Detroit Tigers Rumors
Having already added Joe Nathan to solidify the ninth inning, the Tigers made an upside play by adding right-hander Joba Chamberlain to the mix. The Tigers today officially announced the signing of Chamberlain to a one-year deal that is reportedly worth $2.5MM plus incentives. Chamberlain is represented by Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management.
The 28-year-old former top prospect struggled through his worst season (in terms of ERA) as a Major Leaguer in 2013, posting a 4.93 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 and a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate in 42 innings for the Yankees. Chamberlain was significantly better away from Yankee Stadium, posting a 3.54 ERA on the road compared to a 6.23 mark at home in a roughly equal sample size. Chamberlain's velocity remained strong, as he averaged a healthy 94.7 mph on his fastball.
Chamberlain will join a new-look Tigers bullpen that features active saves leader Joe Nathan in the ninth inning. Joaquin Benoit is on the free agent market but doesn't appear likely to return, and left-hander Drew Smyly figures to shift from the 'pen into the rotation following the offseason trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals. Left-hander Ian Krol, acquired in the Fister deal, should join Nathan and Chamberlain as new additions.
Further additions seem unlikely, as GM Dave Dombrowski told Lynn Henning of the Detroit News on Thursday that his offseason shopping was mostly done, save for one bullpen arm that "won't be a biggie" (Twitter link).
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first tweeted that the Tigers were a possible landing spot for Chamberlain. ESPN's Buster Olney reported (via Twitter) that the Tigers' interest was "serious," and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that a one-year agreement was in place (Twitter link). Olney then reported news of the $2.5MM guarantee plus incentives (on Twitter).
Worth, 28, is a career .242/.307/.315 hitter in 246 big league plate appearances. The 2007 second-rounder spent the bulk of the 2013 campaign with the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, batting .223/.305/.308 with a homer and nine steals in 82 games (345 plate appearances). Worth has played mostly shortstop throughout his minor league career but split his time evenly between second base, third base and shortstop this past season.
The Tigers have discussed trading Austin Jackson to the Yankees in exchange for Brett Gardner, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Both players have been above-average fielders in center over their careers and have comparable career batting lines, though Gardner is a better base-stealer and Jackson has more doubles pop. Jackson turns 27 in February, is projected to earn $5.3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he'll hit free agency after the 2015 season; the 30-year-old Gardner is projected to earn $4MM and he'll be a free agent next winter. I'm not sure this deal makes sense for the Tigers unless they don't think they can sign Jackson (a Scott Boras client) to an extension, or if they aren't interested in extending Jackson. From the Yankees' side, they like Gardner enough that they probably wouldn't move him for a very similar player, albeit a younger one.
Here are some more items from all five AL Central franchises...
- The Twins have increased the value of their two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey from $10MM to $12MM, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Rangers and Giants have also shown interest in Pelfrey, Neal reports.
- Also from Neal, the stumbling block between Matt Garza and the Twins seems to be Garza's demands for a four- or five-year contract, as Minnesota isn't willing to make that long a commitment due to injury concerns. That said, Neal isn't counting the Twins out of the Garza race yet as he hears the team is still in the hunt (Twitter links). You can read more about the Twins' hunt for pitching here.
- The Royals could continue to shop Billy Butler since "Before too long, the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does," a club official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. For one, the Royals may use Salvador Perez at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn't catching, plus added DH days would help keep Perez healthy. Even if Butler isn't dealt this offseason, Dutton doesn't believe the Royals will sign him to an extension once his current deal is up. It was reported earlier today that Butler's name had come up in trade talks with the Blue Jays.
- The Royals, Indians and Rangers are among the teams interested in Shaun Marcum, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. Marcum underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July and his agent updated MLBTR's Tim Dierkes on the recovery process last month.
- The White Sox are looking to cut their payroll from just under $119MM in 2013 to between $89MM-$99MM range for 2014, ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla writes, with the $99MM figure being the likelier of the two. Despite the cuts on the Major League side, GM Rick Hahn said the club will reinvest the saved money into extra spending on the draft and international signings.
- In other AL Central news from earlier today, the Tigers reached an agreement with Joba Chamberlain and the Indians were battling with the Padres over Joaquin Benoit.
THURSDAY: The Tigers have "serious" interest in Chamberlain, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter).
WEDNESDAY, 1:46pm: The Tigers are a possible destination for Chamberlain as well, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
1:32am: The Astros are interested in Joba Chamberlain as a buy-low option, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). Chamberlain is the latest free agent to be linked to the Astros, who also reportedly have some interest in Michael Morse, Jesse Crain, and Chad Gaudin, among others.
Chamberlain, 28, had arguably the worst year of his big league career in 2013, posting a 4.93 ERA in 45 appearances for the Yankees. However, his 3.54 ERA on the road was significantly better than his 6.23 mark at home, and his velocity and strikeout rates remained solid. Assuming he can reduce his control issues going forward, he looks like a solid bounceback candidate.
