Rumor Royalty: Jon Paul Morosi (Tigers)

Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press snags our Rumor Royalty honor for the Tigers.  Here’s a link to the paper’s Tigers page and one to Morosi’s blog.  Many thanks to Jon for participating.  Click here and scroll to read all Rumor Royalty entries.

MLBTR: We’ve heard chatter that Miguel Cabrera could be baseball’s next $200 million player.  Is there any chance this could happen with the Tigers?  Seems that it would require an 8-10 year commitment.

Morosi: This much is clear: The Tigers love Cabrera and will do what they can to sign him long-term. (He’s two seasons away from free agency now.) I’m confident that they would make him a six-year offer for a little more than $100 million. But there’s a big gap between those figures and a 10-year deal in the $200 million range. There is little doubt that his free agency years will be valued at more than $20 million each; he has better career offensive numbers than Torii Hunter, whose contract with the Angels averages $18 million per year.

MLBTR: The Tigers have become major spenders in recent years.  Do you expect them to make a play for any of the big name free agent starters next winter, such as C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Ben Sheets, or Oliver Perez?

Morosi: I don’t anticipate them being major players in the market for big-money starters next off-season. Then again, I didn’t think they were going to trade for Dontrelle Willis when I arrived at the winter meetings last month. Right now, they have four starters — Willis, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson — who are under club control through at least 2009. That’s pretty good depth. And Kenny Rogers could borrow a page from Jamie Moyer — who is two years his senior — and pitch longer than anyone expects.

On the other hand, the Tigers might need to look for a starter next winter if Rogers leaves/retires and one of the other four is injured or traded.

MLBTR: Will we see Brandon Inge and/or Marcus Thames in the Detroit organization on Opening Day?  Which one is more likely to be traded?

Morosi: Inge is the more likely of the two to be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both are still with the team on Opening Day. A quiet development here has been Vance Wilson‘s uncertain health after missing all of last season with an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Jim Leyland said during the Tigers’ caravan over the weekend that he’s concerned about whether Wilson will be ready for the start of the season. Inge, who preceded Pudge Rodriguez as the starting catcher, could provide some insurance there. (Last year’s backup, Mike Rabelo, went to Florida in the Cabrera/Willis deal.)

The Tigers are still trying to trade Inge — Leyland said as much over the weekend — but it doesn’t seem that there’s a big market for him as a starting third baseman. And the Rolen-Glaus trade meant two more teams solved their third base questions, reducing the number of potential suitors for Inge. So, he may have no choice but to accept a bench role.

Detroit has been open to trading Thames at various times, but he’s still a very valuable player for this team. He has 44 home runs over the past two seasons in roughly the same number of at-bats (617) that some everday players get in a single season. He’s continued working out at first base this winter, and he could get some part-time at-bats there, in the outfield, and at designated hitter on Gary Sheffield‘s days off.

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