After getting swept by the Mariners at home last week, the Tigers decided to make some changes, and those changes including releasing Brandon Inge. The longtime Tiger played himself out of a job last year and failed to improve on his struggles while making the conversion to second base this season, so Detroit finally cut him loose. After clearing waivers, the A’s swooped in and signed him to a contract, and will install him as their third baseman after designating Luke Hughes (claimed on waivers to take the position just last week) for assignment to make room for Inge.
On one hand, it’s hard to imagine how Inge could actually represent any grade of upgrade for a Major League team at this point in his career. He hit .197/.265/.283 last year and was just 2 for 20 to begin the 2012 season. As a soon to be 35-year-old, he looks like his career is nearly finished. On the other hand, the A’s in-house options at third base might actually be even worse.
The team began the year with Josh Donaldson tabbed as the starter coming out of spring training. Donaldson is a 26-year-old who was a below average hitter in the PCL last year. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t able to hold the job for more than a few days, as Bob Melvin had him split time with utility infielder Eric Sogard. Sogard was bad, but Donaldson was worse, so he ended up back in Triple-A and the team claimed Luke Hughes on waivers from the Twins. Hughes played four games before he was DFA’d to make room for Inge.
Using the rest-of-season ZIPS projections, we can see the forecast for Inge and the two guys who he’s being called on to replace:
Inge: .285 wOBA
Donaldson: .277 wOBA
Hughes: .274 wOBA
Almost unbelievably, Inge is actually projected to outhit both incumbents, but of course the margin is so small that all three could really just be lumped into the same “awful hitter” category.
Inge used to be an elite defender at third base, but injuries have taken their toll on him, and he’s not what he used to be with the glove. Still, given the atrocious options the A’s had in house, signing him actually represents a small upgrade offensively, as hard as that actually is to believe.