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DETROIT TIGERS
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Detroit Tigers
Acquired 3B-S Wilson Betemit from the Royals for LHP Antonio Cruz and C-R Julio Rodriguez. [7/20]

There is an inherent sense of danger present in trades between division rivals. If a team incorrectly evaluates a player, then said team could shoot itself in the foot twice with a single trade; one bullet because they received an improper return, and another for helping out a direct competitor. From the look of this trade, neither the Royals nor the Tigers will regret it in the years to come.

Detroit enters the night tied for the American League Central lead and with a 56.8 percent chance of making the postseason—the highest in the division, per the Playoff Odds Report. Third base has been a gaping hole throughout the season, with Jim Leyland flipping between Brandon Inge and Don Kelly recently in hopes of drumming up some offensive value. As a whole, Tigers third basemen have hit .186/.251/.249 this season.

Enter Betemit, who should thank his new teammates for setting the bar low. Betemit signed with the Royals as a non-roster invitee and finishes with a career Kansas City line of .290/.362/.468. He will not have to match or duplicate that offering to be an upgrade, and the same applies for his .278/.339/.447 line since 2008. Even if Betemit only hits .250/.317/.410, or his PECOTA projection for the rest of the season, he still looks pretty darn good next to the incumbents.

Looking at Betemit’s .372 batting average on balls in play and expecting a drastic regression heading forward. It’s not a sure thing, however, as Betemit has always been a hitter with a BABIP well above the normally accepted .290-to-.310 range. Even last season Betemit managed a BABIP over .360. The real question with his offensive game will be the power supply. As it stands, Betemit is bordering on a career-low ISO thanks to a reduction in extra-base hits. On a rate basis, 38 percent of Betemit’s hits entering the season went for extra bases. In 2011, only 33 percent are going for two or more. Playing in Kaufman didn’t help with that, but neither will playing in Comerica.

Defense matters, and Betemit is going to be a downgrade from Inge. Over a full season, the difference might run into the five-to-10 runs range, but it’s going to be considerably lower over less than half a season, and should be eclipsed by the offensive gains. Remember, despite being a good defender, Inge has caused many a headache thanks to his .223/.305/.375 line since the start of the 2008 season—and that’s without approaching the possibility that Inge’s days as even a passable big league hitter could be over.

Because Betemit is heading towards free agency, it’s also important to point out that he is on the cusp of becoming a Type B free agent. A lot can change between now and the time free agency hits—heck, the compensation system could be altered or ditched entirely—so it’s far from a sure thing that the Tigers might net a draft pick in addition to Betemit’s services for a playoff push. Still, there is a possibility, and that only sweetens what looks like a sound deal from Detroit’s perspective.