May 21, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks (12) celebrates his home run with right fielder Torii Hunter (48) in the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

What the Return of Andy Dirks Means for the Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers outfield is already a bit crowded with the emergence of J.D. Martinez to go along with Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, and Rajai Davis. It is going to get a little bit more crowded when Andy Dirks returns from his rehab assignment later this month. Dirks had lower back surgery and is completing his 20 game rehab assignment starting in Single-A Lakeland.

Dirks has a career .276/.322/.413 split, but struggled a little bit in a full-time roll in 2013 after a strong 2012 season where he played in 88 games. If Dirks comes off of the DL and produces, he could be the left handed bat that some want the Tigers to acquire to balance out their right-handed dominant lineup.

I have asked many people, “What happens when Andy Dirks returns from the DL?” Everyone has had the same reaction. The person ponders the question for a while, mulls it over, and says he should get some time in the outfield. What people usually forget is when Dirks returns, one Tigers’ player is going to have to be put on the DL, traded, or sent down to the minor leagues.

The Tigers carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers, which is common. I wouldn’t think that the Tigers would go to a 14/11 split, so a position player is probably going to be the one on the move. This leaves very few options. The Tigers won’t DL or send down any of their outfielders, starting infielders, or catchers.

This leaves one DL option and two send down options. If Victor Martinez is still bothered by his side injury, he could end up on the DL, giving the Tigers some time to decide what they want to do. The two send down options are Don Kelly and Andrew Romine, but both of those are doubtful. Don Kelly is not the most loved Tiger, but he has done a solid job this season in a reserve role. His .258/.333/.309 split is solid and he is solid defensively. Dirks could probably do better, but Dirks cannot spell Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera at 1st and 3rd like Kelly, and the Tigers need Kelly now for that role. The same goes for Andrew Romine. Teams keep a backup middle infielder along with a backup corner infielder.

So this leaves one more option: a trade of someone who is on the active roster, probably someone in the outfield. When Andy Dirks returns, could he or a different Tigers outfielder be on the move?

I am going to start conducting a train that won’t be very popular and probably very lonely. I would trade J.D. Martinez. He is producing at a career best clip which means that his trade value is at its highest. When you can sell high, you take advantage of it. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are, see: Brennan Boesch, Chris Shelton, and even Brandon Inge for half a season. Go get any asset that you want that you think will win the World Series this season if you think that Andy Dirks will produce.

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