Detroit Tigers Rumors

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

Central Notes: Maddon, Dirks, Giambi, Indians

The Cubs‘ decision to replace Rick Renteria with Joe Maddon seems “a little dirty,” but the baseball world will go on, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Rays believe the Cubs tampered with Maddon while they had him under contract, and others in the game aren’t happy that Maddon’s situation led to Renteria’s firing. Rosenthal notes that if MLB can prove the Cubs tampered, the Rays could demand a promising young player in compensation, maybe even a player as talented as Javier Baez or Addison Russell. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers would have retained outfielder Andy Dirks in 2015 if they knew he would be healthy, Tom Gage of the Detroit News tweets. Dirks platooned with Matt Tuiasosopo in left field for the Tigers in 2013, but he missed the entire 2014 season with back and hamstring issues, and the Tigers lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays today.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti doesn’t believe Jason Giambi will be a good fit for the team’s roster next season, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets. Giambi will be 44 in January, and he hit .133/.257/.267 in limited duty in 2014, so it’s no surprise that the Indians might move on. Terry Francona has called Giambi a “manager-in-waiting,” so Giambi’s next move could involve coaching.
  • The Indians have made a variety of front office moves, Hoynes tweets. Ross Atkins will be Cleveland’s new vice president in charge of player personnel, with Carter Hawkins becoming director of player development and Paul Gillispie the director of pro scouting.

Tigers Make Qualifying Offer To Scherzer, Martinez; Outright Kelly, Reed

The Tigers announced that they have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to impending free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez. Additionally, the team announced that utility man Don Kelly and right-hander Evan Reed have been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The Tigers also announced that they have selected the contract of outfielder Wynton Bernard, adding him to the 40-man roster.

That Scherzer and Martinez — two of the top 10 free agents in the Majors — received qualifying offers comes as little surprise. Each should be in high demand this offseason, and by extending the QO, the Tigers assure themselves of receiving a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round for each player, should he sign elsewhere as a free agent.

The 34-year-old Kelly has been with the Tigers in a utility capacity since 2009 and has posted a .234/.297/.340 in 1157 plate appearances with Detroit in that time. Kelly has seen time at every position on the diamond, including catcher and pitcher, in his career, although his lone experience at shortstop came with the Pirates in 2007 — his only Major League stint that came in a uniform other than that of the Detroit Tigers.

Reed, 28, pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings for the Tigers this season, and he posted similar numbers in 24 1/3 inning sample size a year prior. That Reed would clear waivers is a mild surprise, given his 96 mph average fastball velocity and fairly solid 3.78 FIP, 3.89 xFIP and 3.51 SIERA marks in addition to his 4.20 ERA. He can become a minor league free agent now by refusing his outright assignment.


Orioles Claim Patrick McCoy

The Orioles have claimed left-handed pitcher Pat McCoy off waivers from Detroit, according to  a press release from the Tigers.

McCoy, who turned 26 in August, made his big league debut for the Tigers this season, notching a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings. However, his ERA is a bit misleading, as the southpaw walked 13 batters against 11 strikeouts in that time and also allowed an alarming 21 hits.

Formerly a 10th-round pick of the Nationals, McCoy signed a minor league deal with Detroit last offseason and enjoyed a nice campaign in the minors before getting his first call to the bigs. Splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, McCoy pitched to a 3.00 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 45 innings of work.



Blue Jays Claim Andy Dirks

The Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Andy Dirks off waivers, the Tigers announced via press release.

Dirks, 28, was expected to serve as Detroit’s primary left fielder this season in a platoon with Rajai Davis, but a back injury required surgery and wound up costing him the entire year. Dirks has a solid career slash line of .276/.332/.413, and he grades out as an excellent defender in left field, having compiled 16 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR/150 mark of +5.1 in 1569 innings in left field.

With Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus both hitting the open market, Dirks makes for a very nice add to the team’s outfield depth if he can return to health in 2015 and beyond. He’s projected to earn $1.63MM in his first time through arbitration this offseason, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, and he can be controlled through 2017 via the arb process.


Tigers To Exercise Joakim Soria’s Option

The Tigers will exercise their $7MM club option on right-hander Joakim Soria, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter).

Soria, 30, was acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline for the steep price of right-handers Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson, but the results didn’t pan out for Detroit. Soria totaled just 11 innings with the Tigers and allowed seven runs (six earned), in part due to an oblique strain that cost him a month of action. He didn’t fare any better in the post season, as he was charged with five runs in one inning (two appearances).

