Pudge Rodriguez seemed done with the Tigers last year, but owner Mike Ilitch went against the advice of many of his baseball people and picked up Rodriguez's $13 million option, explaining to them that Rodriguez meant too much to the team to let him go.
Now it seems safe to say that Rodriguez really is on the way out.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced today that he'll start alternating Rodriguez and Brandon Inge behind the plate. The reason is obvious: Rodriguez is 4-for-35 (.114) with no extra-base hits in his last 11 games. Leyland said that he wants to "keep (Rodriguez) fresher," and also that he wants to find out how Inge will do with more regular work behind the plate.
"I still think I can do it," he said. "I don't know if they think I can. I believe in myself."
Rodriguez is 36, but believes he can catch until he's 40. Had the Tigers not picked up his contract option last fall, he believed he would get at least a three-year contract, possibly with the Mets. Now it seems clearer than ever that he'll be headed elsewhere this fall -- if not before then.
If the Tigers fall completely out of the race in the American League Central, it's safe to assume that they would look to trade Rodriguez next month. It's harder to imagine the Tigers trading Rodriguez if they don't fall out of the race, because it would leave them with Inge as their only catcher with significant big-league experience.
The Tigers do need to find out whether Inge can be their everyday catcher next year. He has gone back and forth on his willingness to catch, but recently he has said he wants to do it.