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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  • John_Sweda

    Romine goes to Toledo, call him up on an as-needed basis Platoon Dirks against RHP with 39yo Torii Hunter. See what JD Martinez can do in the 2nd half of the season and in the playoffs. JD is on a mission this year, and he could very well wind up the season as the Tigers MVP!

    • Matt Pelc

      Romine has no options left, which is why the Angels let him go. They won’t get rid of Romine because they still give the rookies (Castellanaos and Suarez) a day or two off weach week. It does make sense though. I’d rather lose Romine to waivers (if anyone wants him) than Don Kelly.

      • Tom Zahari

        If you want to see more of Don Kelly or Andrew Romine playing every infield position, you can get rid of the other player, but I would move like player for like player and fill you your biggest need.

  • louwhitaker

    JD won’t continue to hit .340 with MVP peripherals; no. But it doesn’t make any sense to trade the man who may well be your best outfielder, and certainly your youngest. I would shop Torii, Rajaii, and even AJax first. In fact I would be happy to part with at least two of them, and give this Carerra kid a chance; he plays better defense and gets on base more often than anybody in Detroit right now. Another consideration is that we don’t know if or when VMart will be healthy. If his injury lingers, JD may be our only real power source other than Miggy.

  • Gman91

    The answer has to be Don Kelly. He has hit below .230 for 90% of this season with 4 RBI’s. And what we are forgetting is that Romine played 3B for the Angels, so he is more than capable of backing Castellanos. V-Mart can spell Cabrera at 1B, which rarely happens. Yes, Romine has been pretty awful at the plate this year, but I trust Romine defensively at 3B+SS,+2B more then Kelly at those positions. & Kelly will never see time in the outfield when Dirks returns, where he has gotten the most AB’s as a Tiger.

    • Gman91

      And trading JD is a terrible idea! He’s too young to call it a fluke hot start and to sell high. Its not like he’s a veteran and batting way over his career lines, he has hit like this in the minors. (.332/.394/.548 minor league split) I obviously dont believe he will keep this pace, but I think he’ll have a good 2nd half