Despite the struggles following the trade, Soria was an exceptional bullpen piece with the Rangers this year, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 33 1/3 innings. His cumulative stat line translated to a 3.80 ERA with a 48-to-6 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings during the regular season.

The Tigers are in desperate need of solidifying their bullpen and will hope that a healthy Soria can assist in accomplishing that goal next season.


AL Central Notes: Royals, Aoki, Butler, Lovullo, Tigers

Though the Royals are coming off their best season in nearly three decades, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the team will soon need to turn its focus to some difficult offseason decisions. Industry expectations, according to Martino, are that the Royals will at least listen to trade offers for its more expensive players — including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — if other teams come calling this winter. Gordon’s case is the most pressing, as he’s only controlled through 2015 at $12.5MM before he has a $12.5MM player option. Gordon has publicly stated that he plans to exercise that option, though it’d be a surprise, to say the least, considering he could be in line for a much more sizable long-term commitment next offseason if he turns it down. Martino also notes that the Royals will have interest in re-signing Nori Aoki this offseason. From my vantage point, the team needn’t feel pressure to move any of the three previously mentioned players, though I’ll cover that at greater length in the upcoming Royals Offseason Outlook.

For the time being, here’s more on the AL Champs and the rest of their division…

  • The Royals are expected to decline their $12.5MM option on designated hitter Billy Butler in favor of a $1MM buyout, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move isn’t exactly unexpected after the down season he had at the plate. However, Heyman adds that the team may look to pursue Torii Hunter, as they did seven years ago, in the event that Aoki signs elsewhere as a free agent. The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough also hears that Butler’s option is likely to be declined.
  • The Twins‘ front office flew out to Torey Lovullo’s home in California to conduct their second interview with him on Monday this week, tweets Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com, but there’s still been no decision reached as to who will be the team’s next manager. Lovullo and Paul Molitor are believed to be the favorites.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski spoke candidly to reporters, including Matthew Mowery of the Oakland Press, about the team’s lack of financial flexibility this offseason. Said Dombrowski: “We have the most generous owner in baseball you could possibly have in sports. But we’re in a situation where $200 million payrolls aren’t what is common here. … It’s a situation where we’re really in a spot that if you’re going to have four starters being paid and you’re going to have a couple superstars in the middle of your lineup, that means there’s not as much availability to do some other things. And you have to determine what you’re going to do.”

Offseason Outlook: Detroit Tigers

The Tigers captured the AL Central crown with a 90-72 record in 2014 before the Orioles made quick work of them in the ALDS.  Now, the Tigers will look to retool a bit this offseason and, once again, there will be an emphasis on fixing the bullpen.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)

Contract Options

Free Agents

Other Payroll Obligations

Any discussion of the Tigers’ offseason has to start with pending free agent Max Scherzer.  The 2013 Cy Young Award winner says he’d like to return to Detroit, but it’s not that simple.  The two sides were discussing a possible extension in the spring before things stalled and the Tigers took the unusual step of releasing a statement on the matter.

The Detroit Tigers have made a substantial, long-term contract extension offer to Max Scherzer that would have placed him among the highest paid pitchers in baseball, and the offer was rejected,” the statement read.

The Tigers reportedly offered a six-year, $144MM extension, identical to the deal Cole Hamels signed with the Phillies in 2012.  The Scott Boras client, meanwhile, may have been seeking an eight-year deal.  Now, Scherzer stands as the top available free agent on the open market after another strong season and it’s feasible that he could exceed that average annual value of $24MM on a six-, seven-, or maybe even an eight-year deal with an opt-out clause in the middle.  That’s probably too rich for the Tigers’ blood.

If Scherzer goes, the Tigers will have a hard time pursuing a comparable replacement.   The market offers appealing alternatives like Jon Lester and James Shields, but the Tigers already have about $151MM tied up between guaranteed contracts, arb raises, the $6MM they owe the Rangers for Prince Fielder and the options on Alex Avila and Joakim Soria.  Shields will require four or five years to sign, and Lester could require six or seven, making the fit unlikely.  Even second-tier options like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Liriano could prove too expensive, barring a significant boost to 2014’s Opening Day payroll of $163MM.

As such, it’s not a given that they’d sign anyone to fill the void left by a likely Scherzer departure.  In-house options like Robbie Ray, Kyle Ryan, Kyle Lobstein, Drew VerHagen, and Buck Farmer could vie for jobs in the starting five.  That’s not apples-for-apples, of course, but the Tigers could get by with a core four David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, with their fingers crossed for a bounce back from Verlander.

