Former Tigers reliever turned free agent Joel Zumaya, who has battled injuries ever since his standout rookie season in 2006, will throw for teams in mid-December in a public workout as he tries to prove he’s ready to compete for a job in Spring Training.
Zumaya will throw a 30-pitch mound session on or around Dec. 14 in Houston, home base of his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks. At least 10 teams have shown interest in taking a look, Zumaya told MLB.com in a phone interview Wednesday night. That supposedly includes the Red Sox, who expressed interest soon after Zumaya became a free agent at season’s end.
Zumaya has a standing offer from the Tigers for a minor-league contract with a non-roster invite to Spring Training. He could get the same from other teams, which would leave him trying to measure the best oppportunity, or he could get an incentive-laden Major League deal from a team willing to take a shot. Zumaya could be an intriguing option for teams looking for a low-risk, high-reward signing for a non-closing reliever.
When Zumaya is healthy, he’s an effective pitcher with a upper-90s to 100 mph fastball. However, he hasn’t pitched more than 31 games in a season since his standout rookie season in 2006. His last Major League pitch came at the end of June 2010, when he fractured his elbow throwing a pitch in a game at Minnesota. He missed all of 2011 after doctors had to repeat a procedure to insert a screw in his elbow to stabilize the joint.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers have been among the many teams scouting Cuban five-tool outfielder and recent YouTube sensation Yoenis Cespedes, and they haven’t made a secret that they’ve watched him. Now, even team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is apparently going to get a first-hand look at the man who appears set to surpass Aroldis Chapman as the most hotly-pursued Cuban talent.
An industry source confirmed Dombrowski will watch Cespedes work out in the Dominican Republic, which has been Cespedes’ home since defecting from Cuba earlier this year. Credit Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com with the first report on Dombrowski, who was out of pocket on Wednesday when the Tigers announced their two-year contract to bring back free agent infielder Ramon Santiago.
Tigers interest in a Cuban prospect is not unusual. They scouted Chapman a couple years ago and were interested before the bidding escalated. But Dombrowski’s trip to watch him is rare. Usually, international operations director Tom Moore handles those duties, with vice president Al Avila and special assistant Dick Egan making scouting trips to Latin America. Avila told the Detroit Free Press two weeks ago that they’ve scouted Cespedes several times. Special assistant David Chadd watched a Cespedes workout earlier this month, according to the Detroit News.
That level of observation suggests the Tigers are serious in their interest. With the level of bidding expected, it makes sense for the man in charge to want a look. Cespedes has been working out for teams since the start of November.
– Jason Beck
Ramon Santiago tested the market for a long-term deal and a potential starting role, but in the end, he always had an interest in returning to Detroit. So did the Tigers have interest in bringing him back, though not quite in the everyday role he might have wanted. There was enough in common for a deal, and that got done on Wednesday with a new two-year contract.
This doesn’t end the Tigers’ search for infield help. Both manager Jim Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conditioned their statements with the possibility of more moves to come. Right now, though, it looks like Santiago would get at least a timeshare at second base, as well as starts backing up Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.
“Santiago and Ryan Raburn will be playing second base as the club stands today,” Leyland said. “He will probably [also] get time at short.”
Dombrowski’s answer was much the same.
“We are set to open with Santiago and Raburn,” Dombrowski said. “However, we will see what happens.”
The Tigers have been in contact with the agent for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, a source confirmed to MLB.com Sunday night. At this point, though, there are no negotiations going on to bring the former Cubs slugger to Detroit.
SI.com senior writer Jon Heyman first reported the Tigers’ inquiry, which took place earlier this month. The two sides supposedly haven’t talked since, but that isn’t unusual given the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether talks progress into serious discussions remains to be seen. Free-agent negotiations and trade talks traditionally pick up in the days leading into baseball’s Winter Meetings, and that’s expected to be the case here, too, at least to see if there’s a fit.
For the Tigers, who have been looking for at least one more piece to their offense, it’s an interesting fit. The Tigers’ biggest need has supposedly been for a hitter to place near the top of the order, in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Delmon Young. Ramirez is a classic middle-of-the-order power hitter, with six 100-RBI seasons to his credit. After two injury-shortened seasons, he rebounded for 93 RBIs to go with a .306 average and 26 home runs in 149 games this year.
The Tigers return Brandon Inge for 2012, the back half of the two-year contract he signed last fall, and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has mentioned Inge in a possible platoon with superutilityman Don Kelly. All the while, though, the Tigers have remained open to an offensive upgrade.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers’ search for a catcher to back up All-Star Alex Avila is apparently leading them back to the catcher who mentored Avila when he first reached the big leagues.
When Gerald Laird and the Tigers parted ways a year ago, Laird was looking for playing time. He ended up as a little-used backup to Yadier Molina in St. Louis this year, but now appears headed back to Detroit. Foxsports.com reports that Laird is close to a deal that would reunite him with the Tigers.
Laird fits the profile of what the Tigers are looking for in a backup. He’s a right-handed hitter with a good amount of experience, good defense and calls a good game. He brings the added bonus of experience working with Tigers pitchers, including Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello for two years.
Laird was the Tigers’ primary catcher in 2009, having been acquired from Texas in a trade for prospects that included Guillermo Moscoso. He batted .225 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 135 games that year for a team that came within a tiebreaker of the AL Central title and had Avila as a late-season call-up. Laird and Avila split time catching in 2010, but Avila got the bulk of the starts down the stretch.
