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Tigers had contract talks on Cespedes

The Tigers indeed had interest in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed Monday, and had contract talks with agent Adam Katz. However, Dombrowski said, they eventually determined they weren’t going to meet their contract demands.

Cespedes agreed to terms Monday with the Oakland A’s on a four-year contract worth $36 million, passing on a reported six-year offer worth the same amount from the Florida Marlins. It ended a courtship that supposedly involved more than a half-dozen teams and made Cespedes baseball’s highest-profile free agent left on the market for the last couple weeks.

The interest was high enough that Dombrowski traveled to the Dominican Republic to personally watch Cespedes work out.

“We liked him,” Dombrowski told MLB.com Monday in a phone interview. “We talked contract with him, but we were not in a position to pay for him the amount they wanted.”

For a good part of the offseason, Cespedes was believed to be the Tigers’ top free-agent target. Dombrowski was one of about a half-dozen top Tigers officials to see Cespedes, either in workouts last November or at international tournaments over the last couple years. Last month, Cespedes listed the Tigers among a half-dozen teams showing the most interest in him.

The fact that the Tigers kept their comments limited on Cespedes, and the fact that Detroit didn’t get heavily involved on high-profile free agents early in the offseason, added to the intrigue.

That level of interest didn’t change after the Tigers signed Prince Fielder last month, Dombrowski said. However, he cautioned, they determined pretty soon where their talks were heading, despite reports labeling them among the favorites.

“I really wouldn’t have ruled us as a favorite to sign him, based upon where some of our preliminary conversations went with his agent,” Dombrowski said.

Those early talks apparently showed where Cespedes wanted to go — not just in terms of annual salary, but the length of contract. Dombrowski confirmed that a four-year deal was a big point, since it would allow him to hit the free-agent market sooner rather than later.

“That was pretty much always something that they outlined,” Dombrowski said. “If you were going to sign him, you would have to agree to that.”

With Cespedes off the market, the Tigers are now set with their position roster. Dombrowski said they were likely set before Cespedes signed, believing they weren’t likely to add him.

Katz told MLB Network Radio on Monday afternoon that the Marlins were the only team that met Cespedes in person during his visit to Miami last week.

– Jason Beck

Dombrowski: Fielder “probably not a good fit”

Credit Angela Wittrock of MLive.com for getting Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski to mention Prince Fielder by name during the Tigers’ winter caravan stop Thursday afternoon at the Michigan state capitol in Lansing. He normally doesn’t do that with free agents.

Dombrowski’s answer on the subject went about as expected.

“Of course we’d consider Prince Fielder,” Dombrowski is quoted as saying. “But realistically, it’s probably not a good fit.”

Agent Scott Boras, Dombrowski reportedly said, probably wouldn’t agree to a one-year contract, and that’s the kind of deal the Tigers are seeking to replace Victor Martinez, who suffered what is expected to be a season-ending knee injury last week.

“We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season,” Dombrowski said.

As witnessed from the Johnny Damon saga two years ago, Boras has a talent for negotiating directly with owners. But given that experience, it’s hard to imagine Dombrowski making his remarks without feeling highly confident that’s not going to change.

“I would just say the fit is really not there at this point,” Dombrowski said.

Realistically, if Fielder can get a long-term deal somewhere else, it’s hard to envision him passing it up. And if Boras can take the Tigers’ desire for a one-year fix and tie it to another of his many free-agent hitters, Boras could be in better shape.

– Jason Beck

Zumaya agrees to deal with Twins

Joel Zumaya’s comeback isn’t going to happen in Detroit, but he’s going to a very familiar place. The hard-throwing, injury-riddled reliever has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins, Zumaya told MLB.com.

The deal reached Saturday gives Zumaya the roster spot he wanted going into Spring Training with a bullpen that could use his services. He could make anywhere from $800,000 to $1.7 million depending on appearance-based incentives. The Twins can part ways out of camp and owe Zumaya about half his full salary.

A Twins official would neither confirm nor deny the deal to MLB.com, but said they’ve been in negotiations since December.

Zumaya had what he called “good offers” from three other clubs, but the Twins included guaranteed money rather than a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite. If he’s healthy, they’ll bring him to the same mound at Target Field where he last threw a Major League pitch. He fractured his elbow throwing for the Tigers against the Twins on June 28, 2010.

As it turns out, that was his last appearance as a Tiger. Though the Tigers had an offer out to him for a minor-league contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, they made it clear they weren’t going to guarantee him a spot. Zumaya told MLB.com in November he was most likely moving on, and in the end, the Tigers were not on his short list.

Zumaya joins a Twins bullpen in transition. having lost closer Joe Nathan to the Rangers earlier in the offseason. Minnesota re-signed Matt Capps at closer and returns Glen Perkins coming off an impressive season of middle and late-inning work, but while Perkins blossomed into a high-strikeout lefty last year, the Twins haven’t had a truly overpowering reliever in a while.

