Detroit Tigers Rumors

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

Cafardo On Roster Size, Cueto, Moncada, Maddon

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:

  • According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
  • The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.
  • For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
  • The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
  • The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.

 


Minor Moves: Harris, Robertson, LaTorre

Here are the day’s minor moves, all courtesy of Matt Eddy of Baseball America (Twitter links):

  • Third baseman Brendan Harris is headed to the Tigers on a minor league contract. The 34-year-old has seen action in parts of eight big league seasons, including a run as a regular over 2007-09, but since the close of 2010 has only 117 MLB plate appearances on his ledger. He did put up an interesting .288/.397/.396 slash last year at Triple-A Albuquerque, walking 75 times against just 43 strikeouts.
  • The Marlins have inked lefty Tyler Robertson to a minor league pact. Robertson is a 27-year-old lefty who saw 26 innings of big league action over 2012-13 with the Twins. He threw 17 1/3 frames of 4.15 ERA ball last year at Triple-A with the Nationals organization, striking out 7.3 and walking 2.1 per nine.
  • The Brewers added catcher Tyler LaTorre on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old had spent his entire nine-year professional career with the Giants, much of it at the Double-A level. After putting up solid numbers over 2011-12 in the upper minors, LaTorre has took a big step backward in 2013 and last year slased .268/.343/.332 in 216 total minor league plate appearances.

Quick Hits: Vlad, Olivera, Hudson, Soria

Matthew Marrota of Baseball Essential conducted an interesting interview with big league great Vladimir Guerrero and his prospect son, Vlad Jr. If you don’t believe Marrota’s description of the younger Guerrero as being the spitting image of his father in virtually all respects, the video included in the post ought to convince you. The one difference, according to Vlad Sr.? “He has more power, a lot,” says Guerrero. “I was very thin. Other than that we are the same player. We both played like men since we were very young.”

  • Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets that he continues to hear positive reviews on infielder Hector Olivera from scouts. The latest word, per Badler, is that the Dodgers and Padres are the most likely teams to add the veteran Cuban free agent.
  • Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson says his arm feels good after throwing two clean frames today, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. Hudson remains on track to contribute at the big league level this year after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll work from the rotation or the pen.
  • The Tigers have not made any attempt to work out a longer-term arrangement with reliever Joakim Soria, Tony Paul of the Detroit Free Press tweets. As he notes, that is not really surprising: Soria struggled upon being dealt to Detroit at the deadline last year, and Paul says there is “some skepticism” within the organization as to how he’ll perform this year. Assuming that nothing changes between now and the fall, the 30-year-old righty will hit the open market.


Quick Hits: Gardenhire, Bryant, Valverde

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.

  • MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
  • One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.

Out Of Options Players: AL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the AL Central.

White Sox: Maikel Cleto, Conor Gillaspie, Javy Guerra, Dan Jennings, Hector Noesi

The White Sox claimed Cleto off waivers from the Royals in February 2014, removing him from their 40-man roster in May and re-adding him in August.  He and Guerra are among those vying for a couple of spots in the team’s revamped bullpen, which features new additions David Robertson, Zach Duke, and Jennings.  Opening the season with an eight-man pen is possible.  In a Saturday post, Jim Margalus of South Side Sox ranked Cleto ahead of Guerra.

Indians: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Zach McAllister, Brandon Moss

Carrasco and Bauer have rotation spots locked down for the Indians.  McAllister is competing with a pool of others for two open spots, with Gavin Floyd‘s injury creating an opening.  About a month ago, Indians manager Terry Francona implied McAllister will make the club, either as a starter or reliever.  Also about a month ago, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian described Hagadone as a “virtual lock” for the Tribe’s pen.

Tigers: Jose Iglesias, Hernan Perez, Andrew Romine

Perez and Romine were thought to be in competition for one bench spot, writes James Schmehl of Mlive.com, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said recently the team could break camp with both on the roster.  If healthy, Iglesias will be the everyday shortstop.

Royals: Louis Coleman, Jarrod Dyson, Erik Kratz

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star broke down the Royals’ bullpen situation yesterday.  Relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor, and Chris Young are locked into a pen that could break camp with eight.  At present, it seems likely they’ll be able to find a spot for Coleman.

As McCullough noted in an earlier article, Kratz is competing with Francisco Pena for the backup catcher job.  He feels that the 34-year-old Kratz is a better fit for the gig than Pena, who is 25.  Dyson will be the team’s fourth outfielder.

