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 2010 Tigers' Free-Agent News

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PostSubject: 2010 Tigers' Free-Agent News   Wed Nov 03, 2010 9:20 pm

Tigers expected to roar in free-agent market
By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 11/02/10 5:20 PM ET

DETROIT -- The Tigers tend to shock baseball when they make a big move; from the signings of Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez years back to their trade for Miguel Cabrera a few years ago, and even their shrewd swap for Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer last winter. This will not be one of those offseasons for them.

They're hoping for something big, all right. But it's not going to be a shock.

With about $60 million coming off of their payroll and owner Mike Ilitch talking about spending it, plus holes in their lineup on either side of MVP candidate Cabrera, the Tigers are poised to be one of the major catalysts in the market this winter. And they aren't shy about the anticipation.

"You can look forward to a lot of moves this wintertime for our club," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week at the press conference announcing Brandon Inge's contract extension.

Seven years after Ilitch and Dombrowski spent big on improving what was once a 119-loss ballclub, they're poised for what could be their biggest offseason since. That winter set the foundation for raising the Tigers from the league cellar to the World Series in three years. They're clearly hoping this winter's moves bring them from a .500 season in 2010 back into contention for the Fall Classic.

They already have the foundation. And they know exactly where they have to improve.

"I don't think that's a secret," Dombrowski said. "We talked about it for a long time. We had a lot of guys on base, and we're going to look for somebody to drive in runs. I think if you watched our ballclub, you saw the difference when Magglio was out compared to when he was in the lineup. It was a different offensive club. We had a lot of guys on base this year, but we also left a lot of guys on base -- and that's tough for young players."

Detroit could still bring back Ordonez, now a free agent, who has it made it known he wants to re-sign. Even if Ordonez is re-signed, though, the club wants to add more run production. Signing a proven RBI man to bat behind Cabrera would be a start, and they'd prefer to have a left-handed hitter in that area of the lineup. But they could double up and add another bat in front of Cabrera, or higher up in the order.

"We have to have that [run producer]," Dombrowski said. "And it's most likely going to come at either outfield or DH, or both."

Not coincidentally, the market has its biggest names in those areas -- from all-around offensive weapon and stellar left fielder Carl Crawford to strong-armed, strong-hitting right fielder Jayson Werth. They have potential designated-hitter options, such as Adam Dunn, the Nationals first baseman who would like to stay at first, or Victor Martinez, who split his time between catcher and DH in Boston last year.

The Tigers were linked in rumors to each of them at one point or another, and that was before the Hot Stove season even heated up. Now that free agency is about to begin, with filing dates moved up across the board and players free to talk with other teams five days after the World Series ends, the buzz is about to intensify for Detroit. The Tigers won't shock anyone this time around, but they won't be quiet, either.

Contract issues

Free agents: Jeremy Bonderman, RHP; Johnny Damon, OF; Gerald Laird, C; Ordonez, OF; Bobby Seay, LHP

Eligible for arbitration: Armando Galarraga, RHP; Zach Miner, RHP; Ryan Raburn, IF/OF; Joel Zumaya, RHP

Player options: None

Club options: Jhonny Peralta, IF, $7.25 million (declined)

Non-tender possibilities: Miner

Areas of need

Catcher: The Tigers plan on having young Alex Avila handle the bulk of the workload behind the plate, but they'd like to complement him with a right-handed hitter to back him up or add to the mix. This is where the possibility of adding Martinez becomes all the more intriguing, since he could fill that role while also taking starts at DH and, of course, driving in runs behind Cabrera.

Shortstop: The Tigers want Peralta back and are expected to sign him to an extension. But each day that goes by without a deal is another day that he's potentially out on the market, making it less than a certainty. The shortstop market isn't particularly great this winter, so Detroit would have to either get creative to replace Peralta or stay in-house with utilityman Ramon Santiago and prospect Danny Worth, who's recovering from heel surgery.

Outfield: Other than center fielder Jackson, everything here is wide open, which gives the Tigers the leeway to consider re-signing Ordonezand still add at least another bat. The Tigers are expected to make an attempt at the top end of the market -- possibly Crawford, maybe Werth -- since both are regarded as solid offensive and defensive players.

Starting pitching: With Justin Verlander, Scherzer and Rick Porcello, the Tigers have what they feel is their front-end trio under control for at least the next four years, allowing them to focus more on their offense. They still plan to look at a short-term signing to shore up the fifth spot behind their big three and converted reliever Phil Coke, but don't look for them in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

Relief pitching: Manager Jim Leyland suggests that this might be the Tigers' most pressing need, with their setup staff in question behind closer Jose Valverde. They're expected to pursue a left-hander to put alongside Daniel Schlereth -- and Dombrowski would like to add a Brandon Lyon-type to shore up the eighth inning and fill in at closer on days when Valverde is off.

2011 Payroll

No team has as many contracts coming off the books as Detroit, which shed around $60 million in expiring deals at season's end.
They have just seven long-term contracts guaranteed for next year, giving them an incredible amount of leeway. The days of $130 million payrolls are probably over, but they could conceivably add more than $30 million in salary next year and still keep their payroll under $100 million. Ilitch is known for keeping payroll flexible for when opportunities arise, and they'll likely have plenty of opportunities to consider this winter.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: 2010 Tigers' Free-Agent News   Mon Nov 08, 2010 10:16 pm

Tigers begin free-agent process
BECK'S BLOG
Posted on November 8, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Now that the Tigers have re-signed Jhonny Peralta, they can turn their attention to other teams' free agents as they try to fill their offseason needs. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski's comments Monday morning suggested they aren't wasting any time getting to that.

"I think we've reached a point where we know what we're going to do," Dombrowski said on a conference call with reporters to discuss the Peralta deal, "and it would give me no benefit to tell you exactly what our plan is. We know what our thought process is. We know where we want to go. We're moving in that direction. ... For us, we've started the process, and that means that at times you're already talking to people at this time."

Judging from those remarks, it's safe to say that the Tigers are reaching out to agents at this point. That doesn't mean they're close on anything, or that any top free agents are going to sign quickly. The deadline for teams to offer arbitration to free agents, and thus put themselves in line for compensation if those players sign elsewhere, isn't for another 2 1/2 weeks. More than anything, it means the Tigers are reacting to the sped-up timeframe and deadlines of this offseason compared to previous ones, and that the Tigers are trying to be nimble on their feet, as Dombrowski put it last month.

"I do know that [the new deates] will expedite it because it has expedited it for us," Dombrowski said. "We have already had meetings and are prepared to move forward on some situations."

The Tigers had the Major League portion of their end-of-season meetings two weeks ago in Detroit. That's where team officials and scouts go over evaluate the free-agent and potential trade markets and prioritize.

With openings at the DH slot and both corner outfield positions, plus at-bats available for a catcher to at least face left-handed starting pitchers, the Tigers have a lot of roster flexibility for a team in the market for a top offensive free agent. Anyone from catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez to first baseman Adam Dunn and outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth could fit into the Tigers' plans.

The Tigers have the flexibilty to react and rebound if and when free agents sign elsewhere and get crossed off their list. But first, they need something to react to.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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