Detroit Tigers Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Whelan, Richmond

Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.

  • The Tigers have signed righty reliever Kevin Whelan, Baseball America's Matt Eddy tweets. Whelan, 30, pitched last season for the Reds' Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, posting a 4.97 ERA with 13.0 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9. He briefly appeared in the Majors with the Yankees in 2011.
  • The Rangers have re-signed starter Scott Richmond, Eddy tweets. Richmond posted a 5.91 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 20 starts with Triple-A Round Rock last season. He pitched in parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays, the last of those coming in 2012.
  • The Royals have signed pitchers Mitch Stetter and Hassan Pena, along with outfielder Devon Torrence, notes Eddy. Stetter last appeared in the big leagues with the Brewers in 2011. Pena, a former Nationals farmhand, pitched in Mexico last year. Torrence is a former NFL cornerback who also once played in the Astros organization.

AL Notes: Fister Trade, Jimenez, Hardy, Correia

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has ranked the ten best and worst transactions of the offseason. The number one spot on both lists goes to the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals and returned Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol to the Tigers. Cameron argues that the deal is "the most lopsided trade we've seen in years," and notes that many observers are at a loss to understand it from Detroit's perspective. While the return for Fister certainly seems light, I tried to make some sense of the swap back in December, writing that the deal was a part (albeit a questionable one) of a massive overhaul of the club's future commitments that saved as much as $150MM in down-the-line salary while maintaining most of its present on-field quality.

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski endeavored to explain the trade from his perspective in an interesting interview with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He made clear that the team decided to deal one of its veterans for a good, young arm. "You can see that young pitching right now is very difficult to acquire," said Dombrowski. "We had a list of about 15 pitchers that we would consider in various deals. [Ray] was one of the 15. The other 14 people said no. And [the Nationals] said no at first." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that the club was hesitant to part with Ray, even with Fister being dangled, saying that was "why the trade took 2 1/2 weeks to consummate."
  • Dombrowski rejected the claims made by other executives that they had not known of Fister's availability, saying instead that he encountered a hesitant market. "That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "We had our list of around 15 guys. We went to every one of those clubs: 'Would you trade this guy? Would you trade that guy?' And none of them would trade one." When the deal started to take shape, Dombrowski said he decided to grab Ray while he could. "We thought: Do we make this deal now, which we like? Or do we wait and see what else becomes available? But then does Washington do something else? Does [the trade] end up not taking place?" As I wrote at the time, the timing of things seemed to play an important role in how the deal came together; indeed, the Tigers went on to sign Joe Nathan the very next day, adding a two-year commitment at slightly more than Fister figures to earn in that stretch.
  • The groundwork for the Orioles' signing of Ubaldo Jimenez was laid at the Winter Meetings when the starter and his agent met with new pitching coach Dave Wallace, executive VP Dan Duquette, and others, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun"Right there, I knew," said Jimenez. "They're really humble, really down-to-earth guys, and I knew it was going to be special to be in this organization. RIght there, I was like, 'Pretty much, this is the team I want to be with.' It's going to be a big part of my future for me and my family. The city is great and they have a competitive team. Those guys in the clubhouse look like they are great guys." Jimenez backed up his expressions of commitment by revealing that he would move his whole family — including his parents and sister — to Baltimore, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
  • Though he is heartened by the club's moves and remains happy in Baltimore, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy says that he has heard nothing about an extension beyond what has been reported publicly, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore"Even after FanFest, I thought something was going to happen right away because I think you guys were asking Dan [Duquette]," said Hardy. "He came up to me and said something about how we're going to start talking extension, but really nothing has happened. I don't know. Maybe they were waiting to do some of these other moves or something." Hardy, who could test the market next year, says that he is still interested in a new deal: "If they come to me with an extension, we'll definitely be open with trying to work that out."
  • Meanwhile, righty Kevin Correia of the Twins says that he would be interested in continuing to pitch in Minnesota when his two-year, $10MM deal expires after the season, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But, said Correia, he has not had any talks about an extension to date. "They had a pretty busy offseason with the pitching staff, so we haven't really talked," he said. "I enjoy playing here. We talked to the effect of how my experience was here, how I enjoyed the team and the coaching staff and everything, but that's about as far as we've gotten." Correia, 33, does not offer much upside but delivered solid results for the Twins last year, logging 185 1/3 innings of 4.18 ERA ball. Of course, as Berardino notes, with three new starters under contract and several prospect arms expected to reach the bigs in short order, the veteran may not fit into the club's plans after this year and could become a mid-season trade piece.

