A source familiar with the negotiations confirmed the deal for Inge, first reported Friday by the Detroit Free Press. The converted catcher, who will turn 30 years old next May, was eligible for arbitration this winter and could've filed for free agency after next season.
Inge set career highs this past season with 27 home runs, 83 runs scored and 83 RBIs this past season while batting .253 with a .776 OPS.
Though Inge committed 24 errors in 2006, lower than only Alex Rodriguez among American League third basemen, his athleticism and range has earned him regard as one of the league's better third basemen along with Oakland's Eric Chavez and Chicago's Joe Crede. His 555 total chances were 81 more than any other Major League third baseman, while other measurements of his activity -- 398 assists, 3.45 range factor (putouts plus assists per nine innings) and .825 zone rating -- were also big-league bests for the hot corner. He has become an important defensive cog for a pitching staff that boasts three left-handed starting pitchers with a talent for inducing ground balls.
Manager Jim Leyland said during the season that he believes Inge has the potential to become one of the league's best two-way players. His new deal ensures that it would happen in Detroit. The contract will pay Inge $4.9 million next year, then rise to salaries of over $6 million in each of the following three seasons.
Inge is the first step the Tigers have taken to lock up their emerging young players before they can test the open market. A baseball source said the Tigers are in discussions with Jeremy Bonderman about a long-term contract for the emerging right-hander, another arbitration-eligible player who could otherwise declare for free agency after the 2008 season. They're expected to pursue some sort of extension this winter for shortstop Carlos Guillen, eligible for free agency next offseason.
Kenny Rogers' contract also expires after next season, as does the recently-signed one-year deal for Sean Casey. Ivan Rodriguez enters the final guaranteed year of his four-year contract this coming season, but the Tigers hold a $13 million option for 2008.
Other potential free agents after 2008 include Mike Maroth and Craig Monroe. Bonderman, Monroe, Nate Robertson, Fernando Rodney and Omar Infante are all eligible for arbitration this winter.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.