As I begin to delve into the merits of various players on the roster, I began to consider how much impact Jim Leyland has on the decisions. While it makes sense he would have a say, his impact probably stretches beyond what happens in organizational meetings.
For example, the Tigers have 3 players on their current roster who could have some value in that they are young-ish, they are cheap, and they have some track record of success. Yet all 3 found themselves on the outside come playoff time.
Chris Shelton, who has a very solid minor league track record and a half season of solid production under his belt was completely left off the playoff roster in each round in favor of a 3rd middle infielder back up. Even more outrageous was the fact he was left on the bench in the final game against Kansas City while Neifi Perez was brought in to pinch hit.
Marcus Thames led the team in slugging and was 2 homers off the team lead despite having 200 fewer ABs than leaders Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge. Thames also has a history of AAA dominance. And yet he was routinely passed over in favor of Alexis Gomez who has virtually no track record – and he wasn’t passed over for defensive reasons. These were pinch hitting opps.
Finally, the Tigers have a young player in Omar Infante who made an error that cost the team a game in August. Suddenly despite hitting the cover off the ball as a replacement for Polanco, he was relegated to the bench in favor of Neifi Perez who is signed for next year as well. Infante is younger, cheaper, better offensively, faster, and better defensively than Neifi Perez. Yet he can’t get off the bench.
All 3 players could and should be given the opportunity to contribute to the Tigers next year. Only Omar Infante is arbitration eligible and the trio could be locked up for a total of $1.5 million dollars and at the very least provide the foundation for a pretty solid bench. But the fact that Leyland repeatedly chose not to use this group of players doesn’t bode well for their future. Ramon Santiago, Neifi Perez, and Alexis Gomez for some reason garnered Leyland’s fancy. At this point we can only hope that Dombrowski’s desire to provide a talented roster trumps Leyland’s desire not to use them.