On Tuesday, we heard that Chamberlain had received a one-year, $3MM proposal from an interested team. It initially appeared as if the Diamondbacks had put that offer on the table, but at least one report suggested Arizona hadn't offered the right-hander a contract. The Cubs and Royals were also mentioned as potential suitors for Chamberlain over the weekend.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter), that he has met with "far more agents than teams" at the winter meetings. He added that he doesn't expect any deals to go down before leaving tomorrow.
- Although the Reds have met with Bronson Arroyo's agent in the last 24 hours, they're telling clubs they expect him to sign elsewhere, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
- Giants assisstant GM Bobby Evans says the club is "equally close" on trade and free agent options for a left fielder, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- The Indians are believed to have made an offer to free agent reliever John Axford, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Earlier tonight, we learned that the Orioles have also made an offer to Axford, though they prefer Grant Balfour.
- The Rays have expressed interest in Kevin Youkilis, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Youkilis would fit the Rays' mold as a player on the rebound.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter) that he's focused on winning a championship but he's still in a spot where he has to keep finances in mind.
Since being ruled ineligible due to providing a false birthdate over the summer, Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz has interest from a list of teams including the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees, agent Jamie Torres tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. "There are some very good players out right now and more are coming," Torres said. "Let's put it this way: I can predict that a few of the Cuban players that sign between now and Spring Training are going to contribute in the big leagues in the 2014 season and their contribution is going to be significant." More from around baseball..
- Omar Infante has been looking for a four-year deal and is drawing some interest from clubs who see him as a left fielder or third baseman, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Yesterday it was reported that Infante is seeking a deal with an $8MM+ average annual value.
- Some agents and teams are convinced that the three-year, $30MM deal the Astros gave free agent pitcher Scott Feldman has been a wrench in talks for others since agents feel obligated to also shoot for that type of "lottery ticket" contract, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- Free agent Raul Ibanez is considering offers from multiple contenders, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Earlier today, Stark reported that Ibanez could be headed to the Angels.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he'll hold on to Ike Davis if no one comes to the table with a strong enough offer, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. "Let me emphasize one thing: We're not in the business of giving players away," Alderson said. "We don't expect to get in that business."
- The Tigers are in on Ervin Santana, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). The Twins, meanwhile, aren't in the mix because of the draft pick compensation tied to him.
- Agent Scott Boras says he would talk to Orioles owner Peter Angelos about extensions for Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, writes CSNBaltimore.com's Rich Dubroff.
- The Twins continue to talk to free agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). It's unclear whether a deal with Pelfrey would preclude a signing of fellow free agent hurler Bronson Arroyo, but MInnesota has flexibility.
- One GM tells Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily (Twitter link) that he can't see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft.
- White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn says his team still has several potential options ahead less than 24 hours after acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. One rival exec believes the White Sox would like to trade outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who is now part of a crowded house with the addition of Eaton. Another baseball source said the White Sox have looked into the possibility of trading away second baseman Gordon Beckham.
- The free agent market for second basemen seems to be impacted by the availability of Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips, and others, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
The latest out of the AL and NL Central..
- The Cubs are among the teams with interest in Roberto Hernandez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that he'll look for a true first baseman to replace Corey Hart, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (on Twitter). "I'd like to find a first baseman who can play first. We've had so many guys who haven't played first," said the GM.
The Brewers topped out around $8MM for Hart, according to Haudricourt (on Twitter).
Cubs president Theo Epstein says the club has offers out to a free agent starter, a free agent offer, and a trade offer for a hitter, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Theo added that he has other trade talks taking place as well.
- Dombrowski also noted that the Tigers haven't ruled out signing Max Scherzer this offseason, tweets John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- After initially being caught off guard by the trade, Adam Eaton says he's confident and ready for a fresh start with the White Sox, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
Marte, 27, made 17 combined big league relief appearances for the Tigers in 2011 and 2012. To keep up with all players in DFA limbo, check out MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
11:14am: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports offers a different take (on Twitter), as sources have indicated to him that Scherzer is "definitely in play." While nothing is imminent, says Passan, teams are aware that Scherzer can be had.
7:15am: The Tigers are telling teams they're not optimistic about completing a contract extension with Max Scherzer, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link). However, despite the fact that Scherzer is a year away from free agency, Detroit has no plans to deal him, Stark adds.
The Tigers' plans to keep Scherzer come as no real surprise, given the fact that the team fully expects to contend again this season. Similarly, considering the reigning Cy Young winner is a Scott Boras client, a long-term extension prior to free agency would be a long shot. In the wake of last month's Prince Fielder trade, GM Dave Dombrowski suggested the savings might make an extension for Scherzer more "possible," but stopped short of calling a new deal "probable."
Scherzer is slated to earn about $13.6MM in arbitration for 2014, according to Matt Swartz's projection model.