Twins: Eduardo Escobar, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Jordan Schafer

Escobar seems assured a utility infield job on the team, but Nunez’s status is uncertain.  A trade seems possible.  Schafer’s all but certain to be Minnesota’s fourth outfielder.


Central Notes: Floyd, Cingrani, Morales, Harris

Indians right-hander Gavin Floyd, who re-fractured his right olecranon last week, is set to have surgery on Tuesday, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Floyd, who has pitched sparingly over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and the original olecranon fracture in his right elbow, was expected to serve as a veteran presence in a largely inexperienced Indians rotation after signing a one-year, $4MM deal. Now, however, Cleveland is unlikely to receive any contribution from Floyd this year.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani is being shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as most figured the left-hander would step into the rotation following the trades of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Cingrani has worked as a starter in the past and racked up excellent strikeout numbers, but he’s had shoulder issues as well, so perhaps the team feels this will keep him healthier. Cuban right-hander Raisel Igesias, meanwhile, will be stretched out to work as a starting pitcher.
  • Franklin Morales is building a strong case to take the injured Tim Collins‘ spot as a left-hander in the Royals‘ bullpen, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Morales has fired six scoreless innings and impressed Kansas City decision-makers. Brandon Finnegan is a well-regarded prospect and could have a shot at making the team, but the team still would like to develop him as a starter and he also hasn’t pitched as well this spring. No final decisions have been made on the situation, writes McCullough.
  • The Tigers added another player to camp yesterday when they reportedly signed Jiwan James, and another addition may on the horizon as well. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the team may add veteran infielder Brendan Harris, presumably on a minor league deal. The 34-year-old Harris is a career .256/.314/.381 hitter in the Majors, with his best seasons coming between the Twins and Rays in 2007-08. Harris hasn’t played in the Majors much since 2010, however, receiving just 117 plate appearances with the Angels and hitting .206/.252/.355.

Minor Moves: Ben Francisco, Jiwan James

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Diamondbacks announced they have released outfielder Ben Francisco. Arizona signed the 33-year-old to a minor league deal last December after he spent 2014 with the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers posting a line of .242/.303/.390 in 244 plate appearances (57 games). Francisco, who was 1-for-8 during his Spring Training run with the Diamondbacks, last played a MLB game in 2013 and has a career mark of .253/.323/.418 covering parts of seven seasons with the Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, Rays, and Yankees.
  • The Tigers have signed outfielder Jiwan James after he participated in the team’s tryout camp last week, tweets MLB.com’s Jason Beck. The 25-year-old had signed last month with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League. Before being sidelined the past two seasons for surgery on his knee and for Crohn’s Disease, James was a top prospect for the Phillies being ranked on multiple occasions by Baseball America as the organization’s best athlete, fastest runner, and best defensive outfielder.

AL Notes: Indians, Price, White Sox, Baldoquin

In today’s mailbag, a reader asked Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer if Gavin Floyd suffering an injury so soon after his signing indicates a broader issue with the Indians‘ ability to evaluate a pitcher’s health risk. There have been hits and misses for the Tribe, Hoynes explains, pointing to successes like their cheap gamble on Scott Kazmir. Over the last 20 years or so, Cleveland has established a good reputation for rehabbing injured hurlers from other organizations, so one bad break doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their feel for it. For more on the Indians’ offseason, check out MLBTR’s Steve Adams in-depth review.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • The bounty of starting pitchers in the upcoming free agent class will provide enough of a safety net for the Tigers if they fail to extend David Price, opines MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Owner Mike Ilitch is the wild card whether the Tigers make a strong bid to retain Price, who, Iott notes, will match, if not exceed, Max Scherzer‘s deal and without the deferments.
  • Utilityman Don Kelly wanted to return to the Tigers, but signed with the Marlins because they represented a clearer path to the Majors, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com. “Detroit was like a second home for us, so to make that change was tough,” said Kelly. “To be able to bounce around and everything that goes on in a National League game, that was one of the reasons why it was such a good fit. The way the roster was set up at the time, and the way Miami’s was, it just seemed like a better fit to be in the NL and to be here.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn focuses on two factors when deciding whether to extend an arbitration-eligible player like Adam Eaton or Avisail Garcia, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “It’s a combination of feeling, one, that the player is a key part to what we have going here and want to make sure we are able to have him longer than the normal six-year control period,” Hahn said. “And second, probably almost as important if not more important, is the belief that the guaranteed money wouldn’t change the player’s approach to their preparation for the game.
  • Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register chronicles the Angels’ recruitment of Roberto Baldoquin and how the franchise believes their $15MM investment ($8MM signing bonus plus the tax for exceeding their international bonus pool) is justified based on the numerous interactions between the organization and the 19-year-old Cuban prior to his signing.

