Detroit Tigers Rumors
While the Yankees have already netted several of the offseason's top players, inking Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Hiroki Kuroda for a combined $299MM, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that the Bombers will again field a roster with age and injury concerns. Beltran, for example, will be paid $45MM for his age 37-39 seasons despite missing significant time in the past with knee problems. "They will just repeat the cycle,” one rival executive speaking with Rosenthal commented. “No young players ready, need to win now, blow everyone out of the water (financially) and hope in three years they have young talent.” Let's take a look at the rest of Rosenthal's excellent column:
- Though the Red Sox have responded to the Yankees' spending spree with smaller deals for players such as Edward Mujica and Mike Napoli, Rosenthal writes that Boston holds a major advantage over the Yanks in scouting and player development, as the Ellsbury signing shows. While the Sox are unlikely to target Shin-Soo Choo, GM Ben Cherington may also have a surprise in the works, as Boston has considered trading for Matt Kemp and could also deal one of its starters.
- Choo may receive a deal that's nearly as large as Ellsbury’s $153MM pact, some executives believe. The Rangers, Mariners, Tigers and Reds appear to be likely landing spots, though some officials tell Rosenthal that the Giants and Astros could also get involved.
- Clubs that fail to land Choo will shift their attention to Nelson Cruz, who could also draw interest from the Orioles and Royals.
- The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Mariners appear to be best-positioned among clubs looking to acquire David Price from the Rays. The Mariners in particular are expected to try and surround new acquisition Robinson Cano with impact talent in the early phase of his 10-year deal, when he'll be the most productive. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are indicating they're shifting their focus to player development, and are unlikely to offer up elite prospects like Corey Seager. While the Cardinals have the prospects to get Price, they've yet to indicate major interest in doing so.
- To trade Kemp now would be selling low on the outfielder, who missed significant time in 2013 with injuries. However, if the Dodgers are willing to absorb some salary, Kemp will look attractive in comparison with 2015's weak class of free agent outfielders.
- Some baseball sources tell Rosenthal that they think Rakuten Golden Eagles President Yozo Tachibana might follow through on a threat to not post Masahiro Tanaka. Tachibana is considered "something of a maverick" by MLB execs, and Tanaka's value is set to plummet for Rakuten under a posting system in which the maximum fee is $20MM, Rosenthal says.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is out with a Winter Meetings preview, noting that the frenzy of signings and trades this week threatens to overshadow an event that's traditionally one of the hot stove's busiest periods. Twenty teams either swapped a player or agreed to terms with a free agent between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, according to ESPN's count. "I don't ever remember a day like Tuesday ever," an AL official commented. "Not just [during] the week before the Winter Meetings. Ever." Nevertheless, with several top names remaining unsigned and rumors of a David Price trade hanging in the air, Stark notes that there's plenty of hot stove left. Here's a run-through of his Winter Meetings preview, which includes a survey of 17 big league executives (conducted before the Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano signings):
- Some believe Scott Boras will bide his time with Shin-Soo Choo following how quickly a deal for Jacoby Ellsbury came together with the Yankees, but there's another group that believes the superagent wants to show new rival Jay Z that he can be decisive. Around half of execs polled said they think Choo could sign during the Winter Meetings, or immediately afterward. All speculated he'll land with either the Rangers, Mariners or Tigers, though Detroit is indicating they're not involved.
- The market for starting pitching has been slow to develop because of uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, as well as slow-developing rumors for Price and Jeff Samardzija, leaving Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the board. Officials polled varied widely in their predictions for when the two will sign, though many see Garza heading to the Yankees or the Orioles. Draft pick compensation is an issue with Jimenez, who doesn't have a consistent track record.
- Kendrys Morales isn't expected to sign soon, with many NL clubs passing on the slugger because there's a perception that he'll need to DH. "I think he has all the makings of this year's Kyle Lohse," one exec commented. Draft pick compensation is also an issue. "You should never forget how many teams don't want to give up those draft picks," one exec commented.
