The Twins have a well-documented obsession with acquiring Detroit Tiger castoffs, so when the Tigers jettisoned Brandon Inge earlier this week, it was absolutely no surprise that the Twins were rumored to be thinking about signing him. It was no surprise, but it was a disappointment, since Inge is a weak hitter, well past his prime, who would add very little to the Twins’ roster.
Fortunately for the Twins, the Oakland Athletics have prevented Minnesota from making another questionable decision by stepping in and signing Inge. Combined that with the 7-3 win over the Royals to avert a homestand sweep, and the Twins have dodged two bullets today.
Inge was once an excellent player, but at this point in his career with the Twins roster as it is, he would have added little if anything to the Minnesota lineup or bench. Several years ago, Inge was an intriguing player who could play a couple of the toughest positions on the diamond – third base and catcher – and hit with power. He socked 27 homers in 2006 and matched that feat again in 2009, nearly leading the Tigers to division titles in both seasons. But Inge is now less than a month shy of his 30th birthday, and he is not the player he used to be. In 102 games last season, Inge recorded an abysmal .265 on-base percentage, and he is just 2-20 at the plate this year.
Other than the fact that they’ve always admired Inge’s style of play, it is not exactly clear what the Twins were thinking they could accomplish by signing him. His recent poor hitting means that he was highly unlikely to spark a sudden Twins surge in the standings, and his age means he would never be a long term solution at third base. As a Twin he would have taken at bats away from Danny Valencia, at bats that the Twins should be using to determine whether Valencia is a viable MLB third baseman. As a backup third baseman, Inge would not have provided the team with anything that Sean Burroughs does not have, and his right-handed bat would not allow him to sub for Valencia against tough right-handed pitchers. Some pointed out that Inge could serve as a third string catcher, since Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit are often both in the lineup, but it is dubious at best that he could fill that role; Inge has not caught in the Major Leagues since 2008.
From here, it seems the only reason the Twins wanted Inge is because they like to go after former Tigers on general principle. Phil Dumatrait, Luke French, Casey Fien, Wilkin Ramirez, Mike Hollimon, and Brendan Wise have all recently signed minor league deals with the Twins after spending time in the Tiger system. The Twins added farmhands Lester Oliveros and Cole Nelson from the Tigers in last year’s Delmon Young trade. And earlier this month they claimed Clete Thomas off waivers from Detroit. Some of those players are quite talented, and the Young trade in particular is looking like a good move now, but the sheer number of ex-Tigers that the Twins have been stockpiling makes one wonder if they have an unhealthy obsession with last year’s division winner.
Stay tuned, because we might need a Tiger intervention soon.