Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski didn’t rule out another trade before Sunday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. But judging from his remarks, if something does happen, it’s likely to be a smaller swap. The roster, for the most part, is set.
“I don’t know if we’ll do anything,” Dombrowski said Saturday afternoon after announcing the trade for Doug Fister and David Pauley.
“I mean, we continue to talk to people, see if there’s ways to make our club better. Again, you never tell what comes out of the blue at this point. Anything can come out of the blue. But our starting pitching, we feel this solidifies our starting rotation. We’re not going to make any moves with our positional players. The way our club settles is the way it is. I guess if there’s one spot that came out of the blue, it might be a bullpen situation, but if we finished here, we’d be happy.”
The Tigers reportedly remain in the mix for Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez, but it’s difficult to see them pulling off a deal unless the Rockies’ asking price drops dramatically. After reports Friday night suggested the Rockies wanted Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer, Dombrowski said Saturday that any trade discussion involving their current starters is and has been a non-starter.
“We have never, ever contemplated trading anybody off our starting staff at this level,” Dombrowski said. “That never has been part of any conversations. Have we been asked for that? Yes. Have we ever contemplated or talked about that? No.
“And when you really stop and think about it, it would make no sense whatsoever, because you’re trying to plug a hole and you just created another hole.”
Conceivably, the Tigers could trade a starter and upgrade to another starter now that Fister is in the fold. But the core group of the Tigers rotation looks very much intact. When Dombrowski talked about his starting staff and where Turner fits in, he talked about them as a long-term group.
Ace Justin Verlander is under contract for three more seasons. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer don’t hit free agency until the same time. With that in mind, part of the appeal for the Tigers with Fister was that they can keep him for four more years after this before he can become a free agent.
“We’re very happy,” Dombrowski said. “All of a sudden, you look forward and we’re in a spot where you have Verlander and Scherzer and Porcello, who we can see now starting to dial it up like he’s capable, and Fister, who’s a very good pitcher. Four young guys, four guys for an extended period, and we still have Jacob Turner behind them.”
– Jason Beck
Forget about Tigers top prospect Jacob Turner going to Colorado. It appears the right-hander is coming to Detroit. But if the Tigers can complete trade talks in the coming hours, it also appears that it won’t be a long stay.
Turner was abruptly scratched from his scheduled start for Double-A Erie last night and left the SeaWolves, who were in Akron for a weekend series. That move, which was confirmed Friday night, prompted speculation he was about to be traded, especially after a Foxsports.com report suggested the Tigers were willing to include him in a trade package for Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez.
Instead, he’s expected to be called up by the Tigers to start Saturday night against the Angels at Comerica Park in what would be his Major League debut. SI.com’s Jon Heyman first reported the call-up.
Now, that start is sounding more like a spot assignment. CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler reports that the Tigers are hopeful of completing a deal today with the Mariners for right-hander Doug Fister. That trade could include Tigers left-handed prospect Charlie Furbush, Knobler reported.
It wouldn’t be the blockbuster some might have hoped the Tigers would do with Jimenez, but it would fill Detroit’s fifth starter void quite nicely without forcing Detroit to sell out its farm system. Though the 27-year-old Fister owns a 3-12 record, his 3.33 ERA ranks 20th among AL starters, ahead of every current Detroit starter not named Justin Verlander. His 1.17 WHIP ratio ranks 15th.
– Jason Beck
One way or another, the Tigers’ month-long search for starting pitching is nearing a resolution. And with Sunday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline looming, they appear to be going through their many options to see where there’s a realistic shot at a deal, including the top option on the market.
The Tigers made contact with the Rockies on Thursday about Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Foxsports.com, to see if there’s a trade scenario that makes sense. But unless Detroit is willing to trade top prospect Jacob Turner, it’s difficult to envision one of those scenarios meeting what Colorado wants. Reports have mentioned Rick Porcello as someone the Rockies could accept instead, but Jimenez in Porcello’s spot doesn’t solve the void at the back end of Detroit’s rotation, where the Tigers haven’t picked up a win since mid-June. Thus, it doesn’t make the Tigers better this year, which is what team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is looking for.
The Turner scenario has been brought up by plenty of other teams over the last year or so, and quickly rejected each time. But the Tigers are in a win-now mode, with Dombrowski, manager Jim Leyland, most of the front office and all of the coaching staff in contract years. If Detroit were to ever part with Turner before he reaches the big leagues, Jimenez — 27 years old, and under contract for three more years — is the type of player that could do it.