- Samardzija was seen as the player most likely to be traded during the Meetings among players who are still on the market, though his three votes only slightly surpassed Mark Trumbo's two. Many believe, however, that Samardzija could remain a Cub until later in the winter, or even until the summer trade deadline in July. One exec said he thinks the Angels were more willing to move Trumbo a month ago than they are currently.
- Carlos Beltran was by far seen as the most likely player to sign during the Meetings, though as that's already happened, the title is now held by Choo.
- While the Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Braves, Diamondbacks and Padres all appear to be interested in trading for Price, the group of teams that are actually able to consummate a deal could be much smaller. Rays GM Andrew Friedman appears to be taking his time allowing the market to develop. "Andrew is looking to make the Herschel Walker trade," a source tells Stark, referring to the 1989 NFL trade that involved 18 players and draft picks.
December 6th has been a notable day in Indians transaction history. The Tribe acquired Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Chris James from the Padres in exchange for Joe Carter on this day in 1989, and on 12/06/2002, the Indians picked up Travis Hafner (and righty Aaron Myette) from the Rangers in exchange for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese. Going all the way back to 1959, the Indians swung a seven-player deal with the White Sox that involved such notables as Minnie Minoso (to Chicago) and Norm Cash (to Cleveland).
Here are some notes about the modern-day Indians...
- Right-hander Matt Albers has already received at least one two-year contract offer from an interested team, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Albers has received interest from several clubs, and Hoynes reports that one of those teams is from the AL Central, possibly the Tigers or White Sox. The Indians have discussed a one-year deal with Albers and Hoynes speculates that the righty could take the shorter contract in order to help his value for next winter, provided he gets the right price.
- The Indians are close to re-signing Matt Carson after non-tendering the outfielder earlier this week, Hoynes reports (Twitter link). The contract would be a minor league deal and Carson would be invited to the Major League Spring Training camp. The Tribe non-tendered Carson earlier this week. Carson, 31, hit .252/.322/.394 with 14 homers in 490 PA with Triple-A Columbus last season, and he also received 13 PA in 20 games at the Major League level in 2013.
- The Indians' offseason "focus right now is pitching," GM Chris Antonetti told reporters (including Hoynes) today. "We’re still focused on trying to improve our pitching alternatives. We have come into the offseason in a much better position than we have in prior offseasons with the quality and quantity of our pitching alternatives on our roster and within the organization. That being said, we’re going to continue to try and find a way to improve it.” Antonetti noted that the team would keep its options open for position players, though adding David Murphy already addressed one of the Tribe's big needs.
- The team has "outstanding offers...on trades and free agents. We could go either direction or both," Antonetti said.
- With the 2013-14 offseason shaping up as an extremely costly one for free agent contracts, Antonetti is looking prescient for predicting this winter's spending explosion and instead adding key pieces last winter, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes. It looks like a much more low-key offseason for the Tribe this year, and Castrovince thinks Murphy's two-year, $12MM deal could end up being Cleveland's biggest expenditure.
In signing Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20MM deal this week, the Tigers secured the best reliever on the free agent market at only 77% of the amount I projected in mid-October. There's a significant age difference between the two relievers, but I'd rather have Nathan at two years and $20MM than Joe Smith at three years and $15.75MM. The way Nathan spoke about focusing on the Tigers from the outset of free agency, it's possible they were able to leverage his enthusiasm to get him on a relatively reasonable deal given the typical save-related inflation.
In 2013 the Tigers' bullpen ranked 12th in the AL with a 4.01 ERA. That figure counts guys like Jose Valverde and Jeremy Bonderman, however, and the situation wasn't as dire by season's end as the ERA suggests. In the postseason, the Tigers' key guys were Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras, Al Alburquerque, and Jose Alvarez. They lacked a good second lefty, but the core group of Benoit, Smyly, and Veras was strong in the regular season, as seen here.
