Will September Be Placido Polanco's Last Month in Detroit?

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2009

Prior to the Midsummer Classic, Placido Polanco established himself as the least productive second baseman in the American League.

He held the third lowest AL batting average (.256) prior to the All-Star break among regulars at the position, as well as the third lowest of Detroit starters.

Hitting out of the No. 2 slot, his steep decline was magnified locally. And it is a story Detroiters have recently grown all too familiar with.

Another slow, deteriorating hitter soaking up roster space.

But it has truly been a tale of two seasons for Polanco.

Since the break, he is batting two points shy of .300 and has struck out just nine times in 147 plate appearances. The Tigers second baseman has returned to the patient contact hitter manager Jim Leyland expected to sustain the upper half of the order and set the table for ultra-RBI guy Miguel Cabrera.

A .302 hitter over 12 seasons, Polanco is approaching career highs in doubles (36, 2007) and runs batted in (67, 2007). Though he has underperformed since he turned 33 last October, Polanco should sit around .280 with 80 runs, 36 doubles, 10 homers, and 70 runs batted in at season's end. Above standard production for a defensively exceptional middle infielder.

Despite his resurgence, there remains the strong possibility general manager Dave Dombrowski will not retain free-agent-to-be Polanco.

The reason?

A younger, cheaper version of Polanco may exist in Triple-A Toledo.

Scott Sizemore quickly scaled the Tigers minor league ladder after Detroit drafted him in the fifth round in 2006. Sent to Single-A Oneonta for his first professional season, Single-A West Michigan in 2007, and Single-A Lakeland in 2008, the former Virginia Commonwealth University second baseman flourished at every stop.

This year he made a seamless midseason transition from Double-A Erie to Toledo. In 115 games, Sizemore is batting .301 with 138 hits, 33 doubles, five triples, 16 homers, 59 runs batted in, and 18 steals.

Offensively, the Tigers second baseman of the future shares many attributes with his predecessor. Though he possesses a little more power and speed, Sizemore displays a great deal of plate discipline like Polanco.

For under $1 million, Detroit projects to receive close to, or even more production from the second base position. And, undoubtedly, this lineup requires an injection of speed.

With $85.5 million wrapped up in six players next year and significant pay increases due for Justin Verlander and free agent Edwin Jackson, financial constraints may force Dombrowski to abandon Polanco. Expected to earn $7 to $10 million annually, his reacquisition would stifle efforts at plugging other more desperate holes on the roster.

Ripe for promotion, the Tigers will call Sizemore to join the Tigers when the roster expands to 40 on Sept. 1, if not sooner.

A 24-year-old prospect may write Polanco's eulogy in Detroit.