The Tigers will, in all likelihood, carry 14 position players on their postseason roster which means one hitter who isn’t currently on the active roster will be playing with the team in October. I see three possibilities: utility infielder Hernan Perez, Jhonny Peralta, and superprospect Nick Castellanos.
Perez is a possibility because, sure, it’s possible, but he doesn’t make a ton of sense given the current roster. Perez is a glove-only infielder whose only value would be to provide a backup-backup option at shortstop, or to be a marginally better pinch runner. He’d be better than keeping an extra bullpen arm – a possibility that can’t be denied whenever Jim Leyland is involved – that’s for sure, but Perez would be a “there was litereally no one else we wanted” decision. Santiago would/could be the primary backup at both middle infield positions (and third), Don Kelly can play both outfield and third base (and second base in a pinch), and Tuiasosopo could even play third in a pinch. The only way the team would really ever need Perez’s presence in a playoff game would be if something happened to Jose Iglesias and Ramon Santiago and Omar Infante in the same game. Not likely.
That brings us to the two big candidates: Peralta and Castellanos. Personally I think Peralta is the guy you go with provided that (1) he’s not too rusty to hit major league pitching after a 50 game layoff and (2) that the organization (including most players) are comfortable with having him around the clubhouse. I would give him three starts in the final regular season series in Miami (when he’s once again eligible) to allow him to prove he’s ready to play. I don’t know if the Tigers will ultimately indlude him on the postseason roster or not, but they’d be silly to automatically dismiss him. They also would be silly to automatically count on him.
That brings us to Nick Castellanos. Given that (1) Jhonny Peralta is not guaranteed to be ready for action come the ALDS and (2) Matt Tuiasosospo has managed an OPS of just .540 since the All-Star Break, the Tigers want to give their right-handed hitting, left field playing top prospect every opportunity to show that he’s ready to hit in the big leagues. It’s still possible that Detroit doesn’t give him the call when the rosters expand, but I think they would be doing themselves a disservice to not explore this option.
Here’s how we might be able to read into the team’s plans. The players eligible for the postseason roster will all either be (1) on the active roster on August 31, (2) be on the disabled list at that time, or (3) be on the restricted list at that time. Also, any player in the organization as of that time would be eligible to replace a player who is on the disabled list. The Tigers will get one such replacement for Luis Marte (who is out for the season and is on the major league DL). Octavio Dotel is also on the DL, but he’s been on rehab assignement and will be activated (barring a new injury) before the regular season is over. This means that only one player who isn’t active before Sunday (September 1) could possibly make the postseason roster.
I remain convinced that, despite his struggles, Phil Coke is a serious contender for the postseason roster. Jose Alvarez didn’t work out in what looked like an audition, and Darin Downs hasn’t been back up in a good while. So, if the Tigers wait until Sept. 1 to call up Coke and Castellanos, we will know that the team was only counting on one of them for postseason consideration. As I said, I think they view Coke (8 SO, 0 BB, 0 R since his demotion) as a serios candidate, so I would interepret this as the team not counting on Castellanos and instead looking to bring Peralta back for October.
If the Tigers hope (or want to leave open the possibility) for both Castellanos and Coke on the roster, they’ll need at least one of the two up by Saturday. Here are two possible roster moves that could accomplish that, and both involve bullpen pitchers being sent away to make room.
First, Jeremy Bonderman could be designated for assignment. It’s not that he’s performed terribly in the Tigers bullpen, he hasn’t, it’s just that he looks like a long, long shot for the postseason. The Tigers probably only have room to take (1) of Al Alburquerque, Luke Putkonen, and Jeremy Bonderman, and out of that group I’d rather not have Bonderman (Al Al is probably the leader here). Someone is going to need to be DFA to clear a spot on the 40-man roster if Castellanos is going to be brought up in September anyway.
Luke Putkonen could be optioned back to the minor leagues. This could be an easy swap for Coke, or it could involve Luis Marte’s transfer to the 60-day DL (something that would happen anyway when Dotel is ready to return) and the addition of Castellanos. This would only be a short term fix, as someone would have to be DFA when Dotel is activated (probably on Sunday or Monday anyway).