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 Tigers find bargains, too

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PostSubject: Tigers find bargains, too   Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:17 pm

Tigers find bargains, too
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Suddenly, the Tigers are the Big Bucks Bengals of Baseball.

Every team this side of New York and Boston is jealous of Detroit and a payroll that will end up somewhere above $125 million when all the ink is dry on the Tigers' contracts.

Owner Mike Ilitch writes the checks. President and general manager Dave Dombrowski supervises the expenditures. Vice president and legal counsel John Westhoff negotiates the money and the fine print.

Some staff guy with a good driving record is assigned to bring the Brinks truck to Comerica Park.

In humble Central Division stops like Cleveland and Kansas City, front-office executives throw up their hands -- or simply throw up -- and wish they could offer $75 million ($105 million by the time it's all done) to Magglio Ordonez. They dream about paying Pudge Rodriguez $13 million for an option year. They pray they could add a guy like Gary Sheffield for a mere $14 million.

Obviously, the Tigers have decided they will pay to compete. They also will draw 3 million-plus fans, which should pay a few bills at Comerica Park, not to mention salaries.

What is more intriguing, in this view, is what the team has done on the no-cost or low-cost level to put together a contender. Consider a few of the contributors:

• Marcus Thames, who only has one of the best ratios of home runs per times at bat of any player in baseball, was signed as a minor league free agent.

• Ditto for Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay, two left-handers who helped save the bullpen last season.

• New left fielder Jacque Jones was brought to Detroit for a player who wasn't going to make the team, Omar Infante.

• Jason Grilli, a key reliever who probably will be just that in '08, was a minor league free agent.

• Zach Miner was obtained in a trade for a pitcher who was going to remain in Detroit for only 10 more weeks: Kyle Farnsworth.

• Yorman Bazardo, potentially a very important right-hander with a splendid arm, was stolen from the Mariners for a fringe minor league outfielder.

This is by no means a complete list. By the end of spring training, Matt Mantei -- another minor league free agent who has been throwing bullets -- could be in the bullpen and be looking very much like the Mantei who dazzled during his National League days.

Denny Bautista, a 100-mph right-hander who needs to adjust his home-plate radar, looms as another bargain. He has infinitely more upside than Jose Capellan, who represented the Tigers' deal with the Rockies in December.

Another factor tends to be missed as much as the discount personnel on Detroit's roster. It is Ilitch's shrewdness in allowing Dombrowski the freedom to hire good scouts.

A GM's ability to sign overlooked talents rests on the sharp eyes and insight of talented scouts.

"There are a lot of good people, and a lot of star players on this team," Dombrowski said Thursday, after the Tigers had beaten the Blue Jays, 4-1, at Joker Marchant Stadium, with help from some of previously mentioned names. "A lot of them have been obtained, in my view, from real good scouting.

"Those guys have done a fine job of making recommendations on various players. And that not only enables you to add important talent to your roster, it helps build depth in your organization."

Where good judgment pays dividends can be seen this week at Marchant Stadium. Joel Zumaya is healing from shoulder surgery, although he is months away from returning to his old role as the Tigers bullpen blazer.

The Tigers might yet get nailed there. Fernando Rodney's arm has been slow coming around and that makes Zumaya's absence doubly dangerous.

But the number of quality pitchers in camp is surprisingly deep and potentially the big surprise of spring training.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Tigers find bargains, too   Sat Mar 01, 2008 11:17 am

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