Miguel Cabrera said as much as soon as the Prince Fielder signing happened, but manager Jim Leyland made things official during Fielder’s introductory press conference today: Cabrera will be the Tigers’ starting third baseman.
And not only that, Leyland added that he doesn’t even plan to remove Cabrera for defensive purposes late in games.
Cabrera, who’s mediocre at best as a first baseman, hasn’t played third base regularly since his first season with the Tigers in 2008. He lasted two weeks there before Leyland shifted him across the diamond and started Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge at third base.
Victor Martinez returning from his torn ACL next season would put the Tigers in a tough spot and necessitate one of Fielder, Cabrera, or Martinez playing somewhere other than designated hitter, but with Martinez expected to miss all of this season it seems strange that they wouldn’t use the DH on Fielder or Cabrera.
And apparently they might not even use it on Delmon Young, at least not all the time. Imagine a world in which Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young are on the same American League team and someone else is the designated hitter.
Of course, while the defense isn’t going to be pretty the Tigers’ offense figures to be plenty scary, with Leyland saying this is his projected batting order:
1. Austin Jackson
2. Brennan Boesch
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Prince Fielder
5. Delmon Young
6. Alex Avila
7. Jhonny Peralta
8. Andy Dirks/Don Kelly
9. Ryan Raburn
It’s worth noting that Jackson (.331 career on-base percentage) and Boesch (.330 OBP) aren’t exactly ideal table-setters for two of the best sluggers in baseball, although Fielder would at least benefit from having Cabrera (.395 OBP) directly in front of him.
And in that above scenario the Tigers also have Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago on the bench, which will apparently be the only place to find defense in Detroit this season.