A reunion at this point makes sense. The Tigers went through last year with Victor Martinez backing up Avila, but now don’t want the wear and tear on their designated hitter as he approaches his 33rd birthday next month. Laird hit the market looking for playing time last year, but is now at the stage of his career where he’ll find better opportunities as a No. 2.
– Jason Beck
Credit MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden for his interview Friday afternoon with Dave Dombrowski, who reiterated his stance that aren’t going to be getting into a bidding frenzy on Jose Reyes, or Jimmy Rollins, or Aramis Ramirez. The Ramirez remark was new compared to Dombrowski’s remarks last week, since Ramirez is a third baseman rather than a shortstop.
Bowden asked Dombrowski if there’s “any chance that you guys could play on a Reyes or Rollins … or any chance you would have interest in Aramis Ramirez, that kind of player?”
“Well, I kind of doubt it, would be my answer to that. I wouldn’t discount anything. I think our approach this wintertime is, we’re going to look to get better probably in smaller increments, but you never can tell what takes place in the wintertime. If something falls in your lap, and if it’s something — we have a tremendous owner in Mike Ilitch, he’s very aggressive — and if something falls in your lap … but I can’t see us being the leader in the front in those things. Because in our situation here, and we have a very hefty payroll, but we’re in a spot where you’re talking about having a Verlander and a Cabrera. You’ve got two $20 million guys, and in our market, you can only have so many of those type of guys. So I would doubt it, but again, you never know where dollars end up and what may fall through as the winter goes on.”
Read into the remarks, and the scenario kind of sounds like what Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez faced when they signed with Detroit years ago, where the Tigers were the last players on the market and not in a bidding competition. Reyes already sounds like he’s going to have no shortage of interest. Rollins has the option of going back to Philadelphia. With more demand than supply at third base, it’ll be interesting to see how the market develops on the 33-year-old Ramirez.
Dombrowski also said emphatically that they’ll offer Delmon Young a contract. he left a slight opening, but not nearly as big as it seemed a week ago.
“I mean, we’re not going to non-tender Delmon Young. I mean, that’s just not going to happen,” he said. “But now, when I say that, you always put one-thousandth of a percent [open], if something falls on your lap, that you don’t anticipate. But we like Delmon Young. Delmon Young did a fine job for us, and he’s in a situation this year that he’s going into the last year of his contract, as we’re all aware, his free agency year.
“He did not play as well with Minnesota early. He had some injuries coming back from the offseason. He got a little bit bigger, and I think he got bigger from all conversations, in his own mind thinking he needed to add more power. Well, to me, Delmon doesn’t need to add more power. This guy’s got tremendous power all over the ballpark. He’s a guy that’s going to hit 20, 25, 30 home runs and knock in 100 for us. And so, we’re not going to non-tender Delmon. It would just be a situation where something just completely out of the blue took place. He’s our left fielder and look for his bat in the lineup on a daily basis.”
– Jason Beck
If Magglio Ordonez has his way, his last memory on a baseball field won’t be of him trying to hobble around with a re-fractured ankle. The All-Star outfielder and former batting champion is set to start rehab shortly with the goal of playing next season, his good friend and longtime teammate Carlos Guillen said.
That fits in with other reports from the past few weeks suggesting Ordonez would go through the rehab process and try to play. Ordonez himself hasn’t been quoted since the Tigers season ended in the ALCS.
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week that Ordonez underwent surgery to repair his fractured right ankle. Guillen said in a phone interview Saturday that Ordonez is going to start the rehab process shortly, again working out in south Florida.
“He’s doing better,” Guillen said.
So, too, is Guillen, who says this will be his first offseason with his full health in a few years. Like Ordonez, Guillen is a free agent, and he plans on playing.
“Why not? If you feel you can play, why not,” he asked.
Neither of them will be playing with theTigers, barring a reversal of plans. Dombrowski said last week that he told Ordonez and Guillen in the season’s final weeks that Detroit had no plans to re-sign them once they hit the free-agent market at season’s end. Ordonez, who turns 38 years old in January, has been a Tiger since 2005. The 36-year-old Guillen has been a Tiger since 2004, when he was one of the first moves in the Tigers’ rebuilding plan.
“It’s baseball,” Guillen said. “You know where you start. You never know where you finish. I understand.”
– Jason Beck
With a few hours left before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Tigers are still looking for one more deal that would help their bullpen with a right-handed reliever. Though they already added a righty with David Pauley as part of the Doug Fister trade, they could use another to help take some workload off of Al Alburquerque, who hasn’t pitched since last Sunday due to inflammation around the ulnar nerve in his right elbow.
Alburquerque played catch Saturday and felt improvement, giving Tigers officials optimism that he can avoid a DL stint. Still, given the off and on elbow issues he has experienced this summer, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest they’re going to have to keep an eye on him.
Foxsports.com reported the Tigers have been in touch with the Padres, who have Chad Qualls, and have shown interest in Rays righty Joel Peralta and Baltimore’s Jim Johnson.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave no indication the Tigers were done dealing when he talked with reporters Sunday morning.
“Would I be shocked [by another deal]? No,” Leyland said. “I really can’t say that I’d be expecting another move, but I wouldn’t be shocked.”
– Jason Beck
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