|The Tigers looked within the American League Central last year when they sought infield reinforcements, trading for the Indians’ Jhonny Peralta, who still serves as Detroit’s shortstop. They pulled off a similar swap this season by acquiring 29-year-old third baseman Wilson Betemit from the Royals for a pair of far-off prospects currently at the Class A level: 21-year-old catcher Julio Rodriguez and 19-year-old lefty Antonio Cruz.
Betemit enjoyed a career resurgence in Kansas City in 2009-10, batting .290/.362/.468 in 541 plate appearances in his age-28 and 29 seasons. For his career the switch-hitter has consistently struggled from the right side of the plate (.683 OPS in 438 career PAs), doing most of his damage as a lefthanded batter. For the Royals he contributed an .873 OPS versus righties in 2010 (227 PAs) and an .826 figure this season (164 PAs). Betemit played third base almost exclusively this season (serving essentially as a placeholder for Mike Moustakas), though he also has filled in at first and second base in recent years.
If nothing else, Betemit can serve Detroit as a platoon partner for Brandon Inge, a righthanded batter in the midst of a brutal offensive season—he batted .177/.242/.242 through 70 games.
|Julio Rodriguez, c
Age: 21. Position: C (66 G).
Born: Aug. 3, 1989 in Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Tigers, July 14, 2006.
Rodriguez isn’t even the best Julio Rodriguez in the Florida State League—that honor belongs to his Clearwater namesake, a Phillies pitching prospect who leads the FSL with a .193 opponent average—but he does offer a classic backup catcher’s tool set with plus arm strength and strong blocking skills. A career .255 hitter who doesn’t walk (.302 on-base) or hit for power (.334 slugging), he doesn’t project to be much of an offensive threat. If he learns the ins and outs of calling a game and working with pitchers, Rodriguez could carve out a long career as a catch-and-throw backstop.
|Antonio Cruz, lhp
Born: Oct. 7, 1991 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Tigers, Jan. 7, 2009.
A lanky teenage lefty who offers a fair amount of projection, Cruz pitched his way out of the low Class A West Michigan rotation this season after 10 starts. He went 1-5, 3.59 with a 39-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 2/3 innings for the Whitecaps. Shifted to the bullpen, Cruz’s strikeout rate jumped from 6.1 to 9.7 per nine innings, but his WHIP made a corresponding jump, from 1.23 to 1.42. He pitches in the low 90s with a promising breaking ball, a profile that could make him best suited for the bullpen.
|Wilson Betemit, 3b
Age: 29. Bats: B. Remaining Commitment: Approximately $333,333 ($1 million salary for 2011; eligible for free agency after the season).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.