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Gary Sheffield Released by Tigers

It didn't take long for the dominoes to start falling, in lieu of yesterday's trade for Josh Anderson. The Detroit Tigers released Gary Sheffield this morning, telling him they preferred a roster with more versatile players that could switch between positions.

Sheff, as we know all too well, is pretty much restricted to playing DH, though he insisted all along he could still play the outfield. The Tigers are on the hook for the $14 million owed to Sheffield for this season.

I have to say, I'm pretty stunned by this and didn't see it coming. A tip of the cap goes to Scott Warheit, who speculated such a move might occur (linked in today's Morning Prowl). This certainly allows the Tigers more lineup flexibility in terms of shuffling players around the outfield and DH spot. Sheffield looked to me like an immovable object at DH, anchored by that $14 million contract and a manager that seemed to be exceedingly loyal to him.

But apparently, Jim Leyland meant it when he said that players had to earn their opportunities. And Sheffield certainly hadn't done that this spring. Despite coming into camp presumably healthy, Sheff only hit .178/.378/.387 with three homers and five RBIs in 58 plate appearances. He struck out 10 times, while also drawing 13 walks.

Sheffield ends his Tigers career with a .247/.352/.431 average, adding 44 home runs and 132 RBIs in 247 games. It just never quite clicked as everyone had hoped when he was acquired from the Yankees before the 2007 season, largely because Sheff just couldn't stay healthy. And now, he'll have to hit that 500th career home run someplace else.

Where does this leave the Tigers, as their final roster needs to be determined? Well, it appears that Marcus Thames will remain in Detroit (we'll have to change that poll, eh?), now that he can toggle between the outfield and designated hitter. Jeff Larish will also likely find himself with the team as it heads to Toronto for Opening Day. Left field and DH probably once again become kind of a carousel, with opportunities to also give Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez a rest when needed.

Thanks to Sean and Trumbull and Michigan, who sent me a text message when the big news broke, everyone who commented on the news in this morning's first post, and to BennieBladesFan for posting a very timely note in the FanPosts.