If it isn’t, then the Tigers will have find a workable deal out of their other options, which now include Washington’s Jason Marquis. Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda remains a possibility, while others mentioned as targets of interest include Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie, San Diego’s Aaron Harang and Seattle’s Doug Fister, Jason Vargas and Erik Bedard. The Tigers are expected to scout Bedard’s return from the disabled list for the M’s Friday night, but given how their trade for Jarrod Washburn two years ago backfired because of a knee injury they knew about before the deal, it’s difficult to envision the Tigers taking that risk again.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers could allow themselves a sigh of relief on Thursday upon learning that Al Alburquerque’s elbow issues aren’t serious. The diagnosis was mild inflammation, not tendinitis, and nothing structurally wrong. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they could allow themselves to relax about their bullpen situation. Whether it prompts the Tigers to look closer at middle relief options is an intriguing question heading into Sunday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline.
In a year when the Tigers gotten nothing from injured Joel Zumaya and next to nothing from Ryan Perry, Alburquerque and his nearly unhittable slider have been pretty much a godsend. But his elbow has been a cause for concern all summer, and a reason for conservation with his workload. Detroit lost him to the disabled list for two weeks early this month, and the void was big. The fact that Chance Ruffin, just called up from the minors in his first pro season, filled the middle-inning righty relief role without him Thursday demonstrates just how much the Tigers have relied on Alburquerque.
Whether they can stay that way for the final two months is a little bigger question now than it was a week ago. Detroit’s trade priority has always been starting pitching, and if the Tigers make one move this weekend, it’ll be for that. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if they at least look over options for righty middle relief. They were mentioned as a potential destination for Baltimore’s Koji Uehara, according to the Baltimore Sun, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they explored smaller possibilities. They don’t need a closer type, or even a setup man, but they could look for depth.
– Jason Beck
In case there was any question lingering whether the pressure was on Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland to get Detroit its first division title since 1987, team owner Mike Ilitch reiterated his strong desire to win now. He didn’t say he expected a division title, but he wasn’t far off.
“I’d be extremely disappointed if we don’t [win one this year],” Ilitch said in a group interview recorded and posted by WXYT-FM 97.1. “We’ve got a good team.”
Though Ilitch was talking with Detroit media at the press conference for Red Wing Kris Draper’s retirement Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena, Ilitch spent a good amount of time talking about the Tigers. Like most Tigers fans, Ilitch is looking and waiting for his club to add a starting pitcher on the trade market before Sunday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Payroll, Ilitch indicated, will not be an issue.
So far, by every indication, nothing is close. But judging by the owner’s comments, he’s open to plenty of possibilities, maybe even some that cost them coveted prospects.
“We need that No. 5 guy,” Ilitch said. “We’ve got some [pitching] prospects, but when you’re in a tough race like this, it’s hard to throw some of them in there when you’re a game or two this way or that way.”
Asked if he expects to have a deal by Sunday, Ilitch couldn’t say.
“I don’t know,” Ilitch said. “I haven’t been presented with anything. [Dombrowski] hasn’t been able to bring anything to me that he feels makes sense at this point.”
So far, the Tigers have been reluctant to part with top prospects in any trade since the Miguel Cabrera deal four years ago. Whenever the Tigers have been asked about Futures Game participant and potential 2012 starter Jacob Turner over the past year, they’ve indicated no willingness to deal him.
Part of that reflects Ilitch’s desire to build a strong farm system. But with the Tigers fighting to maintain their division lead, Ilitch hinted that waiting for prospects to emerge might have its limits.
“We’ve done a fairly good job,” Ilitch said. “We’ve been competitive. I put a lot of emphasis on the farm system, and you can’t get carried away with the farm system. That Tommy John [surgery] always seems to surface.
“It looks like when you look at the system, geez, we’ve got six [top prospects] here. For sure, two are going to be stars. It just doesn’t work that way in baseball. It’s much different than some of the other sports.”
– Jason Beck
Duane Below arguably deserved a better fate in his second Major League start for the Tigers Monday night, whether it was the low pickoff throw that first baseman Miguel Cabrera dug out but couldn’t ready to fire to second, or the two potential third strikes that were close but weren’t called in the decisive fifth inning.
