Will Rhymes Caught in Numbers Game


The Tigers optioned the contract of second baseman Will Rhymes to AAA Toledo today, doing so in concert with the activation of Carlos Guillen from the 15-day disabled list. Jim Leyland was none too happy about it.

"“We look like fools probably, the guy got three hits. But here’s the scenario, Carlos is the second baseman. He is going to play. We have no place to play Will right now. We want him to continue to play. He made a very good impression. But Carlos is going to play. That’s what we are paying him for.”"

It’s been a strange turn of events for the Tigers and their 27-year-old infielder. Before the season, Rhymes was viewed probably more as organizational depth then as a potential big league player, and certainly not as a possible regular second baseman in the major leagues.  (More after the jump)

In fact, had there not been injuries to both Guillen and Brandon Inge, Rhymes would likely have never been added to the 40-man roster, let alone promoted. The series of events that lead to the promotion of Rhymes had to happen exactly as it did for him to get his chance, but he made a solid impression on the Tigers and in the process has placed himself in good position to be recalled again, and possibly to factor into the Tigers plans going forward.

Before the year, Scott Sizemore was the second baseman of the future in Detroit. He struggled mightily after breaking camp with the team and was sent to Toledo as Guillen was moved to second base. When Inge went down with a broken hand, Sizemore was recalled to play third. Three days later, Guillen wound up hurt and Rhymes got the call. The Tigers liked what they saw with him and Sizmeore was optioned out, presumably to continue work at the hot corner. Rhymes stuck around and played pretty well.

Guillen is under contract at $13 million for next season. Inge is a free agent, though the Tigers figure to bring him back. But the roster is anything but set for the 2011 season. It remains possible that Guillen could be moved yet again, back to the outfield, back to DH, or even back to third. If the Tigers opt to go a different direction at second base, has Rhymes shown enough to move ahead of Sizemore as the internal replacement? It certainly looks that way.

Look, Rhymes isn’t as young as Sizemore, he doesn’t have the extra-base power that Sizemore has, but he is better with the glove. There is a David Eckstein-like quality about him (he’s short, white, scrappy, and full of energy). I can see how a manager would want a guy like Rhymes on his team. The fact that he bats left handed doesn’t hurt either.

Before you go writing off the idea of Rhymes becoming a regular in Detroit, understand that Leyland values defense and he is loyal to his favorite players. From his comments yesterday, it’s easy to see that Rhymes has quickly become a “Leyland guy”, and that means that he will get every opportunity to play if there is a way to make that happen.

My guess is that the next time Guillen gets hurt or gets shifted to another position, Rhymes is the guy you’ll see at second base. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Sizemore traded away in the offseason.