Detroit Tigers Rumors

Detroit Tigers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Manfred, Ramirez, Soriano

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred would prefer for the Athletics to remain in Oakland, writes Bill Shaiken of the LA Times. The A’s are currently waiting to learn if the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will remain in the city or move to Los Angeles. Manfried also suggested that public financing would be helpful. “We want to remain loyal to [small market fans], but those markets also have to participate in providing the kind of facilities necessary to keep a Major League Baseball team.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez won’t let the club’s slow start affect his decision to retire, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Milwaukee is quickly falling out of contention in the tough NL Central. Ramirez is off to a slow start, but you have to imagine he’ll be a trade candidate this summer. Assuming he’s dealt, he’ll have an opportunity to finish his career with a contender – it just probably won’t be the Brewers.
  • The Twins remain among the teams interested in free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Wolfson believes the fit is much better with the Tigers and Blue Jays. While Minnesota could definitely use some relief reinforcements, the club doesn’t figure to contend this season. As such, they probably view Soriano as a piece they could trade at the deadline.

Latest From Rosenthal: Papelbon, Braun, Young, Redmond

Some within the industry believe the Nationals should trade for Jonathan Papelbon and install Drew Storen as the setup man, says Ken Rosenthal with FOX Sports (video link). While there is some concern over Papelbon’s velocity, he’s off to a great start and “never misses his spots.” His $13MM vesting option for 2016 remains an obstacle. Rosenthal notes that the Tigers and Blue Jays are other possible destinations. I agree that these three clubs could all use relief help. To me, it makes more sense for the Nationals to address their bullpen at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays have a tougher path to the postseason, so they could really use the reinforcements now. Here’s more from Rosenthal.

  • The Brewers may shift to a rebuilding stance, and teams are in constant contact about Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Another star, Ryan Braun, will be difficult to trade. He’s slumped to start the season. He’s owed $105MM through 2020, and his no trade clause includes every team by the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Rays, and Marlins.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman credits his analytics department for recommending Chris Young. The outfielder is off to a blazing start with four home runs and a .357/.426/.762 line in 48 plate appearances. The Yankees have become familiar with buying low. They also acquired Chris Capuano, Martin Prado, and Brandon McCarthy at discount prices.
  • The Marlins are en route to their fourth consecutive victory, but manager Mike Redmond may remain on the hot seat. As one insider told Rosenthal, once owner Jeffrey Loria gets an idea in his head, “he can’t let it go.” If that’s the case, Redmond will need his team to go on an impressive streak.

Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.


AL Central Notes: Gardenhire, Tigers ‘Pen, Indians

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would like to manage in the Major Leagues again and has hired agent John Boggs to represent him, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Gardenhire told Rosenthal that he isn’t actively pursuing anything because he has too much respect for MLB’s current 30 managers to campaign for something specific, but he’ll listen “to just about anything.” Rosenthal speculates that the Marlins and Brewers may eventually be looking for new skippers, though he adds that Mike Redmond took some pressure off himself in Miami with a pair of convincing wins over the Phillies. As for the Brewers, Rosenthal hears that they won’t act on manager Ron Roenicke anytime soon.

A few notes from Gardenhire’s former division, where the Twins are off to a 6-9 start under new manager Paul Molitor…

  • Questions on the Tigers‘ bullpen were the common theme throughout MLive.com’s Chris Iott’s latest Twitter Talk column. Iott fielded questions on Rafael Soriano, noting that he finds a signing doubtful, and he also noted that trading a prospect such as Dixon Machado seems unlikely to happen early in the season. Yesterday, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd looked at ways in which the Tigers could address the ‘pen, and 38 percent of MLBTR readers weighed in saying that Detroit needs to add a quality late-inning reliever ASAP.
  • Joe Nathan‘s tenure with the Tigers just never clicked, Tom Gage writes for FOX Sports Detroit. Money does tend to complicate things, of course, and that was surely true in this case. Unfortunately, Nathan will never have a chance to atone for a sub-par 2014 on the hill in Detroit.
  • MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian expects the Indians to deploy Jose Ramirez at shortstop for most, if not all of the season’s first half while Francisco Lindor develops, he writes in his latest Inbox column. Bastian points out that Lindor has gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A, which doesn’t help his case for a call-up, in spite of Ramirez’s offensive woes. Bastian also looks at the upcoming roster crunch when Nick Swisher will be activated from the DL. Cleveland plans to use Swisher in right field and at DH, but not at first base. The club already has a number of similar options on the roster in the form of David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Jerry Sands. The latter of those three options strikes me as the likeliest to go, though Sands has hit well in his limited time with the club (thanks to being shielded from right-handed pitchers in a platoon role).

