It's official: slugger Miguel Cabrera will be manning the hot corner at Comerica Park in 2012. The batting champ will take over third base after the signing of Prince Fielder created a need for Cabrera to relocate on the field.
While this means that fans probably won't see a lot more of third baseman Brandon Inge, most aren't too concerned by this, considering the veteran is seemingly nearing the end of his career.
It does, however, leave a question mark about what the Tigers will do with their top positional prospect, third baseman Nick Castellanos.
Castellanos, a 19-year-old slugger from Florida played his first full season of professional baseball in 2011, impressing many a scout as a member of the Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps.
While rumors were swirling earlier in the offseason that Castellanos could be part of a trade package for Oakland Athletic-turned-Washington National Gio Gonzalez, the Tigers never pulled the trigger on the deal.
As of right now, it seems as though the Tigers have no intention of moving Castellanos. That being said, the question of what to do with him when he's ready for the big leagues has to be asked.
There are a number of things the Tigers could do with the prospect, but one in particular definitely stands above the others. However, leaving nothing to chance, the following are a few possibilities that fans could see going forward.
Castellanos Moves Back to Shortstop
This isn't all that likely, but it's not impossible. Castellanos used to play the position in high school and did it very well. Jhonny Peralta's contract could expire in 2013, although there is a club option that Detroit could exercise.
The problem with this, though, is that Castellanos may lack the range that a shortstop needs to play at the Major League level.
If his defense improves, Castellanos could play shortstop at some point in his career. However, look for Detroit to exercise the club option on Peralta, especially if he continues to play at the level he did in 2011.
Castellanos Gets Traded at the Deadline
Although Detroit is saying that trading Castellanos isn't in the franchises' plans, this is a statement that's easy to make in the wake of signing a huge name like Prince Fielder.
Here's a scenario, though: what if the Tigers are trailing Cleveland a week prior to the trade deadline this season? That would change things a bit, and the Tigers could be desperately searching for a way to upgrade the rotation or lineup.
If the Tigers want to go after a big name, Castellanos could be a part of the package. Although the Tigers have been extremely reluctant to trade their top three prospect—Jacob Turner, Castellanos and Drew Smyly—the team has so much pressure on it to win in 2012 that a trade could seem like a necessity if Detroit doesn't have a grasp on the division.
Miguel Cabrera Moves to DH, Castellanos Plays Third
This seems like the most likely option. While DH/C Victor Martinez is under contract until 2015, the Tigers could trade him depending on how well he does coming off of his injury.
Even if the Tigers don't trade him (they probably will not), Castellanos will only be 22 when Martinez sees his contract come to an end. While he had an extremely impressive season in 2011, it looks as though Martinez will be the odd man out going forward now that the Tigers have Fielder on their payroll.
All in all, anything could happen going forward. However, the likely ending will be Martinez moving on, Cabera heading to the designated hitter role and Castellanos ultimately getting a shot at the bigs.
While anything could happen with the prospect, he seems to have enough upside to be worth the swapping of the lineup.