Results tagged ‘ Detroit Tigers ’
The Tigers have found their answer in left field, and it’s not the much-rumored, oft-speculated pursuit of Shin-Soo Choo. Instead, they’re prepared to go with a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis.
The Tigers spent Tuesday working to complete an agreement with Davis on what is expected to be a two-year contract, according to sources. The team has not confirmed the agreement, as is their policy when a contract is pending a physical. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, who first reported an agreement, said the contract will be worth $10 million.
It’s a role signing for a team that was looking to upgrade its offense and saw left field as the one place it could do so. It’ll happen situationally, plugging in the speedy Davis as the right-handed hitting half of a platoon with Dirks, as well as a basestealing option in the late innings of games he doesn’t start. His .294 career average and .354 on-base percentage against lefties, including .319 and .383 last season in a part-time role with the Blue Jays, fits what the Tigers were seeking, though the production often came in streaks.
By contrast, Davis is a .255 career hitter against right-handers, including just .228 (49-for-215) with 48 strikeouts this past season.
At the same time, it’s a philosophical shift for a team that has been short on speed and wary of speedsters in their thirties. Detroit has been neither a basestealing team nor a manufactured offense type of club for several seasons, increasingly focusing their baserunning efforts on hit-and-run and first-to-third plays. The Tigers wouldn’t be signing the 33-year-old Davis for multiple seasons if they didn’t plan to use his greatest asset.
Despite just 108 games and 360 plate appearances, Davis stole 45 bases in 51 attempts in 2013, and he has racked up at least 40 steals in four of the last five seasons. Meanwhile, the Tigers stole 35 bases as a team last season, led by Austin Jackson’s eight.
The deal rules out the Tigers on Choo, if they were ever in it. Though his combination of speed, on-base percentage and arm presented potentially an ideal fit for Detroit, he’s also an ideal fit for a lot of teams. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Robinson Cano off the market, moreover, Choo stands as the top position player left, making him a hot commodity.
— Jason Beck
The last question for the Tigers at Monday’s nontender deadline has been answered. Utilityman Don Kelly agreed to terms on a one-year, $1 million contract, thus taking him off the potential nontender list.
Kelly confirmed the deal in a text to inquiring reporters. The Tigers announced the deal shortly thereafter.
The $1 million salary represents the first seven-figure deal for Kelly. He made $900,000 in each of the past two seasons, including this past season on what was initially a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invite he signed just before camp. He essentially had to win his roster spot back after being taken off the 40-man roster.
As the Tigers headed towards Monday’s deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration eligible players, the question was whether they’d try to do the same thing this winter. The team traditionally waits until January to wrap up deals with arbitration-eligible players, but their one-year deal with Phil Coke a week and a half ago noted a change in approach. With some players, they wanted a deal in place before approaching the offseason. Kelly fell in that category, though his salary is by far the smallest of the eight arbitration-eligible Tigers.
Kelly’s versatility is well-known, and he currently stands as a left-handed hitter on the bench of a team that has a righty-heavy lineup at the moment in the wake of the Prince Fielder trade. The one factor that could change his role is the positional shuffle around the Tigers infield and outfield, notably if fellow left-handed hitter Andy Dirks becomes the primary reserve outfielder.
The roster picture, especially in left field and third base, remains a big question, but the Tigers can keep Kelly on the roster and then take a wait-and-see approach in Spring Training. If Detroit decides he’s no longer a fit, he can be released by March 15 or thereabouts for one-sixth of his salary, or just under $167,000. If the Tigers release him at the end of camp, they would owe him $250,000. Detroit took a similar approach with Brennan Boesch a year ago.
— Jason Beck
The good news for the Tigers is that Joe Nathan is going on national radio professing his love for them. The bad news is that it doesn’t sound like he’s signing a contract anywhere quite yet, or at least for a little while until the Yankees and perhaps some other teams begin making moves.
From the conversation he had with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on Monday, it sounded very much like a waiting game.
“Right now,” he said, “it’s just waiting to see how what options are going to be out there, what teams are really going to be interested and then take those phone calls and try to make the best decision we can as far as what location we’re looking for and what team we feel can be a good fit and most importantly what team can have the best chance we feel to go into a postseason.”
As he talked, he pointed out a mutual benefit to that approach.