The Tigers decided to move starter Doug Fister at what ESPN's Keith Law termed as "about 30 cents on the dollar" to presumably clear payroll space for Nathan (MLBTR's Jeff Todd looked at the Fister trade in depth here). That deal may have weakened the Tigers' rotation and bullpen, as the pen will lose Smyly but he probably won't be as good as Fister was in the rotation. The Tigers added a southpaw in the deal in 22-year-old Ian Krol, who has 31 innings of experience beyond the Double-A level. Lefty Phil Coke will also return to the team's bullpen after an underwhelming year.
In early November the Tigers declined Veras' $4MM club option in favor a $150K buyout, suggesting they did not value him at $3.85MM on a one-year deal. Benoit would be pricey to retain, with an outlay potentially topping Nathan's if he finds a three-year deal again.
It has been very surprising to see the Tigers take multiple cost-cutting measures. Were they not faced with this apparent restriction, they could have picked up Veras' option for the depth he provides, retained Fister, allowing Smyly to remain in the bullpen, and signed Nathan. Nathan would be replacing Benoit, a reasonable measure, and then GM Dave Dombrowski could have gone bullpen bargain shopping in January.
Keep in mind that the Tigers also saved $76MM in the Prince Fielder trade. Though we haven't seen this in recent years from the Tigers, it seems clear that most of this offseason's moves were driven by financial constraints. As surprising as that is, I can accept that no team has an unlimited amount of money to spend. But if you decide Fister is the piece you're going to move, and your bullpen needs tons of work, how do you trade him and not get back even one established, controllable reliever? As it stands, the Tigers do not have anyone reliable to slot in after Nathan, so Dombrowski will likely continue tinkering with his bullpen.
THURSDAY: Nathan's contract contains a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to five clubs, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY, 4:02pm: Nathan signed a two-year, $20MM contract with a $10MM option for 2016, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Nathan will earn $9MM in 2014, $10MM in 2015 and has a $1MM buyout on his option.
2:38pm: There won't be a repeat of 2013's early-season closer carousel for the Tigers in 2014. Detroit officially announced today that it has signed one of baseball's elite closers -- Joe Nathan -- to a two-year contract with a club option for a third year. The contract is reportedly in the $20MM range. Nathan is represented by agent Dave Pepe of Pro Agents, Inc.
The 39-year-old Nathan is coming off one of the finest seasons of his storied career, having pitched to a 1.39 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 64 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2013. Nathan added 43 more saves to his resume, tying him for 10th all-time with the legendary Rollie Fingers at 341. In his free agent profile of Nathan six weeks ago, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted that the active Major League saves leader would and a two-year deal worth $26MM.
Nathan will fill a void that the Tigers were unable to fill early in the 2013 season when Bruce Rondon, Phil Coke and Jose Valverde were unable to solidify the ninth inning. Though this year's free agent market is rife with closer types -- Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Edward Mujica, Jose Veras, Kevin Gregg, Chris Perez all saved 20 or more games -- Nathan appears to be the first domino to fall. Former Giants closer Brian Wilson is also reportedly nearing a deal to return to the Dodgers, suggesting that the relief market could pick up in the near future.
It's already been a highly active offseason for Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski. In addition to the Nathan deal, he's pulled off a blockbuster trade by flipping Prince Fielder (and $30MM) to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, and he's also traded Doug Fister to the Nationals for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that a deal was close (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the two sides were in agreement on a two-year deal (Twitter link), and Rosenthal added that it was in the $20MM range (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
As we work on catching up on things after a busy few days, here's the latest from the AL Central, which has been among the game's busiest divisions of late:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski made clear today that the trades of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister were connected both to the signing of closer Joe Nathan and the need to lock up major players like Max Scherzer, reports MLB.com's Jason Beck. "A very big part of what we were trying to accomplish [was] to get a closer," said Dombrowski. "And when I say that, sometimes you need some flexibility to make some other things happen, too. We do have some players that are on the verge of being free agents that are pretty big players for us, that you want to create some flexibility there to be in the right spot at various times."
- Dombrowski did, however, downplay the likelihood of a major new signing. "I would think that we would not be involved in the big [names]," said the GM.