Starting Pitching Notes: Scherzer, Price, Cards

Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season.  “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.”  Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following.  “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said.  “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”

Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…

  • The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place.  Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
  • Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
  • Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier.  It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.

Offseason In Review: Detroit Tigers

Another postseason appearance without a World Series victory made for a disappointing finish in the Motor City, and the Tigers will now be relying on a rotation and an outfield that look markedly different than last year’s units.

Major League Signings

Trades and Claims

Extensions

  • None

Notable Minor League Deals

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

Knowing that a reunion with Max Scherzer was highly unlikely after the ace spurned a six-year, $144MM contract offer last year in Spring Training, the Tigers instead made fellow free agent Victor Martinez their top priority. V-Mart didn’t take long to be persuaded, though the price tag — a four-year, $68MM contract — makes that rather unsurprising. Though Martinez had interest from a number of other clubs coming off a monster season, the combination of a contract of that length at his age (36) and a familiar environment appealed enough to get a contract worked out at the GM Meetings. That decision looked perhaps questionable at the time, and naysayers had plenty of fuel for that opinion just a few months later, when Martinez underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He’s expected to be ready for Opening Day, but knee surgery for a 36-year-old catcher-turned-DH is hardly the way team or player would have liked to kick off the new four-year pact.

Yoenis  Cespedes

The Tigers entered the 2014 season with a rotation of Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, but just two of that quintet remain in the Motor City. Scherzer is with the Nationals after inking a seven-year, $210MM deal, while Smyly was sent to Tampa in the David Price trade. Porcello’s departure came this offseason, as he was flipped to the Red Sox in a trade that netted Yoenis Cespedes and a pair of relatively fringy relief prospects. The move found a younger replacement for the departing Torii Hunter and ultimately saved the Tigers a couple million dollars, as Cespedes’ $10.5MM salary is a bit less steep than the $12.5MM Porcello received to avoid arbitration.

Replacing Porcello and Scherzer will be righties Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon. In Greene, the Tigers were able to flip Robbie Ray — acquired in the widely panned Doug Fister trade from the 2013-14 offseason — and a well-regarded but low-level infield prospect for a controllable, affordable rotation option. Greene is entering his age-26 season after a nice rookie campaign with the Yankees in which he posted a 3.78 ERA in 78 2/3 innings. He’ll need to prove himself capable of holding down that role in the long run, as Greene has little minor league track record of which to speak and ranked among Baseball America’s Top 30 Tigers prospects just once (No. 16 prior to the 2014 season).

The move to acquire Simon was particularly surprising, in my eyes, not because the Tigers targeted him but because of the steep price Detroit paid for one year of Simon, who is eligible for free agency next winter. Simon fills the fifth slot in the rotation but at the steep price of Eugenio Suarez — at least a serviceable utility infielder, if not something more — and a power-armed prospect, Jonathon Crawford, that could’ve served as a long-term option in Detroit’s perennially questionable bullpen somewhere down the line. (Crawford was their first-round selection in the 2013 draft.)

Having traded Austin Jackson to the Mariners in the three-team Price deal, the Tigers lacked an everyday option in center field, but they addressed that by picking up Anthony Gose in exchange for prospect Devon Travis. Travis was blocked long-term by Ian Kinsler anyhow and has drawn some questionable reviews from some evaluators (others do feel he can be a big league second baseman), so moving him to acquire a defensively-gifted platoon partner for Rajai Davis made some sense. Gose has never hit much in the Majors but he covers quite a bit of ground in center field (+2 DRS and +13.6 UZR/150 in 901 MLB innings) and can hold his own in platoon situations (.241/.316/.350 career vs. RHP).

Joba Chamberlain was re-signed late in the offseason, and the team will hope that his 2015 looks more like last season’s first half than second half. Newcomer Tom Gorzelanny represents the only other addition to the bullpen, although the $7MM option on July acquisition Joakim Soria was exercised as well.

Questions Remaining

Detroit’s bullpen seems to be the team’s biggest flaw every season, and it is again a significant question mark heading into 2015. Joe Nathan endured his worst season since becoming a closer (with the possible exception of 2011 — his first back from Tommy John surgery) and will return along with a $10MM price tag to prove that he still has something left in the tank. Joakim Soria, one of the best setup men available on last year’s summer trade market, was a tremendous letdown with the Tigers, though that was at least partially due to an oblique strain that limited him to 11 unsightly innings with the club.