If Zumaya’s healthy, he has that potential. Though he hasn’t topped 32 games or 40 innings in a season since his impressive rookie season of 2006, he has been an effective reliever when he hasn’t been hurt. He was showing flashes of his old form in 2010 before he was hurt, striking out 34 batters over 38 1/3 innings while allowing 32 hits and posting a 2.58 ERA.

Zumaya underwent surgery after that July injury to repair a fractured bone at the tip of his elbow, a procedure that included inserting a screw to hold the elbow together. He had to undergo a follow-up surgery to replace the screw after complaining of elbow pain last Spring Training.

The surgery cost Zumaya the entire 2011 season. He threw for interested teams last month and reportedly hit the mid-90s on the radar gun. Since then, Zumaya and his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, have been negotiating with clubs, trying to land him a Major League contract in a situation where he could fit into a good bullpen role.

– Jason Beck

Nothing going on with Tigers on Garza

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News “nothing has changed” in regards to his remarks from last week on the Tigers’ approach to starting pitching and their prospects, despite recent rumors. Another source told MLB.com Tuesday that there’s nothing going on with the Tigers in regards to Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.

MLB Network and MLB.com’s Peter Gammons had similar sentiments Tuesday night on Hot Stove.

“I’m told it’s not going to happen,” Gammons said of a potential Garza deal to Detroit. “I mean, the Cubs are interested in talking with the Tigers. I’m told the Tigers have said, ‘We’re not going to do it.'”

Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now a host on MLB Network Radio, suggested on ESPN.com that the Tigers could get a deal done for Garza if they included top positional prospect Nick Castellanos with Turner, their top pitching prospect. The Tigers were not willing to include them both in a package to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez, on whom they had serious discussions and seemingly valued more.

“Now, they won’t even do Turner for Garza,” Gammons continued. “In fact, the Tigers staff is saying to the front office, you know what, we can open the season with Turner as the fifth starter and see what happens.”

Gonzalez, whom Oakland traded to Washington last month, is four years away from free agency, as well as left-handed. Garza, a right-hander, has just two years left before he can hit the open market. Detroit’s rotation currently has four right-handers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Jason Beck

Dombrowski: Tigers aren’t in trade talks on starters

Though the Tigers have been linked in rumors with talks on Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Detroit has no trade talks ongoing on any starting pitchers.

And while Dombrowski won’t call any of his top prospects untouchable, a term he rarely uses on anybody, he made it clear they aren’t looking to deal Jacob Turner. That doesn’t mean Turner isn’t available for the right deal, but it indicates they aren’t going out and shopping him for a veteran starter.

At this point, Dombrowski said, the Tigers haven’t reversed course on their plans to go after a fifth starter to compete with prospects such as Turner, Drew Smyly and Andy Oliver.

“Our plan hasn’t changed,” Dombrowski said. “We’re in a situation where we really have been consistent all along. We like our young guys. We feel that one of them will step up and be our fifth starter. Somehow [our approach] has been mistaken.”

Dombrowski said the Tigers have not called about any starting pitchers on the trade market. Any conversations on veterans starters, he said, have been initiated by other club.

“We are not looking,” he said. “There are some guys that are out there and are very good and clubs haved called us about them. But we have four veteran starters, and sometimes you have to break in young pitching.”

They’ll still listen, he said, but they’re not looking. And the inquiries that have been made, he said, haven’t gone far.

“Probably the only guy we had serious conversations on was Gio Gonzalez,” he said, “and we just weren’t prepared to pay the price. Other than that, we really haven’t talked about a starting pitcher.”

Dombrowski also said Al Alburquerque’s recent elbow surgery won’t put them in the market for another reliever. They signed Octavio Dotel knowing that Alburquerque was dealing with off and on injuries. Dombrowski didn’t rule out re-signing Joel Zumaya if he accepts a minor-league contract, but that nothing has changed on that front either.

– Jason Beck

Tigers trade Perry to Nationals for Balester

Hours after the Tigers’ signing of Octavio Dotel left Ryan Perry as a man without a role, he became a former Tiger. Detroit sent the former first-round pick to the Nationals Friday night in exchange for Collin Balester.

“Acquiring Collin Balester from the Nationals today adds another good arm to our organization,” team president/general manager Dombrowski said in a statement. “He has shown the ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen in the past, a role we are looking for him to fill for our club in 2012.”

Perry was the centerpiece of a reliever-heavy Tigers draft in 2008, a hard-throwing right-hander who was the setup man of the future, if not a potential closer. But after he made the team out of camp the next spring, he never really found the consistency to hold down a role.

Dotel’s signing took away any chance Perry had for the seventh-inning role. He has down the long relief role before, but if the Tigers were going to sign a swing starter anyway who would fill that job, Perry was a man without a job.