“I think the fortunate thing is I think a lot of teams are going to try to figure out what they’re going to do with guys as far as arbitration and other pieces that they’ve got to figure out, as far as are they going to try and trade somebody and do this and do that, free up money,” Nathan said. “So I think there are going to be a lot of teams that this process kind of allows me to patient [with], so it gives me a chance to see what clubs are trying to do. So it’ll be nice. I think that helps with the Yankees situation and gives us a sense of what they’re going to do.”
Bowden earlier presented Nathan with three teams he saw as fits for him, starting with the Tigers and then including the Angels and Yankees. As the above quote showed, he sounds willing to wait out the Yankees and see how their roster and payroll shake out.
“I think that’s one of the good things that this has been a slow process and we do have the ability to be patient and kind of watch how this thing plays out, because we do know the Yankees have a lot of pieces to try to fix and a lot of pieces to fill in and the Yankees do obviously go out there and make moves,” he continued. “So It’ll be interesting to see how they try to piece their team together and fill in some of the holes that they have. … It’ll be nice to be patient and see how this thing plays out, but again, it’s fun and just knowing that there are going to be teams out there that have a chance to go to the postseason is exciting for us.”
On the Tigers, it doesn’t sound like patience is a huge motive.
“I definitely love the Tigers, know them very well, having competed against that squad for so many years when I was with the Twins, knowing some of the guys over there, knowing how deep they are, rotation deep,” Nathan said. “Their lineup and offense obviously are impressive. I think one of the things is that their defense has definitely improved. It’s a good ballpark to play in, a good crowd to play in front of. Detroit’s definitely a very appealing and attractive team to look at, I think.”
One of the guys he knows, of course, is his old Twins teammate, Torii Hunter, who has apparently started his recruiting effort.
“With the way the game is today, that is one of the fortunate things that we have,” Nathan said. “Most of the time you know somebody that plays for the club that’s trying to get you over there, so you can kind of already get a sense of how things work, how it is inside the clubhouse, how the teammates are, how the guys are around there, how the staff is, basically how they like to do things in the organization. Fortunately I was able to have a quick little text with Torii Hunter, and obviously he was trying to make sure I was keeping Detroit in my sights and see if I can come over there and join their club.”
The Yankees don’t necessarily have that. What they have is location; Nathan went to high school and college in New York, the latter at Stony Brook University on Long Island. That said, Nathan downplayed the location factor in general.
“Location does play a factor,” he said, “but I think it definitely takes a back seat to whether the team can win and whether the team has a chance to seriously contend, not just to get to the postseason but contend to get to where we ultimately want to be, and that’s the World Series.”
Bottom line, the interview doesn’t do anything to change the view that the Tigers and Nathan are a fit. But it also makes clear that Nathan is willing to wait and see what kind of fit the Yankees can create financially and competitively.
– Jason Beck
On the day Max Scherzer officially won the AL Cy Young award for his amazing 2013 season, he was prepared for the questions about 2014. With rumors building about the possibility of the Tigers trading Scherzer with a year left on his contract and potential free-agent stardom to follow, he didn’t want to take away from his celebration.
“The business side will take care of itself,” he said on his conference call with reporters. “My job is go out there and play baseball and pitch. All the business side tends to take care of itself, for the best.”
At the same time, he didn’t want to dodge the issue, either. And when asked about the possibility of contract talks with the Tigers this winter, he left the door open.
“I am open (to a new deal),” Scherzer said. “I love it here in Detroit. We’re capable of putting out a team that’s able to win every single year right now. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? I’m here to win and win a World Series. I realize I’ve got a good situation here in Detroit. But it also takes two to dance. …
“I don’t have any [anxiety] to get anything done, but if something does get done, I’d be happy to do it.”
That meshes with remarks that his agent, Scott Boras, made with reporters at baseball’s GM Meetings earlier Wednesday.
“They know Max likes it there,” Boras told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. “We would have to sit down and talk about their plans for the future. But when you have a player who likes playing where he’s playing and an ownership that has been what Mike Ilitch has been in Detroit, it’s certainly something we would listen to.”
— Jason Beck
Does this sound like a familiar scenario: The Tigers say they’re set at a particular position, one where prominent agent Scott Boras has a well-known free agent looking for a market. Boras bypasses team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and talks with owner Mike Ilitch. The Tigers abruptly change course and get involved.