When Jhonny Peralta's suspension was announced in early August of 2013, it set in motion a series of transactions that re-shaped the Tigers' roster. The results, viewed in the aggregate, appear rather impressive. GM Dave Dombrowski not only shored up the team's chances at an ultimately successful division title run in 2013, but formulated a responsive strategy that spared the club over $150MM in future guarantees without sacrificing significant short-term value. Here's how Dombrowski's subsequent actions shook out.
With Peralta set to miss the stretch run at a division title, the Tigers acted decisively to replace him at short with Jose Iglesias, costing the team outfield prospect Avisail Garcia and reliever Brayan Villarreal. While that took Garcia out of the running to see time in left field in 2014 (as a regular or in a platoon with Andy Dirks), he likely would have competed with Nick Castellanos for a single job anyway. As a result, the Tigers not only replaced Peralta, but were left with the ability to slot not just one, but two league-minimum salaries into their everyday 2014 lineup. (I.e., Iglesias and Castellanos, as opposed to Garcia or Castellanos alone.)
Castellanos' role remained unclear, however, as the 21-year-old has played both third and the corner outfield over his career. That flexibility helped free Dombrowski to ship first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler, saving $76MM in the process. Castellanos entered the picture at third, Miguel Cabrera shifted to first, and Kinsler slotted in at second.
As a byproduct of the around-the-horn musical chairs, the Tigers no longer had to compete for free agents to play up the middle. Second baseman Omar Infante would have come with an estimated $25MM price tag. (Although, as MLBTR's Zach Links noted, the club may have gone with the younger, cheaper Hernan Perez at the keystone anyway.) And Peralta's return, we now know, would have required over double that sum.
Meanwhile, the Tigers still had an excess of legitimate starting options. By shifting Drew Smyly to the rotation and shipping Doug Fister to the Nationals, the club saved another $6.5 million or so in guarantees at that starting slot. And in nabbing utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi and left-handed reliever Ian Krol in return, Dombrowski added two more league-minimum roster spots. In addition to adding back a left-handed arm to a pen that stands to lose Smyly, the move presumably saves the cost of adding a utility player on the open market. (That might have cost around $2.5MM to $3MM per season on a one or two-year deal, based on the Nick Punto, Willie Bloomquist, and Skip Schumaker contracts.)
The Tigers just made another related move by signing Rajai Davis to a two-year deal. With Garcia now in Chicago and Castellanos at the hot corner, the club still needed a right-handed bat to pair with Dirks in left. This move, in turn, adds $10MM back to the Detroit payroll.
The net of these moves is significant, to say the least. If, instead, the team were still responsible for the Fielder and Fister contracts, and had brought back Infante and Peralta while signing a utility infielder, it could well have over $150MM in additional guaranteed current and future payroll obligations. (This includes the money saved in the Fielder and Fister deals, offset by the money owed the newly acquired players, and the avoided cost of signing Peralta at $50MM+, Infante at $25M+, and a utility infielder at around $3MM.) Even if you assume the club would have plugged in Perez at second, this is a huge sum.
It is worth noting, also, that if young pitcher Robbie Ray can eventually occupy a big-league rotation spot, his years of cheap control will offset the added money that Smyly will eventually earn through arbitration from throwing as a starter. And the additional league-minimum and arb-eligible years from Lombardozzi and Krol could avoid some long-term spending as well, even if neither player figures to be terribly productive. (Of course, it is still fair to ask -- as I have -- whether the Tigers should have commanded a different and better return for Fister.)
But, how do the tradeoffs look in terms of projected performance? Detroit likely saved $150MM+ at a cost of between 1.5 and five wins next season. Compare Detroit's current alignment to a hypothetical Tigers team that instead retained Fister and Fielder while signing Peralta, Infante, and a utility infielder of Lombardozzi's ilk. Steamer and Oliver project something like the following production shifts: A 3-4 win improvement at first and a half to a full win improvement at second. An approximate push at left field and the utility spot. And the loss of between four to five wins at third, 1 to 1.5 each at short and in the rotation, and somewhere in the realm of a half to a full win in the pen.
Now, we will see whether and how Detroit spends its surplus cash. Extensions are certainly possible, of course, whether agreed upon now or in the future. Or, the club could still try and add back those missing wins by signing an impact player like Shin-Soo Choo, which might well bring the net dollar and WAR impact for 2014 back to its rough starting point.
Even in the latter scenario, Dombrowski's maneuvering would not have been for naught. Remember, he not only plugged a sudden and unexpected gap at a critical point in a contending season, but did so by adding a player (Iglesias) with largely the same control and value as the one he gave up (Garcia).
But what if Dombrowski instead moves to add 2014 production -- through the pen and bench, perhaps -- at a much lower overall commitment than the dollars he shed? (And, in so doing, refrains from tapping his 2016-20 powder kegs, holding them in reserve for long-term deals for worthier players?) It is generally assumed that a closer like Joe Nathan would have been signed either way, but that might not be true. And what if Dombroski has reason to expect that his replacements will outperform their projections?
If some or all of those questions are answered in the affirmative, Dombrowski's strategic response to the Peralta suspension may prove to have been a masterstroke.