Tigers still looking at starters, scouting Haren

The Tigers crawled out of their seven-game losing streak the last couple days with help from their two front-line starting pitchers. They would very much love to get another solid start from Rick Porcello Friday night. If they can get another solid starter, apparently, all the better.

That interest doesn’t seem to be going away as the starting rotation stabilizes. But what cost would they pay?

While the Tigers continue to scout the Diamondbacks, including Dan Haren’s most recent outing Wednesday night, they’re reportedly among at least five teams with interest in the Arizona ace. FOXSports.com reports a handful of teams in the running, including the Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins, and though no deal is apparently close with any of them, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports that Arizona has progressed to exchanging names with clubs on who they’d want and who interested teams would be willing to give up.

While bullpen help remains the top priority for Detroit with Joel Zumaya out for the season, the Tigers have an eye on the starting market. Indications suggest some genuine interest in Haren, despite a contract that runs through at least 2012 at $29 million, including a $3.5 million buyout. A club option for 2013 would run $15.5 million.

Olney characterizes the Tigers’ interest as “serious.” All interest, though, has a price, and it’s unclear how far the Tigers would go with theirs.

Despite injuries, including elbow trouble that has sidelined Casey Crosby for the season, the Tigers still have depth in pitching prospects who have been advanced aggressively. Former first-round pick Jacob Turner is finding his way at Class A Lakeland at age 19, and left-hander Charlie Furbush has seemingly come out of anonymity to led all of professional baseball in strikeouts. Detroit called him up to Triple-A Toledo this week after just a handful of starts at Double-A Erie.

When the Tigers acquired Max Scherzer from Arizona last winter and re-signed Justin Verlander late in the offseason, they touted the idea of a three-man rotation core with Verlander, Scherzer and Porcello under team control through at least 2014, around which prospects could develop. Though Scherzer and Porcello were both optioned to Triple-A Toledo to work out issues at different points this season, that hasn’t dampened the potential.

If the Tigers wanted to change course a little, though, they have the financial flexibility for it thanks to a slew of expiring contracts, including ex-Tigers Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis, plus current Detroiters Jeremy Bonderman, Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird and Johnny Damon. Those salaries add up to more than $50 million this season, though some of that will go to a $6 million raise for Verlander, a $2 million bump for Jose Valverde, plus replacements at those various positions.

The Tigers could go in a shorter-term direction and still add a starter. They’ve been linked in reports to interest in Ted Lilly and Ben Sheets, both of whom are up for free agency this winter, and a short-term option has obvious appeal to them given the finances.

— Jason Beck

1 Comment

I don’t want the Tigers to give up their young talent. But I hope they can swing a deal that will help their pitching staff. I don’t think they can make the playoffs if they don’t. I hope they keep Damon for a few years. He plays with class, and he’s a proven winner. And he’s a great leader and example to the younger players. The Tigers would not be where they are now if it wasn’t for him.

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