Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tigers Acquire Wilson Betemit

The Tigers have acquired infielder Wilson Betemit from the Royals in exchange for two minor leaguers - left-handed pitcher Antonio Cruz and catcher Julio Rodriguez.  The switch-hitting Betemit has played all four infield positions during his nine-year MLB career, but has been used most frequently as a third baseman.  He will most likely get the bulk of at bats at third base for the Tigers in place of the struggling Brandon Inge.  

The 29-year-old Betemit batted .281/.341/.409 for the Royals this year which is not far from his lifetime line of .268/.335/.443.  He hits better from the left side than the right side (.809 OPS versus .683 OPS for his career).  Regardless, his .750 OPS this year is a clear upgrade over Brandon Inge (.484) and Donald Kelly (.631). 

Defensively all indications point to him being a poor third baseman.  Taking the average of his advanced defensive metrics (DRS, UZR, Total Zone) over the past two years yields a composite rating of -7 runs below the average third baseman.  Moreover, Royals fans rated him as below average in every phase of defense in the Fan Scouting Report. So, Betemit improves the Tigers offense at the expense of an already weak defense.

Under normal circumstances, I would consider Betemit to be an insignificant acquisition.  However, Inge has been so bad this year, that I see Betemit as a clear upgrade.  While I don't like to see yet another sub-par defender added to the Tigers starting line-up, the offensive boost he'll bring should outweigh his defensive liability. 

Since Cruz and Rodriguez are marginal prospects who are not likely to amount to much, there is little downside to this move.  It is a good move for the Tigers.  Now, they need to add a starting pitcher.

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