In the bullpen, the Tigers have to decide on whether to exercise Joakim Soria‘s $7MM club option or buy him out for $500K.  In 44 1/3 innings last season, Soria turned in a 3.25 ERA (his 2.73 xFIP gives him more credit) with 9.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.  It’s tough to imagine the Tigers not exercising that option.  For starters, the Tigers gave up two of their best prospects in starter Jake Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel to land Soria in July, and that would be a mighty steep price to pay for a ten-week rental.  Soria wasn’t sharp in his 11 innings of regular season work in Detroit (though in his defense, he was also injured), but that doesn’t mean a ton in the grand scope of things and injuries didn’t help matters.  The Tigers would be wise to keep Soria in their historically shaky bullpen, and recent comments from Dombrowski indicate that they’re going to do that.

Beyond that, Tigers might want to do some tinkering with their bullpen and Dombrowski has said that it will be towards the top of their list.  Joba Chamberlain seemed to be paying back the Tigers’ one-year, $2.5MM investment nicely in the first half of the season but he turned in a 4.01 ERA after the All-Star break and might not be asked back.  Coke, another former Yankee, had a very rough start to the year but improved in the second half, which could leave the door open to a return.  Jim Johnson, who came aboard on a minor league deal after his head-scratching 2014 with the A’s, didn’t fare much better in Detroit and will probably wind up elsewhere.  We know that Soria, Nathan, and Al Alburquerque figure to be in the pen, along with left-hander Blaine Hardy and perhaps Ian Krol, though his first year in Detroit was disappointing.  Flamethrower Bruce Rondon will return at some point, though it’s not clear when, as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Beyond that grouping, question marks and injury troubles abound, which should lead to yet another close examination of the team’s bullpen.   As Tim Dierkes recently noted, the Tigers drafted Andrew Miller and almost landed him in July before the O’s beat them to the punch, so they could make a run at him this winter.  However, he’d require a significant investment, possibly a four-year deal, so he could prove a tough fit as well.

Scherzer isn’t the only significant Tigers free agent hitting the open market, of course.  There’s mutual interest in a return between Detroit and designated hitter Victor Martinez, but he’ll have a number of suitors offering significant money.  Martinez turned in a .335/.409/.565 slash line last season and, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote recently, he’ll be seeking out a four-year deal.  The Tigers will surely attach the qualifying offer to him, but the soon-to-be 36-year-old might price himself out of Detroit, especially if he’s married to the idea of a four-year pact.  If Martinez goes, the Tigers could to the trade market with an eye on Adam Lind, though they’d probably want to find a platoon partner to go with him.  It’s also conceivable that Ryan Howard‘s left-handed bat could be a fit for them if the Phillies absorb the vast majority of his remaining salary.

At shortstop, Dombrowski says that the prognosis on Jose Iglesias is positive and he will be expected to take the full-time job if “he returns to the form of the past.”  The Tigers could turn to Eugenio Suarez to fill the gap if Iglesias isn’t 100%, but they also might want to explore adding a depth option on a minor league deal.

The Tigers would love to have a healthy Andy Dirks back in 2015 for his projected salary of $1.63MM, but it’s far from a given that he can stay on the field after missing all of 2014 thanks to back problems.  Utility man Don Kelly (.245/.332/.288 in 95 games) is also arbitration-eligible and likely on the bubble.  As Dombrowski recently indicated, the Tigers could look to put Rajai Davis back in the corner outfield (his natural position) and slot J.D. Martinez on the opposite side and find a center fielder elsewhere.

Colby Rasmus is on the open market and, as recently noted by MLBTR’s Jeff Todd, guys like Dexter Fowler, Drew Stubbs, Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos, and maybe Desmond Jennings could be available via trade.  Jeff recently pointed out a few potential left-handed-hitting trade possibilities that could make sense alongside Davis, such as Matt Joyce or David DeJesus, Alejandro De Aza or David Lough, Shane Victorino, Michael Saunders, and Ben Revere.  This is all speculative, of course, but there should be plenty of full-time or part-time options available on the trade market for Detroit. Speaking of the outfield, Torii Hunter sounds like he wants to continue playing and would like to re-sign with the Tigers, but he’s not sure if he could accept a reduced role.

In the long term, the Tigers have a great deal of guaranteed money locked up in aging players.  Meanwhile, they have shipped out a great deal of young talent including Willy Adames, Drew Smyly, and the aforementioned Thompson and Knebel.  At some point, one has to wonder if the Tigers will be left with an over-the-hill core and an over-harvested farm system.