How Might The Tigers Deal With The Loss Of Joe Nathan?

The Tigers learned today that closer Joe Nathan will be lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. While the 40-year-old was coming off a rough season, he opened the year installed in the 9th and was obviously an important part of the club’s plans. His hefty salary doesn’t make things any easier, although that cost was inked into the books long ago.

Of course, GM Dave Dombrowski had already added a player with closing experience and stuff at last year’s trade deadline. Joakim Soria will handle save situations going forward, and that gives some comfort. But his ascension reduces the quality and depth of the earlier innings. Simply using Soria to get the final out hardly addresses the fact that it will now be more difficult to get to the spot where he’ll be called upon.

Detroit’s bullpen was already a concern entering the year (as it has been in the past). As MLBTR’s Steve Adams discussed in reviewing the Tigers’ offseason, the club did little more than replace Phil Coke with Tom Gorzelanny. To be sure, young righty Bruce Rondon is expected to bring a big arm when he finally returns from Tommy John surgery. But he is still working cautiously back after an earlier setback.

The results have hardly been disastrous thus far, with the Tigers hovering around the middle of the league in terms of reliever ERA. But xFIP and SIERA paint much less promising pictures of the club’s collective relief effort thus far. And, for what it’s worth, projection systems don’t expect many above-average run prevention efforts to emerge from the Detroit pen.

Given the entirety of the situation, there are several ways the team could react. It does have a nice rotation and can put up a lot of runs, after all, so perhaps there’s little reason to act hastily. On the other hand, the Tigers are firmly in win-now mode and could face a drawn out division battle, so every victory matters.

And there are some prominent players with late-inning experience who could be had. Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies is among the most available players in the game, and may not cost much in prospects if Detroit will assume a good piece of his salary. Even more conveniently, experienced righty Rafael Soriano is still a free agent. It is obviously rare to have a clear option like that still sitting on the open market in late April, making him an obvious possibility.

While it is probably too early for any teams to give up completely on their seasons, that doesn’t mean that some clubs wouldn’t consider moving a useful arm at the right price — motivated, in part, by a rough open to the season. The Brewers, in particular, have dug a monumental hole in a very tough division and have some younger arms they could justify promoting. Jonathan Broxton might be had for little more than salary relief.

Most other clubs will probably be hesitant to part with depth, but could always be convinced at the right price — particularly if Detroit is looking mostly for competent veterans to plug into the middle innings. While they are hardly shaping up to be a seller, for instance, the Padres have plenty of depth and an obvious willingness to get creative in making deals. The more likely scenario, of course, would be to keep a close eye on the waiver wire. The Dodgers, after all, have been aggressively adding (and, in some cases, outrighting) other teams’ cast-offs to bolster their depth.

Let’s see what MLBTR readers recommend:


Quick Hits: Soriano, Draft, Price, Red Sox

Scott Boras, Rafael Soriano‘s agent, tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he’s getting an increasing number of calls about his client.  It’s not surprising that interest in Soriano is picking up now that the season has begun and teams are dealing with injuries or ineffective relievers in their bullpens.  The Twins, Tigers and Blue Jays have all been linked to Soriano at various points over the winter, though it’s unknown as to whether any of those teams still have any interest in the veteran.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters (hat tip to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that he would like draft prospects’ “medical information to be made available to all clubs before the draft,” but the MLBPA hasn’t accepted this proposed change to the collective bargaining agreement.  Drellich explains the stances of both the league and the union on this issue, which most notably cropped up when the Astros didn’t sign first overall pick Brady Aiken due to concerns about his left UCL last summer.
  • David Price could be more inclined to sign with an NL team next winter since “he loves to hit,” a source tells George A. King III of the New York Post.  While this will likely be a minor factor in what could be a $200MM free agent decision for Price, maybe the desire for more plate appearances could end up being a tiebreaker if he gets otherwise similar offers from an AL and an NL team.  For what it’s worth, Price has an .071/.133/.071 slash line through 30 career PA.
  • With Edward Mujica struggling and his velocity down, CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam wonders if the Red Sox might eventually release Mujica and eat the roughly $4MM remaining on his contract rather than let the righty continue in an important relief role.  In my opinion, releasing Mujica would be a hasty move this early in the season since his xFIP (2.78) and SIERA (2.50) hint that he isn’t that badly, and his 4.70 ERA or 6.90 FIP are due to a couple of wildly inflated peripherals (most notably, 3.52 HR/9).
  • Several of baseball’s top pitchers were acquired by their current teams before they became so-called “aces,” and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes that the Red Sox attempted this strategy by acquiring two pitchers with great stuff (Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez) in the hopes that one or both would develop into a rotation headliner.  This isn’t to say that the Sox might still not try to trade for an established ace in the near future, yet trying to find one in the early stages of his development is sometimes a better strategy than paying a big price to land a proven starter who might already have passed his prime.

Joe Nathan Out For Year With Torn UCL & Tendon

10:38am: Nathan doesn’t appear to be considering retirement at this time, telling reporters (including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press) that “I am preparing myself to be a major league player again.  That is my goal.”

9:02am: Tigers righty Joe Nathan has torn the ulnar collateral ligament as well as a tendon in his right elbow, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. He will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season, the team announced.

Nathan, 40, opened the year as Detroit’s closer despite a challenging 2014 season in which he posted a 4.81 ERA. He struck out just 8.4 batters per nine while walking 4.5 per nine, both of which were the worst marks of his career since he moved to the pen.

That was obviously not the output that the Tigers hoped for when they promised Nathan $20MM over two years through free agency. The club does hold a $10MM option for next season, but seems highly likely to instead pay a $1MM buyout at this juncture.

Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career, this time with the added complication of the tendon damage to account for. While it may be an uphill road at his age, that news seemingly indicates that there is at least some possibility that Nathan will attempt to resume his career.

Detroit probably did not expect Nathan to resume his once-dominant form in the closer’s role this year, but surely hoped he would at least be a valuable contributor and presence in the pen. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his review of the club’s offseason, the relief corps was a major question mark entering the year for the Tigers, and the team is certainly shaping up as a future acquirer of bullpen arms in the season’s early going.


AL Central Relief Notes: Frasor, Nathan, Indians

Righty Jason Frasor was offered a one-year deal by the Twins this winter but decided to go back to the Royals when Kansas City got involved, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The 37-year-old also added an interesting take on the process of free agency: “When you become a free agent and you’re a 37-year-old middle reliever, there’s not as many teams that come calling as you would think or hope. But that’s all right. I just needed one team.”

  • Veteran Tigers reliever Joe Nathan suffered a setback in a Triple-A rehab appearance today, as James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. Nathan came out after experiencing severe pain after the tenth pitch of his outing. Both Nathan and the club have stayed quiet this evening as to whether any more has been learned, but at a minimum it seems unlikely that he will join the team as quickly as had been expected.
  • Cody Allen has struggled thus far, but the Indians are not contemplating a closer change, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer“Cody is about as trustworthy and dependable as anyone we have,” said manager Terry Francona. The Cleveland pen has been poor by any standard thus far, and is not exactly teeming with alternatives. MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted that the team passed on an opportunity to upgrade there over the offseason, and it will be interesting to see whether that becomes an area to target if the Indians stay in contention over the summer.