It happened three winters ago with Johnny Damon. Could it be happening right now with Rafael Soriano? With Tuesday’s report from MLB Network’s Peter Gammons that Boras talked with Ilitch about Soriano on Monday, you have to wonder.
Here’s the report from Gammons on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show this morning:
The Tigers have maintained that they’d like to give hard-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon a chance to win the closer’s job, though Dombrowski said they could still take a look at the market later and could add somebody under the right scenario.
Dombrowski reaffirmed that approach when reached Tuesday.
“Our outlook has not changed,” Dombrowski replied in an email.
In fairness, the Tigers initially downplayed the rumors about Damon a few years ago, only to reach a deal six weeks later. So eventually, maybe they’ll do the same with Soriano. If it happens, though, it doesn’t sound like it’s imminent. With the notable exception of Prince Fielder, no Boras deal ever seems to be quick.
All along, the expectation was that Boras would try to get the Tigers — and especially Ilitch — involved on Soriano. The question has always been whether Ilitch would listen. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported a couple weeks ago that it already happened, and that Ilitch said no. Others have reported that it hadn’t happened yet but they expected it to come. ESPN’s Buster Olney cited executives from other teams expecting it to happen.
That doesn’t mean Soriano will get the kind of massive deal that he wants, one that torpedoes the Tigers’ long-term plans for Rondon. Time will tell if there’s a compromise to be found somewhere in there.
– Jason Beck
Torii Hunter has been to Comerica Park and downtown Detroit several times as a visiting player. On Tuesday, he took a visit as a free agent, meeting with members of the Tigers front office as Detroit took its courtship to an in-person level.
A source confirmed what is being characterized as a meet-and-greet visit, first reported by FOXSports.com. The Tigers have an organizational policy of not commenting on free agents.
It is not necessarily a sign of an imminent deal for Hunter, who is weighing a visit with at least one other club and isn’t believed to have an offer from the Tigers yet. Nevertheless, it’s a sign that the courtship has grown serious. It also reinforces Hunter’s prediction on MLB Network Monday that his free-agent recruitment wouldn’t be drawn-out.
Hunter has played in Detroit on the visiting side for years, so long that he played at Tiger Stadium as a rookie for the Minnesota Twins in 1999. Tuesday’s visit allowed him a chance to meet with team officials in a different setting and get an idea about Hunter’s potential fit on the team.
— Jason Beck
Torii Hunter’s play as a Minnesota Twins outfielder early in his career earned him the title as a Tiger killer around these parts. After all these years, it’s now realistic for Detroit fans to consider the possibility of Hunter becoming a Tiger.
It might not take long to figure out, one way or the other.
The Tigers are interested in Hunter, as reported earlier Monday by CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, and as has been expected since team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski laid out their needs for a corner outfielder two weeks ago. Between Detroit’s season-long struggles against left-handed pitching, its desire to become more athletic, its lack of a proven second hitter between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young’s departure as a free agent taking away one of Detroit’s key right-handed hitters, the Tigers’ needs fit Hunter’s strengths.
Just as encouraging, there are signs the interest is mutual, and strong. Whether the Tigers should be considered the front-runners for Hunter, as MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and others put it, is a matter of perception, one that could change if another of his suitors (Knobler mentioned Texas, while the Rays, Phillies and Red Sox have also been mentioned in reports for possible one-year offers) steps up in the coming days. But signs point towards a logical match between Hunter and Detroit.
Hunter sounded Monday morning like he already has a team or teams in mind, and could sign soon, maybe by Thanksgiving — the day he signed his five-year deal with the Angels in 2007.
“It’s going to be quick,” Hunter told MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show with Harold Reynolds. “I’m not going to wait it out. I know who I want to play for.”
Hunter didn’t mention which teams, but he said he’s looking to win, not simply get paid.
“Everybody knows I want to win,” Hunter told MLB Network, “so whatever team’s out there that wants to win and can use me and let me be a part of it, that’s who I want to be playing with.”
Hunter’s five-year deal with the Angels earned him $90 million. He has plenty of money, and he has a son who just committed to a football scholarship at Notre Dame.
That said, it’s expected to take a multi-year deal to sign Hunter, a fact which impacts his market at age 37. If he were to settle on a one-year deal, his field expands.
It leaves the Tigers with an intriguing decision. Detroit has two highly regarded, right-handed hitting outfield prospects with postseason hero Avisail Garcia and Futures Game MVP Nick Castellanos. Both are expected to have a chance to compete for a job in Spring Training, possibly a timeshare with Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch in one corner outfield spot.
