LAKELAND, Fla. — The Tigers released designated hitter Gary Sheffield this morning, a startling development since the team had already guaranteed him $14 million this season. It's the second-highest amount owed to a released player in club history, behind Damion Easley's $14.3 million in 2003.
“It’s one of those things where you move on, you know?” Sheffield said, remaining remarkably composed as he discussed the move. “I was surprised. I thought I was getting ready for the season. I never thought that I wasn’t going to be playing with the Detroit Tigers this year. It’s probably a blessing.”
Dombrowski confirmed that the decision means outfielder Marcus Thames will make the team. Thames will likely get a percentage of at-bats as the DH. Manager Jim Leyland can also use Magglio Ordoñez, Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera at DH, which would allow him to have better defensive teams on certain days.
The Tigers clearly released the struggling Sheffield, who hit .176 in Spring, to better modularize their roster and to fit their overall goal to get younger. Young hitter Jeff Larish is a likely replacement on the 25 man for Sheffield.
Gary Sheffield’s famous quote from 2007 on a perceived MLB preference of Black Latinos over Black Americans:
“What I said is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out. ... (It’s about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do — being able to control them. Where I’m from, you can’t control us. They have more to lose than we do. You can send them back across the island. You can’t send us back. We’re already here.”
This, rather than his 499 career home runs, could likely be his longest lasting legacy.
Sheffield’s career is likely over, whether he wants it to be or not. Sheffield wants to try and catch on with Tampa Bay’s Rays, which play near his home in Florida, but given they signed Pat Burrell to DH and the rest of their lineup is essentially set, with boatloads of talent waiting in the minors… I’m not sure he’ll find a market for his services near home. Given he flatlined in Spring Training this year and hit 225/326/400 as the full time DH in Detroit last season… I don’t see a market for Sheffield’s services emerging at all.