All in all, it was a better outing than his four runs over 4 2/3 innings. In another situation, he arguably has done enough to deserve another look or two in Detroit’s rotation. But with a pennant race heating up, the July 31 trade deadline approaching and both manager Jim Leyland and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski in the final year of their contracts, it won’t stop the Tigers’ search for a more proven arm for their rotation.
The Tigers continue to scout arms around the league, and most likely will for the next day or two. Once the Tigers return home Thursday, scouts and officials will be comparing notes. Hiroki Kuroda remains the most mentioned name in rumors, but Derek Lowe, Aaron Harang, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister have all been included as well, among others.
Below’s spot in the rotation comes up on Saturday against the Angels, the same team that faced Charlie Furbush in his first Major League start a few weeks ago. Unless a trade comes together in the next couple days, Below is expected to get that start. Will that be Below’s final start, for now at least? Well, there are two ways are looking at it.
The trade deadline is Sunday afternoon, so if the Tigers have another starter — and they’re very much expected to add somebody, whether it’s a bigger name or a smaller one — he’ll be in place for next week. Plus, the Tigers have next Monday off, so they can tinker with their rotation to fit in whoever they get. Sunday, the day of the trade deadline, is Verlander’s spot, so he could come back and pitch the next Friday at Kansas City. With two series against the Indians in a two-week span, where Verlander slots is important.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers made their first deal ahead of the July 31 trade deadline by trading for Wilson Betemit on Wednesday. If team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski can help it, it won’t be their last.
While Dombrowski talked about the Betemit trade as a goal accomplished, he made it clear he still wants to add a starting pitcher.
“Our attention is on pitching,” Dombrowski said before Wednesday’s game. “It hasn’t swayed from that whatsoever. We are still looking for a starting pitcher. Maybe Duane Below will throw a shutout and maybe he’ll be our answer. You can never tell. But we continue to look for a guy to put in our starting rotation.”
Below gave up three runs over five-plus innings in his Major League debut Wednesday night. The Tigers haven’t said anything about another start for him after this one. That could well depend on whether the Tigers can swing a deal in the next few days.
If they don’t, it won’t be for lack of effort. Between rumors reported and scouts sighted, the Tigers have been tied to more potential starting pitchers on the market than can be counted on one hand. They’ve no doubt taken a look at many more.
As of Wednesday, there was no sign anything was close.
“I’ve had numerous conversations already and will continue to have numerous conversations,” Dombrowski said. “That won’t stop.”
He did not want to predict whether one of those will result in a deal.
“I don’t know if anything will happen or not,” Dombrowski said. “We’re trying.”
– Jason Beck
If anything has changed in the Tigers’ recluctance to trade top prospect Jacob Turner, it isn’t showing in their actions. After Detroit moved up Turner two days in the rotation at Double-A Erie to pitch last Friday, the team is now skipping Turner from his next turn. He won’t pitch again until next Monday, six days before the July 31 trading deadline.
“We are monitoring his workload,” Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.
The Tigers have refused to part with their top pick from the 2009 Draft, brushing off several inquiries last offseason. If they’re going to make a run at Rockies top starter Ubaldo Jimenez, however, it might well require them to part with him. Yahoo Sports cited a source saying any trade package would have to include Turner.
Turner pitched in last week’s Futures Game as part of All-Star Week festivities in Phoenix, then the Eastern League All-Star Game three days later, then five innings in a start two days after that. He’s the best of the Tigers’ upper-level pitching prospects, and the one that hasn’t pitched in the Majors yet. Both Andy Oliver and Charlie Furbush started and struggled in Detroit this season.
The Tigers recalled Furbush to their bullpen Tuesday for what is expected to be primarily a long relief role, seemingly ending his starting candidacy for now. Oliver has struggled off and on at Triple-A Toledo since his return, though he reportedly pitched in front of a good number of scouts Sunday night.
It doesn’t look like the Tigers have zeroed in on Jimenez by any stretch. They’ve been scouting him, but their scouts have been spotted at plenty of games in various cities in recent days.
“They’re trying hard on a starting pitcher,” one Major League scout said.
- Jason Beck
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski usually keeps his trade deadline needs close to the vest, and while he hinted last week that starting pitching is the main spot where they could upgrade, he didn’t outright say it at the time.
With reports pointing to Tigers scouts being spotted at various games for starters on the potential trading block, however, Dombrowski admitted Sunday he’s looking for a starting pitcher.