Quick Hits: Sandoval, Braves, Dodgers, O’s, Tigers

Perhaps notable among this year's wave of stories on early-spring physiques, a trimmer Pablo Sandoval has reported to Giants Spring Training, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. Sandoval is aware that many will credit the weight loss to his impending free agency, but says he was motivated by his teammates and the desire to win a championship. Haft notes that Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated during the Winter Meetings this year that he'd consider a multiyear deal for Sandoval if he reported to camp in shape. More late-night links from around the majors:

  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says he plans to offer encouragement to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who both struggled mightily in 2013 (via MLB.com's Mark Bowman). "I'm going into the season, right now, thinking Danny is going to play second base," Gonzalez said.
  • New Dodgers infielder Alexander Guerrero's transition from shortstop to second base "has not come easily," Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Guerrero's struggles at the position reportedly motivated the Dodgers' signings of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.
  • The Orioles will announce their deal with Suk-Min Yoon on Sunday, and both sides expect a press conference on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes.
  • A deal between the Tigers and free agent reliever Ryan Madson is unlikely, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck. Detroit had a scout in attendance at Madson's recent workout, but the team's interest is likely "limited to due diligence." While GM Dave Dombrowski has hinted at the possibility of adding another reliever, the Tigers prefer a minor league deal, Beck says.


AL Central Notes: Scherzer, Shields, Indians

Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer reiterates that he won't negotiate an extension once the season starts, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press writes. "This can be a major distraction," Scherzer says. "I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season." Scherzer would not say whether he and his agent, Scott Boras, are currently negotiating a deal with the Tigers. Here are more notes from the AL Central.

  • James Shields of the Royals is heading into his last season before what should be a hefty free-agent payday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. "I’d definitely say he’s a $20 million (per season) guy," says one AL executive. Along with Scherzer and Homer Bailey, Shields will headline the 2014-2015 class of starting pitching. The Royals aren't ruling out extending Shields, but it will be tricky for them to retain him. "If they keep him, it’ll be a bit of a revelation over there," says the executive.
  • After a quiet offseason, the Indians seem to be hoping the team can take a step forward with newcomer David Murphy and with better performances from returning players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Michael BournPaul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have not had contact with Ubaldo Jimenez's agent since last month.

AL Central Links: Ryan, Royals, Indians, Martinez

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was released from the hospital today after undergoing surgery to treat cancer discovered in his neck, the team announced. He'll spend the next several days at home recuperating as the Twins get their 2014 Spring Training underway. Here's more out of the AL Central…

  • Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star looks at the Royals' payroll in an effort to correct critics that mocked GM Dayton Moore calling the 2014 payroll a "gamble." Those critics pointed to the additional $25MM in revenue teams are receiving from national TV revenue, but Mellinger spoke with Forbes Sports senior editor Kurt Badenhausen who explained that the $25MM number is a myth. The Royals' increase (after MLB takes its share) is more like $5-10MM, he explaines. Mellinger writes that while owner David Glass and Moore have each had their failures, the success or failure of the past seven years will ultimately be determined by the 2014 Royals' on-field results.
  • Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone and GM Chris Antonetti both are relieved to have the long-standing grievance between the two sides resolved, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Antonetti said he and the rest of management feel Hagadone can be a big part of the bullpen going forward, and Hagadone said he was happy with the grievance's outcome: "In the end, I thought it was very fair. I’m happy with the outcome. I’m happy I can just concentrate on baseball."
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes that the Indians and right-hander Josh Tomlin tried to settle their pending arbitration case but were unable to do so before today's hearing. Announcement of a result can be expected in the near future. Within that piece, Antonetti says he is still hopeful of avoiding a hearing with ace Justin Masterson.
  • The Tigers are planning on getting Victor Martinez some occasional time behind the plate in 2014, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. In reference to interleague games in National League parks, manager Brad Ausmus told Iott: "We can't not have Victor play for five straight games." Martinez says that he's excited to get back into some games at catcher. Additionally, Miguel Cabrera could still work some games at third base, with Martinez handling first base Iott writes. Both will work on those positions in Spring Training.

Quick Hits: Bailey, Burnett, Twins, Samardzija

Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri.  Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.

Here are some items from around the baseball world…

  • The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said.  Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract.  This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal.  Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
  • The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
  • The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).  Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today.  The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
  • Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive.  The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
  • The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
  • Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link).  Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
  • Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired.  Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career.  Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
  • Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
  • Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.

Tigers Notes: Cabrera, Paulino, Verlander

Happy birthday to former Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon, who turns 59 years old today.  Lemon, the 22nd overall pick of the 1972 draft, spent his first seven seasons with the White Sox before he was traded to Tigers prior to the 1982 season.  "Chet The Jet" went on to be a staple in the Detroit outfield for the next nine seasons, hitting a solid .263/.349/.437 with 142 homers in 1203 games as a Tiger and earning himself a ring as part of the 1984 World Series championship team.

