With less than a week remaining in spring training, Gary Sheffield was given some devastating news when the Detroit Tigers announced that they had released their slugger of two years; leaving Sheff one shy of the elusive 500 home run mark.
In a season where he battled a handful of injuries, he still smacked 19 home runs out of the park in only 114 games played.
The downfall of his 2008 season was the fact that he only managed a .225 batting average which was down over forty points from his first year in Detroit.
What comes as a surprise to many is that the Tigers will eat the $14 million dollars that are owed to their former employee.
Instead of rotating him in and out of the outfield and designated hitter spots, the Tigers opted to release Sheff in favor of letting some other guys battle for those spots like Marcus Thames and/or newly acquired Josh Anderson.
As for Sheffield, it seems to be a tough market out there. The best thing for Sheffield could receive would probably be a one year $5 million dollar deal. But since we are so close to the start of the season, most teams are all set and are not looking for a 40 year old outfielder.
He has been linked to both the Tampa Bay Rays and reigning champs the Philadelphia Phillies but both destinations seem unlikely for the man who once hit .330 and 39 home runs.
Although there is interest from Sheffield’s side, there would be a problem finding time for Sheffield to play as the Rays signed Pat Burrell for their designated hitter duties as well as their outfield is also set.
The Phillies had placed a call to Sheff’s agent after they had released back up outfielder Geoff Jenkins but the probability of snagging him is unlikely.
If Sheffield isn’t inclined on starting the season as a starting right fielder or designated hitter, he could sign with a team in a month after a potential injury that is likely to occur. A team that would fit this bill would be the Boston Red Sox due to all of their potential injury risks.
Right fielder J.D. Drew leads the list of potential injured Red Sox starters and Gary Sheffield could fill in for that role immediately. Another possibility is if David Ortiz doesn’t come back strong.
His wrist is supposedly all healed but even before he had injury issues last season, Ortiz was hitting a mere .252.
In addition to these big bats, Mike Lowell is also recovering from injuries that kept him out of most of the 2008 post season for the Red Sox. If Lowell isn’t ready to go, first basemen Kevin Youkilis could shift across the diamond and the Sox could use Sheffield as a first basemen.
Sitting out for an extended period of time waiting for someone to go down would be a worst case scenario for Gary Sheffield. He may not get on base as often as he used to but his power is still there.
With some permanent playing time, look for Sheffield to be a .240 25-30 home run player. That isn’t great but he could definitely help a contender with those kind of numbers.