Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila
It was just a matter of time before Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland thought of a creative solution to his third base problem. A roving cast of characters including Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago has shared duties at the hot corner this year, but nobody has managed to claim the job to date.
With a number of ex-third basemen on his roster, Leyland actually has quite a selection of candidates. Would it mean robbing Peter to pay Paul? Well, not necessarily.
Here's a look at five players who could be the new regular third baseman for the Detroit Tigers by the All-Star break.
Avila may not be a third baseman yet, but he sure is hitting like one. The starting catcher is hitting .301 with a .554 SLG and a .916 OPS through 55 games. His 26 extra-base hits in 186 AB would be right at home at third base, where he played his first two years of college ball at Alabama.
Leyland is currently toying around with the idea of playing Avila there during interleague play, and if Avila shows any kind of ability to field the position, you have to think he'll get a shot to play there on a regular basis.
Victor Martinez has enjoyed a very productive season as the team's regular DH and has played just 15 games at catcher. If Avila is moved to third base regularly, this means Martinez becomes the regular catcher through the end of the year—his legs are well rested at this point to try it.
Once Lowell left for Boston, Cabrera inherited third base. His 40 errors over two full seasons were only overshadowed by his excellent hitting. In Detroit, it was much the same story. Cabrera made five errors in 14 games at third base, and he eventually found a home at first base. He's currently carrying a .314 BA, .563 SLG and 1.004 OPS through 66 games.
Could Cabrera make the transition back?
He showed up to spring training a robust 270 pounds, up 30 pounds from his days at third base. He's shed about 10 pounds since then, but does Detroit want its 6'4", 260-pound franchise player defending the hot corner?
If this is tried, it will be a true indicator of how desperate the Leyland is to get all of his best bats into the lineup. Martinez would move to first base full-time with this move, most likely, and Magglio Ordonez would move to DH. This would allow Andy Dirks and Casper Wells to not just get continued playing time, but to also avoid going back to Toledo.
Jhonny Peralta has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers this year. He's put up very good offensive numbers this year with a .300 BA, .500 SLG and OPS of .859 in 59 games.
He's also the best all-around third baseman on the team.
As Detroit's starting shortstop, Peralta has been adequate defensively with three errors and 23 DP in 58 games there. While he catches nearly everything hit his way, Peralta has—almost indisputably—the worst range of any starting shortstop in the American League.
Listed at 6'2" and 215 pounds, he's easily in the 230-pound range. This would matter a lot less at third base, where he committed just five errors in 109 games there a year ago.
Rumor is that Peralta signed an extension with the Tigers because they were going to let him play shortstop. Surely he would understand the team needs him to step up and play third through the end of the year.
The New York Mets are about to have a fire sale, and Detroit has been mentioned by several sources as a possible destination for one of their talented, high-priced players. David Wright has been at the top of that list.
A two-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner, Wright is a five-tool third baseman. His numbers are down this year, and speculation says this is due to the serious back injury he was placed on the disabled list for. He's due to come back at the end of June.
Wright would fetch one of Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer or Jacob Turner in a trade, and this is probably the reason why the deal hasn't been made yet. Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is in no hurry to give away either his second starter, third starter or the organization's top prospect for a player who may not make a full recovery this year (Wright has only hit .226 with a .404 SLG in 2011).
Bryan Pounds has hit .315 in Toledo since his call-up from Erie last month. He's also stolen four bases, hit three home runs and pounded five doubles over that time period.
Pounds plays a very good third base, as seen in the above video. While he isn't seen as the high-ceiling prospect two of the organization's other prospects are, he's a mature 25-year-old player with four years of college baseball (University of Houston) under his belt. He's only a phone call away, and it won't cost the Tigers one of their best young pitchers.
The two young guns who'll be competing for the third base job by 2013 are two of the system's top position players. Venezuela's Francisco Martinez, 20, has hit seven HR and is batting .286 in Double-A Erie so far this year. The team's top pick in the draft a year ago, Nick Castellanos, is just 19 and is hardly tearing up Single-A West Michigan with a .274 BA and .402 SLG.