In the wake of the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, Dombrowski says Nick Castellanos will start at third base with Miguel Cabrera moving back to first, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. The news confirms what had been suspected at the time, and jives with rumors linking Detroit to Shin-Soo Choo. It also confirms the broader market effects of the Fielder-Kinsler swap: that deal increased the amount of cash pegged for corner outfielders.
- Indeed, one such player, Carlos Beltran, is fielding interest from several clubs. He is very unlikely to get more than two years from the Yankees or Red Sox, however, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. It also appears that, if he wants to build up bidding for his services, Beltran may need to wait until Shin-Soo Choo leaves the market. Heyman reports that the Tigers, Reds, and Rangers are all very interested in Choo but also see Beltran as an option. While the Mariners are also involved and could be willing to spend big to lure the 36-year-old to the Pacific Northwest, Heyman indicates that the Royals are still perhaps the odds-on favorite to land Beltran out of the crowded field of suitors.
- After signing on for one more go-round with the White Sox, Paul Konerko plans to hang up his spikes afte 2014, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
- The Twins' off-season trade talks may have been gummed up by the recent suspension of well-regarded prospect Eddie Rosario, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 22-year-old Rosario cracks the top ten of the Minnesota prospect list, per Baseball America (subscription required, and recommended), which is particularly impressive given the top-end talent ahead of him. With Brian Dozier emerging as an option at second, Rosario had been the most likely prospect to be dangled as trade bait.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told Berardino that he sees free agency as the more likely route to add MLB players at this point, even after picking up Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes on the open market. "I don't want to give up any of our players," Ryan said. "I'm not saying we won't make a trade. We might. But if you're going to get a quality starter, it's going to be difficult."
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Whenever there's a trade that fans perceive as being one-sided, fans will often wonder why their team didn't get involved in negotiations. The beginning of a recent SportsNet.ca interview with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shows why that might not be as easy as it sounds. Anthopoulos says Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him that the Jays simply didn't have the players he wanted in a trade for Doug Fister. Detroit eventually sent Fister to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. That Dombrowski apparently didn't think the Blue Jays could beat that package might seem surprising, but it appears the Tigers simply had a very clear idea what they wanted, and it wasn't possible for the Jays to enter a higher bid. Here are more notes on the AL.
- The Orioles didn't have an easy time dealing Jim Johnson, a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Other teams weren't eager to trade for a closer making a hefty salary, so the offers the O's received were underwhelming.
- The Orioles would give up their first-round draft pick -- No. 17 overall -- if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means that, if they're willing to open their wallets, they could be contenders for players like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz, both of whom rejected qualifying offers.
- The Rays are hopeful that they can fix newly-acquired reliever Heath Bell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. "His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11)," says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. "He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He's just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it's about trying to sync them all up."
Machado, 21, batted .232/.277/.311 with one homer and one stolen base in 44 games this season at Class-A Advanced Lakeland. Though he's just a career .222/.301/.271 batter in the minors, Baseball America still ranked him 27th among Tigers prospects last offseason based solely on his defense. BA noted that while Dixon's power rates as a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale, he also possesses "graceful agility and excellent athleticism" to go along with soft hands, speed and a strong throwing arm.
Like many, it would seem, I was left pondering last night why, exactly, the Tigers felt compelled to ship off Doug Fister to the Nationals for a seemingly underwhelming return. We may just have received part of the answer, as Detroit moved quickly this morning to ink closer Joe Nathan. Though we don't yet know the terms of that contract, indications are that it will be a two-year commitment in the $20MM range. That sum almost certainly exceeds what Fister will earn over in the next two campaigns. (Fister is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $6.9MM through arbitration this year.)
It became clear that the Tigers may have been operating at or above their payroll threshold when they shipped Prince Fielder off to Texas for Ian Kinsler. That fact became all the more clear with the latest deal . As FOX Sports' Jon Morosi wrote this morning, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski cited payroll "flexibility" as a motivator in shipping out Fister. And while Dombrowski emphasized that the club is "not cutting payroll," that statement certainly does not indicate that the club is adding dollars to the books either. Looking at the franchise's commitments, it entered 2012 with a $148.7MM payroll. As of this morning, the club already owes $102.7MM for 2013, which will jump by a projected $32.7MM for the club's arbitration-eligible players that have yet to agree to terms. Though Fister's salary is eminently reasonable for his performance, it represented a big chunk of the team's remaining war chest.
