Victor Martinez is returning to action from the disabled list on Friday. That will take care of the need for a designated hitter in the lineup on a full-time basis. It will also give the Detroit Tigers another left-handed bat against right-handed pitchers, who account for about 70 percent of plate appearances in an average season.
The return of the American League’s runner-up in the MVP voting last season is most welcome. But in order to make room for Martinez on the roster, the Tigers optioned Tyler Collins back to Triple-A Toledo, and that's the part of this move that makes little sense.
The plate appearances that will go to Victor Martinez have been going to a combination of Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis, and used on occasion to give a semi-rest day to another position player, such as struggling third baseman Nick Castellanos.
In 54 plate appearances, Collins hit .275/.315/.490 for an OPS of .805 and a wOBA of .347. On the Tigers roster this season, only Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes have a higher slugging percentage, and Collins has the same wOBA as J.D. Martinez.
Collins would rarely get a start, with Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, and Anthony Gose or Davis taking all the available time for starting outfielders on a regular basis. However, Collins gave the Tigers something that they lacked before he was called up and will not have with him being sent down -- a decent bat on the bench to face a right-handed pitcher. Back we go to the days of having a version of former Tiger Hernan Perez pinch hitting in the late innings.
Andrew Romine and Josh Wilson will remain on the roster, a pair of utility infielders who split what little time there is for a backup infielder. They are redundant, but they are also both out of options. Seemingly, the team is unwilling to put another light-hitting utility infielder on waivers in case a last place team will claim him, which is what happened with Perez.
Designating Wilson for assignment would be a better move. Not that Wilson is a bad player -- he is not -- but he is superfluous on the current Tigers roster. If Wilson has any real value to the team, an alternative would be to option Castellanos to Toledo and allow him to find the strike zone and his stroke again. Castellanos is once again a below replacement level player, and is the least productive third baseman in the major leagues.
It’s easy to make too much of the players who fill out the roster and occupy a spot on the bench most of the time, but this team has seen the glaring need for a decent left-handed bat on the bench, and a decent defender to back up Cespedes and Martinez in a corner outfield position. They had one for a while, but not anymore.