officially on Thursday).
Ordinarily, when you hear that a player has been DFA’d, his days with that club are over one way or another. In this situation, however, Inge has informed the Tigers that if he should clear waivers, he would accept a minor league assignment to Triple-A Toledo. The chances of another club putting in a claim on Inge are very remote, given that he is owed the balance of a 2-year plus option contract signed last offseason that pays him handsomely. Dombrowski said after the game tonight that the Tigers do anticipate gaining waiver clearance with Inge, which is a process that will conclude on Monday. At that point, Inge will join the Mud Hens.
This is probably the best possible outcome for both Inge and the Tigers. Had he chosen to reject the minor league assignment, which he certainly has the right to do, the Tigers would have released him. At that point, as a free agent, he would have been free to sign with any club who wanted him and all that club would have had to pay would be a pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary. Inge said after the game that he was confident that a number of clubs would have had interest in picking him up and he’s right. Despite his obvious struggles this year, Inge would have drawn significant interest at that price. Instead of possibly missing out on seeing his family, Inge opted instead to stick with the Tigers organization, but will do so without taking up a roster spot, at least for a while.
The plan for Inge is to report to Toledo once he clears waivers and get to work with renowned hitting coach Leon “Bull” Durham to try to find the issues that have caused Inge to reach this point. At worst, Inge will be back with the big club in September when rosters expand. If he rights his ship before then, however, he could be back sooner than that. Either way, it looks like Inge’s career with Detroit will resume at some point.
Full disclosure: I have always been a fan of Inge. After watching him stand in front of the media tonight and field the question, discussing openly the process, the plans, and the factors into his decision to accept the assignment, I’m probably a bigger fan of his now. But he needs to find something that can jump-start his bat again and get it back to respectable levels. Everything he has tried has failed this year, so now it’s time for the Tigers to move on, at least temporarily.