Last week, it was reported that Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks is getting closer to returning to the team. He may even be ready to go on a rehab assignment in a matter of days now. Many are beginning to wonder who the Tigers will demote to make room on the roster for Dirks, but it should absolutely not be J.D. Martinez.
Martinez has been a very pleasant surprise for the Tigers since joining the club on Apr. 21, hitting .267/.309/. 465 with eight doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has actually been giving Martinez more playing time as of late, and it paid off on Sunday as he drove in the game-winning run against the Minnesota Twins with a sacrifice fly.
Martinez is always a threat to hit for extra bases, and a team that has struggled to find consistency from hitters other than Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler simply cannot afford to kick him off of their roster. The problem, however, is that the Tigers do not have many other expendable players.
Few fans would mind if the Tigers sent Andrew Romine packing, but then the team would have no one to back up rookie Eugenio Suarez at shortstop. It is also highly unlikely that the Tigers would opt to carry just 11 pitchers. Therefore, in all likelihood, it will come down to Martinez and Don Kelly, the Tigers’ longtime utility man. Although it would not be easy for the Tigers to do, and it would certainly send a shock wave through the Tigers’ fanbase, the team would be better off parting ways with Kelly.
It seems highly unfair as Kelly has always been a very hard worker. He had a great Spring Training this year, and his .244 batting average this season is higher than his current career mark of .230. However, even though he can play virtually anywhere on the field, it is getting to the point where the Tigers could do without him.
With Dirks coming back, the Tigers will no longer need to carry Kelly as a fifth outfielder. Moreover, now that Suarez has taken over shortstop and bumped Romine back to the bench, Romine can fill the role of a utility infielder and give the rookie Nick Castellanos a breather at third base once in a while, which is something that Kelly has been doing.
It is unfortunate that the Tigers cannot carry 26 guys, but someone needs to go, and the Tigers could use a little extra power more than versatility right now. The 34-year-old Kelly still has plenty of baseball left in him, though, and perhaps he should be given a chance to sink or swim with a NL club, where his skills would actually be a better fit.