On the one hand, then, the deal makes some sense. The Tigers have rotation depth and need a closer. But that reasoning, standing alone, is not what has drawn the most scorn. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, among others, has argued, the return that he brought seems light compared to recent deals for high-quality starters. Even if Dombrowski was determined to clear salary, the argument goes, he surely ought to have been able to bring back more than a good-but-not-great starting prospect (Robbie Ray), a utility infielder with limited upside (Steve Lombardozzi), and an interesting but still largely unknown left-handed reliever (Ian Krol).
While I find myself landing in the same camp as Cameron in that regard, it is reasonable to wonder whether the Nathan deal hints that other market pressures had a role here. Comments from Nats GM Mike Rizzo indicate that the sides had been in dialogue for several weeks about all three potentially available Detroit starters: Fister, Rick Porcello, and Max Scherzer. Presumably, that meant that the teams had already exchanged plenty of information and fully assessed each sides' potential trade chips. With last night's arbitration deadline and this morning's report of an agreement with Nathan, it could well be that Dombrowkski opted to pull the trigger on a deal that had already been well-vetted to make way for Nathan.
After all, we have not heard any particular suggestion that Dombrowski saw some special spark in Ray that made him desperate to pry him from the Nats. In fact, the Tigers reportedly preferred another young arm -- Taylor Jordan -- but were redirected to Ray. While we lack sufficient information to know conclusively, the broader market setting may well have played a substantial role in this deal from the Tigers' perspective.
Meanwhile, from the Nationals' side, all indications are that Rizzo did an excellent job assessing the market, identifying his target, and then waiting for an opportune time to make a deal. "This was not an easy trade for [the Nationals] to make, either," Dombrowski said. But it sure didn't sound that way from listening to Rizzo. "It's a good day in the Nationals' office when the sabermetricians and the scouts in the field see the players in the same way," he said. "It makes things much easier for me. That's what we had here."
To be sure, Rizzo emphasized that Washington had parted with significant talent and felt the trade was a fair deal. But, as he further explained, the club "really had identified Doug as our primary acquisition target as far as starting pitchers go" and "thought he was an undervalued asset." And the Nats' GM made clear that he felt that the team made out well in comparison to other recent deals. Compared to recent trades for Matt Garza, James Shields, and R.A. Dickey, Rizzo said, "we thought the player acquisition that we would have to give up was palatable."
Palatable, indeed. As I noted last night in writing up the deal, neither Lombardozzi nor Krol figure to be terribly difficult to replace in the immediate term. Though the Nationals have now shed yet another left-handed bullpen option, Rizzo has a history of digging up southpaws from unexpected places -- Krol included. And Rizzo has indicated that one or both of Ross Detwiler and Sammy Solis could slot into the pen. Further, there are several young utility infield options who probably have more upside and may have pushed Lombardozzi for a role next year anyway, including Jeff Kobernus, Zach Walters, and even Danny Espinosa. (It is worth noting that Walters and Espinosa are both switch hitters who can play short and have better sticks from the left side. Walters swatted 25 home runs from that side of the plate last year in Triple-A.) Again, the timing of this deal made these two pieces largely expendable for the Nationals.
Timing seems to have been on RIzzo's side in one other critical way as well: he may well have sold high on the two key arms in this deal. Krol came to the Nats as a player-to-be-named later in last year's Michael Morse deal, coming to D.C. as an afterthought to fellow hurlers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen. After dominating in Double-A, Krol got a quick call up to the big club's LOOGY-needy pen. He showed flashes of brilliance, but ultimately posted only a 3.95 ERA (along with a 4.69 FIP and 4.07 xFIP) in 27 1/3 innings. Giving all benefit of the doubt, his ceiling may be that of a late-inning stopper, and he does come with plenty of control. But given his spotty on and off-field history before coming to Washington, he is far from a sure thing. Whether or not Rizzo sold at the height of his value remains to be seen, but he sure did get more for him than he gave up.
