The Tigers announced moves with 3 players on Monday, the first action from the Tiger front office since the signing of Troy Percival, shortly after the start of the free agent period.
The signing of Inge was expected at some point, as the Tigers had no plans of letting him leave after his breakout 2004 season, in which he hit .287 with 13 Home Runs and 64 RBI. Inge, who started the season off as the 'super-utility' player, eventually emerged as the starter at Third Base. Barring a free agent addition or a trade, Inge will enter spring training expected to fulfill that role again.
Unlike Inge, the re-signing of Sanchez wasn't without doubt. Sanchez fell out of favor with the front office, after a second half of the season in which he struggled to stay on the field due to hamstring problems. During this time, many of Sanchez's faults were also brought to light, such as his lack of consistency in the field and on the basepaths. His lack of patience at the plate also became a hot topic, as 7 walks wasn't an impressive amount for a leadoff hitter.
Despite the concerns, the Tigers weren't able to find an upgrade via free agency, and so Sanchez will return to the club. However, he won't simply be given the job this time around - he'll have to battle Craig Monroe, Nook Logan, and top prospect Curtis Granderson for playing time in Center.
The final announcement wasn't quite as good -as the Tigers informed 3B/1B Eric Munson that they would not tender him a contract, making him a free agent.
Hopes were high for Munson coming into 2004, after a solid rookie season in which he belted 18 Home Runs in just 313 at bats. However, Munson's defense at the hot corner regressed (after being moved to the spot in the previous offseason to find a way to get him on the field), and his batting average struggled to stay above the Mendoza Line.
It was apparent Munson wasn't cut out for Third Base, and with starters Carlos Pena (First Base) and Dmitri Young (Designated Hitter) already entreched in their spots, Munson was left without a position. And the team wasn't ready to hand over $1.2 million for a backup Designated Hitter.
Then again, with the Tigers struggling to give away owner Mike Ilitch's money this off-season, who knows if even Munson would have taken it. Obviously a joke, but nonetheless a sad ending to the Tiger career of the former 3rd overall pick.