The other corner spot is open, and that’s where Hunter fits in. Add in Hunter’s clubhouse presence and track record of working with young outfielders — Mike Trout credited Hunter’s help as an impact on him during his Rookie of the Year interview Monday night on MLB Network — and he’s one potential signing that could improve two spots, not to mention his potential impact on center fielder Austin Jackson.
However, a two-year deal for Hunter likely would mean a longer wait for Castellanos or Garcia. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, an extra year or two of development, but it’s something the win-now Tigers have to weigh.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers were interested in James Shields when the Rays debated whether to put him on the trade market last July, enough that Doug Fister was a Plan B of sorts when it became clear they weren’t getting Shields, at least not without selling the farm. Now that Shields could be on the market again, don’t expect the resurgence of Detroit’s rotation behind its top four starters to stop them from taking a look.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Tigers special assistant Dick Egan was spotted at Tropicana Field for the Rays’ series against the Mariners, which Shields opened with 7 2/3 quality innings on Friday. Conveniently, Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas, another rumored Tigers trade target in their starting pitching search, started there on Saturday.
The Tigers usually send out Egan on special assignments, not simply to update reports on teams. If he shows up at a ballpark, it’s for a pretty good reason. You can find at least two reasons above why the Tigers would have him in St. Petersburg this weekend. Of the two, Shields would be the obviously bigger draw.
Though Shields’ ERA is up from last year, while other stats are down, he appeals to the Tigers for a lot of reasons. First, he’s a consistent innings eater, averaging better than six innings a start. Even during his recent struggles, he has lasted at least seven innings in four of his last five starts. He also has postseason experience, though he struggled in his last two Division Series starts.
The Tigers, moreover, have the pieces that would potentially appeal to the Rays, who covet a young catcher according to CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler. While the Tigers aren’t deep in a lot of areas in the upper levels of their farm system, they have 3-4 quality catchers in their system, led by Futures Game participant Rob Brantly at Triple-A Toledo and James McCann, last year’s top draft pick, at Double-A Erie. With 25-year-old Alex Avila holding down the job in Detroit, the Tigers can afford to part with a catcher and still have depth for down the road.
By contrast, the Tigers were never heavily involved in Vargas rumors last year, zeroing in on Doug Fister instead. If they’re going to acquire a starter to replace lefty Drew Smyly, doing so with another left-hander would have a major appeal to avoid an all-righty rotation. Vargas fits that, and he does it while averaging nearly seven innings a start. His ERA, hit totals and WHIP ratio are all significantly higher away from Seattle’s Safeco Field, including six innings with four runs at Comerica Park earlier this season. However, he has quality starts in his last three outings, all on the road, all of them victories.
– Jason Beck
The Tigers traded away Omar Infante five years ago in a deal that ranks among the most regrettable of Dave Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit. Now, as they look for ways to stop their revolving door at second base, it’s conceivable that they could try to get him back.
Jayson Stark of ESPN suggests Infante is on the Tigers’ shopping list for second basemen. Now 30, Infante entered the weekend batting .290 for the Miami Marlins with 23 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBIs, good for a .769 OPS. He’s two years removed from an All-Star selection with the Braves.
The Tigers signed Infante as a teenager in Venezuela and developed him in their system. At one point, he was among the top prospects in then-general manager Randy Smith’s system. The last time Infante was a Tiger in 2007, manager Jim Leyland said he’d make an ideal National League player with his ability to play all over the infield. He found that role in Atlanta, where he played three infield and three outfield spots in 2008 and 2009.
Since coming to Miami, however, his focus has been at second base, which was his starting position in Detroit in 2004 and part of 2005 until the Tigers traded for Placido Polanco midway through that season.
That left Infante as a utility player in Detroit until the Tigers traded him to the Cubs after the 2007 season for Jacque Jones, who was released about five weeks into the 2008 season.
It wasn’t a particularly painful deal because Polanco played second base so well in Detroit through 2009, after which the Tigers let him go as a free agent. The Tigers have run through a handful of second basemen in 2 1/2 years since then, from Scott Sizemore to Will Rhymes to Brandon Inge, and now a mix of Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn. The Tigers have always worried about Santiago breaking down physically as an everyday player, but Raburn has failed to hold down the starting job in two tries over as many years.
– Jason Beck