Here's the latest from Motown…

  • Miguel Cabrera told reporters (including MLB.com's Jason Beck) that he hasn't talked to his agents about contract extension talks with the Tigers, though the two-time AL MVP isn't concerned given that he still has two years remaining on his current deal.
  • Catcher Ronny Paulino has been suspended for 100 games after testing positive for exogenous testosterone, Major League Baseball announced.  Paulino was originally acquired by the Tigers from the Orioles last August and Detroit re-signed the veteran backstop to a minor league deal in November.  This is the second PED suspension for Paulino, who was suspended for 50 games spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.  He last played in the Majors in 2012, appearing in 20 games with Baltimore.
  • Justin Verlander isn't planning on talking fellow ace Max Scherzer into remaining with the Tigers once his contract is up.  "Max is his own guy….He’s going to make his own decisions, but I don’t think I need to be a recruiter," Verlander told reporters, including Beck.  "I think from what he’s been saying, he’s made it loud and clear that that he wants to stay in Detroit….I think what this organization has done has recruited him — not just the players here. I think he enjoys being part of this team."  Verlander also discussed such topics as the Tigers' offseason moves and the rise of salaries across baseball during his chat with the media.

AL Notes: Red Sox, Drew, Orioles, Tigers, Damon

Five years ago today, Alex Rodriguez admitted and apologized for using PEDs during his tenure with the Rangers. Rodriguez blamed the pressure of trying to fulfill the expectations created by his then-record 10-year, $252MM contract. Two days ago, Rodriguez voluntarily dismissed his federal lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's Office, and the MLBPA and will serve his 162-game suspension stemming from his role in the Biogenesis affair. Here's the latest from the American League:

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he doesn't expect anything to happen with Stephen Drew before the start of Spring Training; but, out of respect for the shortstop, has maintained a dialogue with agent Scott Boras.
  • Cherington also told the pair he is working the phones to add another reliever (via a Bowden tweet).
  • The Red Sox's starting rotation, currently flush with experienced hurlers, could take on a much younger and cheaper look in the next 12-18 months, writes the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Left-hander Henry Owens headlines the list of Boston's pitching prospects on the verge of reaching the Majors, according to Lauber. 
  • Having lost out on Bronson Arroyo and entering the second week of February without a truly significant free agent acquisition, the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck opines it's fair to wonder how much the Orioles really want to win this year.
  • Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters recently, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade set the tone for the other moves he made this offseason. "If that move wasn’t made, you’re really in a position where you’re kind of back to where you were. It was one move that set off our plans in place." One part of that plan has received much scrutiny: dealing Doug Fister to the Nationals. Dombrowski said Fister was expendable because the Tigers have six solid starters with three of them (Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Drew Smyly) under contract for at least the next four years while also proclaiming he'd love to have Max Scherzer "stay as a Tiger for a long time."   
  • Johnny Damon, whose last MLB appearance was with the Indians in 2012, is open to managing or resuming his playing career, but only on the Major League level, reports the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin.

Bowden’s Latest: Free Agency, Scherzer, Drew, Lobaton

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.

Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM…

  • Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
  • The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
  • The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
  • The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
  • Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles — who still have about $15MM to spend — and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
  • The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Alex Avila

The Tigers announced, via press release, that they have avoided arbitration with catcher Alex Avila by agreeing to a one-year contract for the 2014 season. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Avila receives a $4.15MM salary for 2014, and the Tigers have a $5.4MM club option with a $200K buyout for the 2015 campaign. The option can vest if Avila is named to the 2014 All-Star team, finishes Top 15 in the MVP voting or wins a Silver Slugger award (Twitter links). Avila is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Avila and the Tigers exchanged arb figures two weeks ago, with Avila submitting a $5.35MM salary and the club countering at $3.75MM. That places Avila's $4.35MM guarantee slightly below the $4.55MM midpoint. All figures are higher than the $3.7MM mark projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Avila, who turned 27 just two days ago, batted .227/.317/.376 with 11 homers in 102 games (379 plate appearances). It's been a rough couple of seasons for the former fifth-round pick, but in 2011 he met all three of his vesting option criteria when he made the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger and finished 12th in the AL MVP voting. Avila also played a whopping 133 games at catcher that season, and since that time, he's had some issues with his knee and hamstring. He also missed time in 2013 with a concussion.

The Tigers have likely locked in Avila's final two years of arbitration with this deal, and they've also avoided an arbitration with any of their eligible players, as Avila was their last remaining unsigned case.