Bruce Rondon Rumors

Dombrowski On Tigers’ Offseason Plans

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed a number of points with the media yesterday, and Jason Beck of MLB.com provides a transcript of his comments. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Dombrowski listed the team’s top three priorities. First among them is deciding on an approach in center, which he said could either mean finding a platoon partner for the right-handed hitting Rajai Davis or going with a new, full-time option. Second: improving the bullpen, with some new arms potentially coming from within. And finally, the team wants to add another left-handed bat in some capacity. The GM rejected the notion that the club’s contention window is closing, saying he has confidence in its veteran core.
  • Explaining that he is more concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion issues on a human level than in terms of planning, Dombrowski said that he is confident in the team’s situation behind the plate. He expects Avila to be able to man the position next year, but also likes prospect James McCann as a long-term piece.
  • Dombrowski said that he does not know whether Torii Hunter will retire. If he elects to play, the club values his clubhouse presence immensely but has yet to make any decisions as to whether it would pursue him in free agency. Dombrowski also discussed prospect Steven Moya, who could be a long-term replacement for Hunter. “I don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not,” Dombrowski said of Moya. “You can hope and he may be ready, but I’m not really sure. His performance in the Arizona Fall League, then going to winter ball will be important for him.”
  • Soon-to-be free agent starter Max Scherzer appears set to test the market, and Dombrowski did nothing to curb the idea that he could be headed for a new team. “Well, we had thorough conversations before the season, and I don’t know that it’s all dictated by us at this point,” said Dombrowski. “I think we made ourselves pretty well known at the time where we stood. … I think we probably made more of an effort to sign Max earlier in the year. So I don’t think your odds improve [from] what they were earlier. Why would they improve if we have one-on-one ability to speak with you, compared to having 29 other clubs speak with you? Only time will tell.”
  • In terms of a possible replacement in the rotation, Dombrowski said the team has internal options and may not feel the need to add an arm via free agency. “I think we have some young pitchers we feel pretty comfortable with at this point,” said Dombrowski, “… but I feel comfortable staying internal with the four guys we would have at that point. But again, we haven’t made that decision.”
  • The prognosis on shortstop Jose Iglesias is positive, says Dombrowski. Though he will allow manager Brad Ausmus a chance to evaluate him in the spring, the GM says that he expects Iglesias to take the everyday job “if he returns to the form of the past.” On the other hand, Dombrowski said the team needs to be prepared if Iglesias is not at full strength.
  • Detroit’s closer situation will probably not undergo changes over the offseason, said Dombrowski. Joe Nathan will likely have the ninth inning job going into the year, but will need to “perform up to the capabilities required” to keep it. Elsewhere in the relief corps, young power reliever Bruce Rondon, who underwent Tommy John surgery, is expected to be ready for the year, says Dombrowski.

Bruce Rondon To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

The Tigers will be without setup man Bruce Rondon for the 2014 season, as Tom Gage of the Detroit News reports (via Twitter) that the flamethrowing right-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery. It's a major blow to a bullpen that already contained plenty of question marks, but general manager Dave Dombrowski tells reporters that he'll look to fill the void with internal candidates (per the Detroit Free Press on Twitter).

The news increases Joba Chamberlain's importance to the Tigers and likely that of right-hander Al Alburquerque as well. This is the third major injury to a member of the Tigers' projected 25-man roster already this spring, as Andy Dirks will be sidelined up to three months after back surgery, and stress fractures in each of Jose Iglesias' shins will likely cause him to miss the entire 2014 season.

Rondon, 23, posted a 3.45 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent ground-ball rate in 28 2/3 innings out of Detroit's bullpen last year, and he had fired seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks thus far in Spring Training. Rondon's innings can be replaced, but it will be virtually impossible to replace his velocity; his 99.3 mph average fastball was the highest among all big league pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched — even Aroldis Chapman (98.3 mph).

While Iglesias' injury led many to speculate on a Stephen Drew signing for the Tigers, the free agent market for relievers is more bleak. Ryan Madson and Joel Hanrahan represent a pair of potential impact arms, but each is coming off major surgery, and Madson hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2011. Dombrowski continues to repeat the "internal options" refrain, but at some point one has to wonder if the growing number of injuries will cause him to make a somewhat notable move to regain some of the lost production.