However, despite a series of bullpen meltdowns that resulted in the team’s exit from the 2014 playoffs, the only real change was swapping Gorzelanny out for the departed Phil Coke (who signed with the Cubs earlier this month). The Tigers are counting on big things from flamethrowing Bruce Rondon in his return from Tommy John surgery, but if he struggles in his first year back — which is highly possible, especially considering the fact that he’s thrown just 28 2/3 Major League innings — the Tigers could be in for a long season full of bullpen-driven headaches.

The rotation, too, is anything but certain. While we know which five starters will comprise the group — Price, Verlander, Sanchez, Greene and Simon — the effectiveness of that group is far from a guarantee. Verlander struggled all season in 2014 after undergoing core muscle surgery. He told ESPN’s Jayson Stark this spring that the residual effect of that operation was pain in his shoulder from an inability to use his core properly, adding that he was well behind schedule to open the year. Greene, as noted above, has little Major League experience and lacks any form of minor league track record. And Simon, who was excellent for the Reds in the first half of 2014, wilted in the second half somewhat predictably. Simon’s first-half dominance in Cincinnati (2.70 ERA in 116 2/3 innings) was driven by a .232 average on balls in play and an 85.1 percent strand rate. He didn’t come close to sustaining either and saw his ERA spike to 4.52 in the second half. Simon entered the 2014 season with just 19 career starts and was somewhat surprisingly able to make 32 last year, but whether or not he can do it again remains to be seen. He also averaged just 5.8 K/9, and a move to the American League isn’t going to help in that regard.

Looking at the rest of the roster, both Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila have some health question marks, while the world will be watching J.D. Martinez intently to see if he can sustain last season’s incredible breakout campaign. If he falters, Steven Moya could get a look this summer. Nick Castellanos was below average at the plate but historically bad from a defensive standpoint, at least per Defensive Runs Saved (-30), so it’s conceivable that third base will eventually be an issue as well. At shortstop, the team is banking on Jose Iglesias return to health after stress fractures in both shins cost him the entire 2014 season. His importance is even more crucial following the trade of Suarez to Cincinnati.

The largest question surrounding the team this spring, however, may have nothing to do with on-field production at all. Rather, all eyes will be on Price, as he’s said on multiple occasions that he is open to an extension with Detroit and expects the team to engage him in talks before he hits free agency. One would imagine that the Tigers may be comfortable offering Price something similar to the six-year, $144MM deal they offered Scherzer last year, but Price and agent Bo McKinnis undoubtedly took notice of the Scherzer contract and have to feel confident that they could at least secure a Jon Lester-like $155MM over six years.

Deal of Note

The acquisition of Cespedes was perhaps more interesting than it appeared on the surface. The Tigers and Red Sox essentially swapped comparably priced, above-average though not-quite-star players who have one year of team control remaining. However, Cespedes, unlike Porcello, is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer at season’s end, so the Tigers also parted with the ability to receive draft pick compensation.

Detroit did save about $2MM in the trade, which is probably in the neighborhood of the slot value the Sox would receive in a 2016 pick, should Porcello reject a qualifying offer and sign elsewhere. (And, one would presume that as a 27-year-old free agent, if he performs well enough to receive a QO, it’ll be a no-brainer to reject it.)

Overview

It’s become almost cliche to say that the Tigers are nearing the end of their window of contention, but that may very well be the case when looking at their long-term payroll. Detroit already has $101MM committed to Verlander, Cabrera, Martinez, Sanchez and Kinsler for the 2017 season, and the first three of that trio will earn a combined $76MM in 2018. On top of that, the team is considered to have one of league’s worst farm systems. Clearly, the Tigers are attempting to win now, perhaps knowing that their core will be more expensive than productive in the not-too-distant future.

The current group is considered by many a favorite in the AL Central, but there’s some very real uncertainty at the back of the rotation, in the bullpen and on the left side of the infield (to say nothing of health concerns for nearly all of the team’s top players).

Still, the star power and talent on this team is undeniable, and if Cabrera, Verlander and Martinez are healthy, it’s tough to envision them falling out of the race in the AL Central. However with Price, Simon and Cespedes among the players currently on pace to hit the open market next winter, it’ll be interesting to see how the team approaches future seasons, especially if the remnants of an already depleted farm system are stripped down even further for trades this summer. Of course, one World Series win would likely make it all worth it for the Tigers and their fans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.