The Tigers have shown a willingness to spend in the past, but last year’s two major trades — Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler and the Doug Fister swap — seem to indicate that ownership is still conscious of the bottom line.  With only so much wiggle room, the Tigers will have to be creative in addressing their needs and wants this winter.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Miguel Cabrera, Adam Wainwright Undergo Surgery

Two of the game’s biggest stars, Miguel Cabrera and Adam Wainwright, underwent surgery today, according to reports from MLB.com’s Jason Beck and Will Carroll of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Cabrera’s operation isn’t entirely surprising, but doctors also discovered a stress fracture in the navicular bone near the top of his right foot, Beck writes. That injury requires a longer rehab process and required screws to be inserted into Cabrera’s foot, according to Beck.

Cabrera will be re-evaluated in three months’ time, and GM Dave Dombrowski said the former AL MVP will be “pretty much inactive” until that point. Dombrowski wouldn’t comment on whether or not Cabrera would be ready for Spring Training, but it seems possible that he’ll be getting a late start to his 2015 campaign at this point. Dombrowski said the team would provide further updates once Cabrera is re-evaluted in January, but missing an offseason of workouts does bring his status for Opening Day in 2015 into question. Needless to say, the onset of injuries is troubling for both Tigers fans and the team itself, as Cabrera is owed an enormous sum of $240MM through the 2024 season.

Shifting to Wainwright, the team has since confirmed the news, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided further details. Wainwright had some cartilage “trimmed” in the back of his elbow in order to avoid irritation in that area, an official tells Goold. The Cardinals have said Wainwright will resume a throwing program in eight weeks, and the surgery is not expected to impact his 2015 season, Goold writes.

Clearly, the eight-week timeframe for Wainwright is less troubling than Cabrera’s outlook, although it doesn’t leave a large amount of room for setbacks. That schedule would allow Wainwright to resume throwing in mid-to-late December. The right-hander is owed $78MM over the remaining four years of his five-year, $97.5MM contract.


Victor Martinez To Seek Four-Year Deal

Victor Martinez is coming off perhaps the finest season of his career at age 35, but age won’t stop the designated hitter from pursuing a four-year contract on the open market, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Martinez implied earlier in the month to Anthony Castrovince that he’d like to play another four years, though not specifically all on one contract.

Martinez will decline a qualifying offer from the Tigers and seek a contract that covers the same term that his previous four-year, $50MM contract with Detroit. However, it can be reasonably assumed, in my estimation, that the guarantee on a new four-year deal would exceed that total. The Tigers would love to have Martinez back, Heyman writes, but a four-year deal could be a sticking point for the team.

Martinez ranked sixth on the final in-season edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings and will undoubtedly be looked upon favorably in MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings following the conclusion of the World Series. The veteran DH (and occasional first baseman/catcher) put up an excellent .335/.409/.565 batting line with 32 homers this season, leading the American Legaue in OBP and leading all of Major League Baseball in OPS (.974).

Nonetheless, a four-year deal for Martinez would run through his age-39 season, which obviously carries a tremendous amount of risk for any party interested in signing him. A four-year deal at an average annual value he and his representatives deem acceptable could approach or even exceed the $60MM mark — a steep price to pay for a slugger of that age, even coming off such a strong season.

Then again, the free agent market lacks power bats, so Martinez will have no shortage of interest. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that a team in need of a bat that feels it can contend in 2015-16 ponies up that kind of cash, even if the final years of the deal can be reasonably expected to return diminished results.


AL Central Notes: Aviles, Soria, Burton

As the Royals look to even the score in the World Series against the Giants, other teams in the division are shifting their focus to the offseason. Here are a few notes from the AL Central…

  • The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5MM club option on Mike Aviles rather than pay him a $250K buyout, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Indians could have reasonably gone either way, as the team has some limited financial flexibility (a topic I highlighted in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook). It appears that his versatility will earn him a spot on the 2015 club. The 33-year-old batted .247/.273/.343 in 374 plate appearances with Cleveland last year.
  • MLB.com’s Jason Beck spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and while the GM didn’t specifically say that the team would exercise its $7MM club option on Joakim Soria, he certainly implied as much with his comments: “We still have to make the final decision, but it’s a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also.” Dombrowski said that the team views Joe Nathan as its closer next season, though he indicated that Nathan will have to perform up to his previous capabilities in order to hold onto that role.
  • The Twins declined their $3.6MM option on Jared Burton earlier today, and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the team hasn’t expressed an interest in bringing the 33-year-old back, even at a lower rate.