“I don’t feel urgency, but I’d like to do it,” Dombrowski told Foxsports.com. “It’s apparent that [Justin] Verlander’s there, and our other guys haven’t been as consistent. There’s no question we’d like to add somebody to our rotation. We’re looking to do that, and hopefully we’ll do it. But we’ll see.”
Reports have had Tigers scouts in attendance for starts involving Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez and the Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda, and potentially interested in Atlanta’s Derek Lowe depending on how much money Detroit would have to pick up on his contract through next season.
It’s difficult to envision the Tigers acquiring Jimenez without having to give up Jacob Turner in return, which the Tigers have refused to do in any deal for more than a year. He’s the closest the Tigers have to an untouchable player in their system.
A National League scout echoed reports that Kuroda is supposedly high on their list, though there’s no indication Kuroda would waive his no-trade clause to go east.
Any trade would fill a fifth spot that came open when the Tigers pulled the plug on Phil Coke’s starting tenure. Charlie Furbush made two starts the week before the All-Star break, and appears to be the likely choice to return for Wednesday’s start against Oakland. He pitched in relief for the Mud Hens Sunday night after starting on Thursday, and he has been scratched from his scheduled start for Toledo on Tuesday.
But after Dombrowski said last week the ball “is in [Furbush's] court” for the starting job, he’s no longer saying that.
Manager Jim Leyland told reporters Sunday morning that Turner is not a candidate to join the rotation anytime soon, even though he was moved up two days in Double-A Erie’s rotation to coincide with the Tigers’ open spot. Dombrowski called it “unlikely” that Turner would pitch in Detroit this season.
As for the lineup, Dombrowski echoed the same belief he expressed to MLB.com a week ago, that the return of Carlos Guillen at second base and Magglio Ordonez in right field have lessened the urgency for a deal.
“Really, the only spot we have is third base,” Dombrowski told Foxsports.com. “We’ve got a couple guys there. We’ll see how they do. Brandon Inge has not had a good year; I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But we like Brandon Inge. We think he’s a lot better player than he’s been, average-wise.”
The market for potentially available third basemen is thin.
- Jason Beck
Tuesday marked the two-week point in Brad Thomas’ rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. He has six appearances out of the Mud Hens bullpen, including three two-inning stints, and is expected to get his first crack at pitching back-to-back days on Tuesday. Yet there has been no talk about when Thomas might be activated from the disabled list and brought back into a Tigers bullpen that currently has three left-handers.
If you’re wondering at this point whether Thomas is headed back to the Tigers bullpen at all, you wouldn’t be the only one.
Speculation from those watching the Tigers has centered on Detroit potentially trying to find a landing spot for Thomas somewhere else, and easing their sudden lefty logjam. FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi cites a Major League source saying the Tigers “gauging trade interest” in Thomas and willing to move him. Even if they can’t deal him somewhere, they could still end up moving on without him.
It didn’t seem like a strong option when Thomas went on the disabled list a month ago with elbow inflammation, his elbow having locked up when he tried to warm up in the bullpen during a game. But high-strikeout starting prospect Charlie Furbush, who was called up to fill Thomas’ spot, has more than held his own, allowing six runs on 18 hits over 19 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts. He has progressed from long relief and mop-up work to some late-inning lefty specialist situations. Add in veteran David Purcey and curveballer Daniel Schlereth, and the Tigers like their look from the left side right now, and manager Jim Leyland doesn’t want to go back to four lefty relievers.
Thomas got off to a rough start before his DL stint, allowing 11 earned runs on 17 hits over 11 innings. Left-handed hitters went 8-for-20 (.400) with three walks and three doubles against him, compared with 9-for-24 (.375) from right-handed batters. Thomas has said his elbow had been bothering him earlier, so it could have had an impact. By comparison, lefty hitters batted .252 (29-for-115) against Thomas last year, his first full season in the Majors. But he was more long reliever than LOOGY in 2010.
Pitchers can stay on rehab assignments for up to 30 days, so the Tigers conceivably could keep Thomas in Toledo for a couple more weeks and buy time to work out something. But Thomas is out of Minor League options, so they’d have to clear him through waivers and outright him if they wanted to keep him in Toledo beyond that. For now, Thomas was expected to pitch Tuesday for the Hens and be re-evaluated from there.