Detroit Tigers Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News
Detroit enters the offseason a team in flux. After three consecutive AL Central crowns, manager Jim Leyland has stepped down, leaving the team searching for a new leader.
Miguel Cabrera had surgery to repair the groin and abdomen injuries that limited him severely down the stretch and in the playoffs (h/t ESPN), and GM Dave Dombrowski has a number of tough decisions to make.
With owner Mike Ilitch not shy about spending money in an attempt to bring another World Series banner to Detroit, will the Tigers be major players on the free-agent market once again?
Or will they look to a potential trade of Max Scherzer, the favorite to take home the AL Cy Young Award, to infuse the roster with new talent?
The rumor mill is sure to be spinning fast and furious when it comes to the Tigers, and right here is where you'll be able to find the latest and most up-to-date news as the offseason rolls along. While the post date will always show October 31, simply click through to see the most recent rumblings and grumblings.
Detroit's Free Agents and Done Deals
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Detroit this winter, including the status of the team's own free agents.
Tigers Free Agents
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
RHP Octavio Dotel
SS/2B Ramon Santiago
Nov. 21: Avoided arbitration with LHP Phil Coke, agreed on a one-year deal
Dec. 10: Signed OF Rajai Davis to a two-year, $10 million deal
Dec. 17: Signed LHP Duane Below to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training
Dec. 12: Signed RHP Joba Chamberlain
2013 Stats: 45 G, 2-1, 4.93 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 42 IP, 5.6 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Contract Status: One year, $2.5 million (plus performance bonuses)
The Tigers have effectively replaced Joaquin Benoit's former role as a setup man by signing Joba Chamberlain, but can the hefty reliever, once a top starting pitching prospect with the Yankees, be effective?
The outspoken Chamberlain burst onto the scene in 2007 by tossing 24 innings of two-run ball and pitched to a 2.60 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 2008, but has struggled since then to find his form, bouncing between the starting rotation and bullpen before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011.
Since then, he's posted a 4.74 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, struggling with his command, walking a career-high 5.6 batters per nine innings of work in 2013. He does know how to make batters swing-and-miss, however, averaging a strikeout per inning over the course of his career.
The change of scenery and getting out of the spotlight that comes with playing in New York could be what he needs to resurrect his career—but that's a rather big could.
Matt Kemp: Tigers Interested, Deal Unlikely
*Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 1:43 p.m. ET
Kemp had been drawing a lot of interest since it had been reported that Los Angeles was willing to trade an outfielder. The team does not appear to be willing to deal Kemp or Yasiel Puig, but it could still consider trading Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier.
Detroit recently signed Rajai Davis, so it was considered unlikely that the club was going to be able to make a move for the All-Star outfielder.
--End of update--
Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 8:34 p.m. ET
While they acknowledge that a deal between the Tigers and Dodgers is unlikely, Fox Sports' dynamic duo of Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi report that Detroit was one of three teams to talk to Los Angeles this week about a possible deal for injured outfielder Matt Kemp.
The Dodgers have let it be known that they are willing to eat a big chunk of his contract in order to get back a quality package of talent in return, which certainly makes him more attractive to a number of teams.
That Kemp and new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus played together on the Dodgers doesn't hurt things, either.
But his foot remains in a boot, there are questions about whether he'll be ready for spring training, and for the Tigers to acquire him, they'd need to move Austin Jackson, who was rumored to be available earlier this offseason.
Max Scherzer: Ace No Longer Available?
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 12:14 p.m. ET
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets that Max Scherzer is "definitely in play" in trade talks.
No deal is close to happening, but teams are aware that the right-hander is available. If the Tigers are unable to lock Scherzer up, they may become more willing to trade him.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 9:08 a.m. ET
Even after trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister, the Tigers still haven't been able to get anything done with 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Tigers are telling teams that they do not plan on trading Scherzer despite the fact that they are not optimistic about locking him up with an extension.
Detroit cleared a lot of salary with a couple of trades earlier this offseason. The team doesn't feel confident about signing Scherzer to a multi-year deal even after those trades.
--End of Update--
Update: Thursday, Nov. 21 at 12:08 a.m. ET
During a teleconference to discuss the team's acquisition of Ian Kinsler from Texas, GM Dave Dombrowski was asked how the deal may affect Max Scherzer's status.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Dombrowski said that he'd like to keep Scherzer for the long haul, and that the nearly $76 million that the Tigers saved by trading away Prince Fielder does improve the team's ability to offer Scherzer an extension.
