He's not a flashy guy in terms of numbers, but a guy I wouldn't mind seeing the Cardinals make a run at this off-season is Tigers free agent Brandon Inge.
That's probably a statement that makes the numbers guys cringe. After all, he's a career .237 hitter with a .307 career on base percentage. But I think Inge brings a lot more to the table than the raw numbers. And I think his numbers would greatly improve if he came to the Cardinals and escaped the offensive graveyard that is Comerica Field and tougher American League pitching. He's a .315 career hitter in interleague games when he faces senior circuit hurlers.
I like Inge because he's one of those gritty guys that is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He's primarily a third baseman. But he's so versatile -- and such a gamer -- that he has started everywhere from catching to playing centerfield.
Inge would be a great superutility guy if he was willing to accept that role. He could probably count on playing quite a few games at third base in place of brittle David Freese -- and he'd be a great defensive replacement there late in games. He could also get plenty of playing time in right and centerfield. He's a righty hitter and centerfielder Colby Rasmus, rightfielder Jon Jay and reserve outfielder Skip Schumaker are all lefties.
Inge's experience behind the plate would help the Cardinals bench in that the backup catcher would no longer be dead weight. Rookie Bryan Anderson could be a valuable hitter in a pinch if you weren't afraid to use him in fear that Yadier Molina would get hurt and you'd have no one to play behind the plate. Inge hasn't caught in two seasons. But he would surely be servicable enough to use for a couple of innings in an emergency.
In the more hitter friendly National League, Ingle could easily be a .260-plus hitter with 20 homers and 80 runs driven in, which is up the alley of what GM John Mozeliak said he's looking for to bolster the Cardinals offense.
The only problem is that the Tigers don't seem to be ready to let Inge walk. They're talking with him about a multi-year contract extension, according to reports out of Motown. I'm not sure the Birds are going to be willing to get into a bitter war with Detroit. But if the price is reasonable, Inge might be well advised to move on to an NL team where his skill set would be more valuable.
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