Rumors are swirling around town concerning the fate of Detroit Tigers designated hitter, Gary Sheffield.
At the All-Star break, Sheffield, 39, is batting a mere .217 with five home runs and 18 RBI — hardly the offensive production necessary to contribute anything meaningful to a team vying for the post season. He’s had a few shining moments lately, but overall, his at-bats have been painful — and disappointing — to watch.
Sheff is at an age where injuries are hard to overcome. What may be a nagging pain to a younger player can seem crippling to a veteran nearing 40. It appears as though he’s lost a little bat speed since his shoulder surgery. The question is whether or not this is a permanent condition or one he can overcome in time.
What makes the release of Sheffield seem viable is the outstanding performances of rookie players like Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas. Throw in Marcus Thames’ incredible season and it’s not hard to argue that it has reached the point where a .217 hitter is taking up valuable real estate in a lineup that can’t afford dead weight.
Sheffield’s saving grace may prove to be the remainder of his $14 million a year contract that runs through the 2009 season. If Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski decides to trade Sheffield, he’ll have to eat a significant portion of his salary in order to do so. Another problem is that Sheff is most likely trade bait for American League teams only since most teams would want to use him as a DH. Peddling him under these conditions may prove too difficult, if not impossible.