Minor Moves: Drabek, Putkonen, Kirkman

Here are today’s minor moves from around MLB…

  • White Sox right-hander Kyle Drabek has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced on Twitter. The former top prospect was designated for assignment on Monday in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for 2014 No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon.

Earlier Updates

  • The Tigers have re-signed right-hander Luke Putkonen to a Minor League pact, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com (on Twitter). Putkonen was in the team’s Triple-A clubhouse this morning and will pitch at Toledo in hopes of a return to the Majors. Detroit released Putkonen near the end of Spring Training after he yielded three runs on four hits and three walks with no strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. The 28-year-old Putkonen missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, but he was a nice bullpen cog for the Tigers in 2013, tossing 29 2/3 innings of 3.03 ERA ball with 28 strikeouts against nine walks.
  • The Brewers have signed lefty Michael Kirkman to a Minor League contract, reports SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (also via Twitter). Kirkman was released by the Rangers midway through Spring Training so that he could pursue opportunities with other teams. That opportunity clearly didn’t emerge immediately, but Kirkman will give Milwaukee an experienced arm to serve as a depth piece. The 28-year-old southpaw has a 4.98 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 across 106 2/3 Major League frames, though he does come with a reverse platoon split. Kirkman’s career was slowed by a battle with skin cancer, but he returned to the mound in 2014 and was healthy in Spring Training prior to his release.
  • A look at MLBTR’s DFA Tracker reveals four players in limbo as they await to find out if they’ve been traded, placed on waivers or released. Currently, Brandon Kintzler, Grant Balfour, Todd Redmond and Xavier Cedeno are in unresolved situations.

AL Central Notes: Greene, Moose, Morales, Twins

Tigers right-hander Shane Greene tells Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog that it “felt like I got dumped” when the Yankees traded him in the three-team Didi Gregorius trade this season. Greene says he’s pitching with a chip on his shoulder this offseason as he looks to continue proving himself. Manager Joe Girardi tells Jennings that it was tough for the Yankees to part with a young starter like Greene, but they felt it was necessary to get a potential everyday shortstop in Gregorius. Greene adds that he entered the offseason knowing that his trade value was perhaps at its peak: “If they were going to make a move, I was probably going to be one of the pieces. … I know it’s a business. I’m not a complete idiot, so I knew if something was going to happen, my name would be at least talked about with the situation over there. I’m excited to be here, and that’s all that really matters.”

More from the AL Central to kick off Wednesday morning…

  • Royals manager Ned Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that he’s not sure he’s ever seen a player undergo such a drastic turnaround in an offseason as the one Mike Moustakas seems to have gone through. The former No. 2 overall pick is hitting the ball the opposite way frequently, and he’s hitting left-handed pitching in this year’s small sample as well. Yost joked that after all the faith that the Royals organization has shown Moustakas, “It’s almost like you want to stand up on this table and scream, ‘I told you so!'” Moustakas has worked with hitting coach Dale Sveum to re-work his swing, and the results are apparent to him and his teammates. Eric Hosmer noted that he’s never seen Moustakas hit the ball to left field as often as he does now.
  • Had the Royals successfully reeled in Torii Hunter as a free agent this offseason, they likely wouldn’t have signed Kendrys Morales, GM Dayton Moore told the Star’s Vahe Gregorian. Moore and his staff considered Morales the next-best free agent bat after Hunter signed, and though he had a dismal 2014 season, the Royals attributed it to not beginning his season until June 8 as he took a long route to circumventing draft pick compensation after turning down a qualifying offer. The Royals judged him based largely on his 2012-3 seasons, which looks to have paid off thus far. Morales is hitting .351/.413/.544 through 63 plate appearances.
  • The Twins have once again constructed a pitching staff — specifically a bullpen — that cannot miss bats, and that deficiency is already costing them, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Twins relievers faced 26 Royals batters over the past two games and combined to strike out just one hitter — an unthinkably low rate in today’s game of specialized bullpens. Twins relievers are averaging just 5.18 K/9, which is dead last in baseball and ranks nearly a full strikeout worse than the 29th-ranked D-Backs (6.08).