Perry went 2-0 with a 5.35 ERA for Detroit this past season, allowing 39 hits over 37 innings with 21 walks and 24 strikeouts. His career stats in three seasons as a Tiger included a 5-6 record, 4.07 ERA, 82 walks and 129 strikeouts over 161 1/3 innings.

Balester went 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA for the Nationals this past season, striking out 34 batters over 35 2/3 innings. He went 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA at Triple-A Syracuse, with 46 strikeouts over 39 1/3 innings.

Perry was one minor league option remaining, so the Nationals don’t necessarily have to keep him on the big league roster out of camp. Balester is out of options.

– Jason Beck

Dotel agrees to terms on one-year deal with Tigers

The Tigers found the man they wanted to shore up the middle of their bullpen, and Octavio Dotel found another new home. Detroit reached an agreement with the veteran reliever Thursday morning on a one-year contract with an option for 2013.

The deal is pending a physical, according to two baseball sources. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski declined to comment Thursday morning on Dotel, other than to confirm the Tigers have interest. Dombrowski added that no announcement on any deals will likely happen Thursday, since team officials are flying home.

Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, who first reported the two sides were closing in on a deal Wednesday night, reported the contract is worth $3 million.

The 38-year-old Dotel will be playing for his 13th Major League team, and his third in the American League Central, but he has been a Tigers target on several occasions over the last five years. He’ll finally get his shot in a seventh-inning role to bridge the gap between Detroit’s starting rotation and the late-inning duo of setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.

Tigers, Dotel close to finalizing one-year deal

The Tigers found the man they wanted to shore up the middle of their bullpen, and Octavio Dotel found another new home. They found a match Wednesday evening, and the two sides spent Wednesday evening putting together a one-year contract.

The deal was not finalized as of late Wednesday evening, but a baseball source characterized it as close. It’s expected to include an option for the 2013 season, a compromise between the multi-year contract Dotel was seeking and the one-year deal the Tigers preferred.

The Tigers have a policy of not confirming contracts until a physical has been completed. That likely won’t happen until after the Winter Meetings have concluded at the Hilton Anatole hotel.

The 38-year-old Dotel will be playing for his 13th Major League team, and his third in the American League Central, but he has been a Tigers target on several occasions over the last five years. He’ll finally get his shot in a seventh-inning role to bridge the gap between Detroit’s starting rotation and the late-inning duo of setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.

Dotel’s pursuit was down to two teams by Wednesday evening, pitting the Tigers against the Cardinals. Dotel won a World Series this fall in St. Louis, and by all accounts felt a strong pull to go back. However, the chance to win in Detroit and the strong Latin presence on the team helped draw Dotel to the Tigers after they began courting him a couple weeks ago.

– Jason Beck

Tigers closing in on reliever, looking like Dotel

The Tigers are closing in on filling their need for a reliever to handle the seventh inning, and it’s looking more like Octavio Dotel is the answer.

Without naming names, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated they’re zeroing in on their guy.

“We’re making some strides,” said Dombrowski, who had talks ongoing late Wednesday afternoon just before his regularly scheduled daily meeting with reporters.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers were one of two teams primarily involved in negotiations on Dotel, according to a source. Detroit has other options, including Luis Ayala, but Dombrowski indicated they’re zeroing in on a somebody, and that adding that arm has become a priority.

“If there’s one area, after we signed [Gerald] Laird, after we signed [Ramon] Santiago back, if there’s one area that probably received a little more focus than us than others, it’s been trying to tweak that bullpen,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve been looking at a lot of different [bullpen] options, but we do have priority/priorities at this point.”

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com tweeted that the Tigers are the front-runners for Dotel, with a National League club also involved. The Cardinals, where Dotel won a World Series ring a couple months ago, and Brewers have also been linked to Dotel in recent days.

Dotel is believed to be seeking a two-year contract. Dombrowski said Wednesday he would “prefer not to” offer a multi-year deal to a reliever at this point.

“The preference would be short-term,” Dombrowski said, though he said that sentiment isn’t as strong as it would be for any starting pitcher they might sign for the fifth spot.

– Jason Beck

Tigers inquire on Gio Gonzalez

The Tigers are among the teams interested in A’s left-hander Gio Gonzalez should Oakland GM Billy Beane decide to deal him, but any chance of a big push appears to be dim at this point.

The Tigers inquired on Gonzalez here at the Winter Meetings as an idea to see if they could do something bigger than expected for a good price. The asking price in return, however, apparently cooled that interest. While top pitching prospect Jacob Turner could be expendable in a package for Gonzalez, who has four years left before free agency, other potential pieces in a package beyond that appear to be a problem.

The Tigers are open to improving, but they’re not going to do it while taking away from the core of the team that won the AL Central and made it to within two games of the World Series. Unless the asking price comes down, it doesn’t appear to be a good fit, and with so many additional teams reported to be interested, a discount doesn’t look likely.

– Jason Beck

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