Free Agent Stock Watch: Brandon Inge

Last year, Brandon Inge posted a .314 OBP and a .406 slugging percentage with a +7 UZR/150 on defense. This year, he has a .316 OBP and a .403 slugging percentage with a +6 UZR/150 on defense. His production is as consistent as can be, but his free agent stock is not quite the same as it was pre-season.

Back in March, Inge appeared to be on track for a modest one-year deal. At that point, he was just one year removed from 2008, when he caught 60 games and played center field 13 times. Now, the 33-year-old is exclusively a third baseman, so it would be hard to leverage his versatility into a favorable contract.

Inge is not exactly the same hitter he was in 2009, despite his nearly-identical slash line. He hit 27 homers a year ago, but his power has come in the form of doubles so far in 2010, possibly because he's hitting more line drives. Inge still strikes out a lot, but he now fans 23% of the time (down from 30% last year).

A few months ago, it looked like Garrett Atkins, Miguel Tejada, Pedro Feliz, Jorge Cantu and Adrian Beltre would be competing for jobs alongside Inge. Beltre has distinguished himself from that group of free agents-to-be with exceptional play on offense (.898 OPS) and defense (+18.5 UZR/150) and it now appears that Atkins and Feliz will be non-factors this winter. Cantu and Tejada are still comparable to Inge and could be competing for openings in Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Miami and Detroit after the season. 

Inge will no longer be able to distinguish himself from the likes of Tejada and Cantu with his versatility, but he remains a capable hitter and an above-average defender. Those skills should enable him to land a guaranteed deal in the $4-6MM range.

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