Then, there is Ray, who, as Baseball Prospectus notes, is probably less valuable than the second-best piece (Jake Odorizzi) that went for Shields. And After lingering further down the list of Nationals' prospects for the last few years, Ray moved to fifth on the totem pole after the current season, in the eyes of Baseball America (subscription required). Though a jump in fastball velocity and nice strikeout numbers as a 21-year-old in Double-A have raised his prospect stock, Ray still is far from a sure thing. And he is at most probably the third-best young arm in the Nats' system, maybe lower if Taylor Jordan is considered and one is a Solis fan. As BA summed things up: "Ray’s plus fastball, athleticism and durable frame give him a chance to be a mid-rotation starter if he can develop his breaking ball. That remains a significant question mark ... ." As with Krol, he may not be at peak value, but his value has certainly been on the ascent of late, with his most recently showing significantly elevating his attractiveness.
This is not the first time that Rizzo has wheeled and dealed in this manner. Rizzo sent A.J. Cole to the Athletics as the headliner of the deal that brougth Gio Gonzalez to D.C., only to get him back at a cut rate in the aforementioned Morse trade. And after getting the better end of the deal that brought Morse to D.C., Rizzo extracted further value from the last year of the slugger's contract. In short, Rizzo has shown a propensity to trade on imbalances between perception and value.
As Rizzo's comments indicate, he saw Fister as an under-valued asset. He may well have felt the other way around about the pieces he sent out to acquire him. Indeed, as others have noted, most every team in baseball could have put together a package like the one the Nats gave up. But Fister was probably better than any open-market arm, and comes at a fraction of the cost. He adds nothing to the club's long-term payroll obligations, and because his salary will depend upon performance and remains non-guaranteed, he is an extremely flexible piece for the club.
In this sense, the Fister trade actually increases the Nats' flexibility. The club has one of the best top four starting groups in the game at a budget price, and can choose among a host of options for the last rotation spot, depth, and bullpen work. (Among them: Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf, Nathan Karns, Jordan and Solis.) Having bolstered the rotation at a low cost -- both in terms of prospects and committed cash -- the Nats could be positioned, if they wish, to make another major move this off-season, especially if an opportunistic chance presents itself. And, of course, the other thing that the Nats pick up in this deal are the exclusive negotiating rights to Fister for the next two years.
For the Tigers, on the other hand, the limited financial flexibility achieved comes at an enormous opportunity cost. This was not Fielder, whose fixed, long-term obligations were an imposing obstacle and who, some have argued, had negative trade value as a result. Regardless whether Drew Smyly will step in and keep the rotation strong, or whether Nathan throws as well as he has in the past, or even whether Ray ends up having a nice MLB career, this trade looks to be a miss for Dombrowski. Detroit gave up one of the game's more attractive pitching assets in exchange for a collection of relatively non-scarce pieces. Unless the rest of the league was truly unwilling to top the Nats' offer, it is hard to imagine circumstances in which that could make good sense, even if the timing of things forced the Tigers' hand to some extent.
The Tigers are in heavy pursuit of a left-handed bat and Shin-Soo Choo is their top target, sources tell Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. The TIgers have been said to have interest in Choo, but this is the first time that we're hearing that he is a priority over all other free agent targets.
The Rangers have been heavily linked to Choo and are prefer him over Jacoby Ellsbury, but they're said to be wary of the price tag that could be hitched the Scott Boras clients. The Reds would also like to keep Choo, but at $100MM+, he probably won't fit into their budget.
Choo's .423 on-base percentage ranked fourth in all of baseball this year, and easily topped Robinson Cano for the best among all free agents. The South Korea native is ranked third on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agent Power Rankings.
Detroit freed up a great deal of money with last week's blockbuster that freed them from $76MM of Prince Fielder's contract.