That said, if Detroit's attempts at extending Scherzer fail to result in an agreement, Dombrowski could begin fielding offers on the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
--End of Update--
Update: Monday, Nov. 11 at 3:42 p.m. ET
Detroit has officially put Max Scherzer on the trade block, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who says that the Tigers have let teams know that they are willing to trade either Scherzer or Rick Porcello.
A free agent after 2014, it makes sense for the Tigers to move Scherzer now rather than at the trade deadline, as a player with a full year of control is worth more than a two-month rental.
While there's no indication as to what Detroit is seeking in exchange for the presumptive Cy Young Award winner in the AL this past season, it's fair to assume that it will take a substantial package of young, controllable talent with significant upside to pry him away.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday Nov. 6 at 3:13 p.m. ET
In response to a question from Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post regarding Ken Rosenthal's earlier trade speculation between Washington and the Tigers regarding Scherzer, GM Dave Dombrowski refused to confirm or deny that talks had taken place:
“I would not discuss our trade situations going into the wintertime. That’s not something we’d talk about.”
That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, as the Tigers have nothing to gain by showing their hand this early in the offseason. Yet it could be telling that Dombrowski didn't immediately shoot the idea down, perhaps breathing some more life into the theory that Detroit will look to sell high on Scherzer.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday Nov. 6 at 11:05 a.m. ET
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Tigers remain in the "listening, not shopping mode" on Max Scherzer, which he translates as meaning "willing to move for the right return."
He goes on to say that there's a deal to be made between Washington and Detroit involving Scherzer if the Tigers do decide to move the likely AL Cy Young Award winner this winter:
The Nationals are deep in young power arms and veteran late-inning relievers, both of which surely are on Tigers GM David Dombrowski's wish list.
The price in prospects for Scherzer, a free agent at the end of next season, would be lower than it is for Price, who is under club control for two more years.
And, finally, the Nats maintain a strong relationship with Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, and might stand a better chance of signing the pitcher long term than most clubs.
The veteran relievers Rosenthal talks of include Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, while youngsters like Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray and Sammie Solis are among the team's best pitching prospects, with Giolito considered one of the best in all of minor league baseball.
If the Tigers do ultimately decide to move Scherzer, a package built around Giolito and Clippard (with additional pieces, of course) could be enough to at least pique Dombrowski's interest.
--End of Update--
It's a question that's been asked since CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reported in early October that the Tigers have real concerns about being able to lock Max Scherzer up to a long-term deal given that he's a Scott Boras client and sits one year away from free agency.
Knobler cites unnamed executives around the game as wondering whether the St. Louis Cardinals, who have a plethora of quality young arms, might look to package some of them (Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, etc.) in a deal to bring Scherzer, a Missouri native, into the fold, slotting him between Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha at the top of the St. Louis rotation.
Whether the Cardinals—or any other team, for that matter—are willing to make Detroit an offer that it can't refuse for a 29-year-old coming off a career year remains to be seen, but if the Tigers officially put Scherzer on the trade block, things could get very interesting in Detroit this winter.
Dec. 3: Signed RHP Joe Nathan
2013 Stats: 67 G, 6-2, 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.2 K/9, 43-for-46 SV
Contract Status: Two years, $20 million ($10 million team option for 2016, $1 million buyout)
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said that signing a legitimate closer was one of his top priorities this offseason and they don't get much more legitimate than Joe Nathan, who ranks 10th on the all-time saves list with 341.
Nathan was phenomenal for the Rangers over the past two seasons, converting 80-of-86 save opportunities while pitching to a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over that span, averaging 2.4 BB/9 and 10.5 K/9.
A six-time All-Star, Nathan owns a career 1.52 ERA and 0.93 WHIP at Comerica Park with 25 strikeouts in 23.2 innings of work. He immediately makes Detroit's bullpen stronger than it was a year ago, with Bruce Rondon and the newly-acquired Ian Krol now his primary setup men.
Dec. 2: Traded RHP Doug Fister to Washington
Trading Doug Fister to the Nationals may seem like an odd decision for the Tigers to make, but the team desperately wanted to open a rotation spot for Drew Smyly, and this deal accomplishes that goal.
Let's take a look at the three players that the Tigers got back from Washington.
IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi
A natural second baseman, the 25-year-old Lombardozzi has spent parts of the past two seasons as a utility player for the Nationals, spending time at second base, third base and in left field.
While he's a switch-hitter, Lombardozzi is significantly more productive from the left side of the plate against right-handed pitching (.269 BA, .655 OPS) than he is when he's turned around against left-handers (.249 BA, .586 OPS).
A career .264/.297/.342 hitter, Lombardozzi figures to serve in a similar utility role with the Tigers, perhaps splitting time with Nick Castellanos at third base as the team's top hitting prospect gets his first full season of big league action under his belt.
LHP Ian Krol
While 22-year-old Ian Krol only has 27.1 major league innings under his belt, he figures to replace Smyly as a left-hander in Detroit's bullpen.
He has five pitches in his repertoire but relies on three more often than not—a low-to-mid-90's fastball, a mid-80's changeup and a curveball that consistently sits around 79 MPH.
Krol finished the 2013 season with a 3.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP while averaging 2.6 BB/9 and 7.2 K/9.
LHP Robbie Ray
A 22-year-old left-handed starter, Robbie Ray was ranked as Washington's fifth-best prospect heading into 2014 by Baseball America.
He split the 2013 season between High-A and Double-A, going a combined 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 160 strikeouts over 142 innings of work.
Ray has a plus fastball that sits in the low-90's, but the rest of his repertoire needs continued development and refinement. He figures to spend all of 2014 in Double-A for the Tigers. Best-case scenario, Ray becomes a solid back-end of the rotation starter for the Tigers in 2016.
Austin Jackson: On the Trade Block?
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 5:35 p.m. ET
USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that the Tigers are listening to offers on center fielder Austin Jackson, opining that should the team be able to move him, they may make a run at free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Jackson, 26, took a step back at the plate in 2013 after a breakout 2012 season, hitting .272 with a .337 on-base percentage and .754 OPS, significantly lower than the .300/.377/.856 that he posted a year earlier.
His offensive woes became even more evident in the playoffs, where Jackson was dropped in the lineup during the ALCS against Boston by then-manager Jim Leyland, managing only a .214/.298/.238 slash line with 18 strikeouts over 42 postseason at-bats.
Despite his struggles at the plate, Jackson remains one of the premier defensive center fielders in the game and sits in the prime of his career. Under team control through the 2015 season, Jackson could fetch the Tigers a significant return from a team desperate to upgrade its outfield.
Nov. 20: 2B Ian Kinsler Acquired from Texas
2013 Stats: .277/.344/.413, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 15-for-26 SB
Contract Status: Four years, $68 million remaining
On the surface, this deal fills the void that the Tigers had at second base and gives new manager Brad Ausmus another option for the leadoff spot should he decide that Austin Jackson needs to be dropped in the lineup.
But the deal could have a far bigger impact on the Tigers.
First base is now open and the Tigers could—and should—immediately move Miguel Cabrera back across the diamond to a position where his body would take far less wear-and-tear than it does at the hot corner, and where his defense would be far less of an issue.
That would leave third base open, and there are two obvious choices: either re-sign Jhonny Peralta to play the position, or move top prospect Nick Castellanos back to the hot corner. Castellanos, 21, was a third baseman as he worked his way through the minor leagues before the Tigers moved him to the outfield, as his path to the majors was blocked by Cabrera.
Additionally, the money that Detroit winds up saving on the deal—roughly $76 million—can now be put towards extensions for Cabrera, a free agent after the 2015 season and Max Scherzer, who is set to hit the open market after 2014.
Rick Porcello: Trade Candidate, on the Block
Coming off of the best season of his five-year career, the Tigers have officially put 24-year-old right-hander Rick Porcello on the trade block, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
This should come as no surprise to fans—or to Porcello—who was the subject of trade rumors throughout the Hot Stove League last season, rumors that persisted up until the very end of spring training, only to kick up again once the trade deadline neared.
Porcello arguably had the best season of his career in 2013, going 13-8 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 177 innings of work, posting a 2.1 BB/9 and career-best 7.2 K/9.
While he's due a raise in arbitration from the $5.1 million he earned in 2013, Porcello is under team control through 2015 and still has some upside. While he won't command anywhere near as gaudy a return for the Tigers as trading Max Scherzer would, Detroit can still count on getting a valuable piece back in exchange for him.