December 2006

Happy Holidays

I’m heading home to Pennsylvania for Christmas, so happy holidays to everyone. It should be pretty quiet next week, so if I don’t post again before the new year, thanks to all of you for making this blog a pleasure to keep up in 2006. Certainly had plenty to talk about.

For those who missed it

Zumaya was on ESPNEWS Tuesday, though it was a little later than scheduled with the Iverson trade coverage. The video is available on the baseball home page at

He said his wrist injury "wasn’t 100 percent from the guitar," meaning the Guitar Hero game he was playing. He admitted he’s been hooked on the PS2 game since the day he brought it home, and that he’s going to have to "stay away from that for a little bit," especially since family and friends say they’re going to keep it away from him. But he believes the injury was at least partly from his pitching, possibly his tight grip on the ball like he mentioned during the season.

On a side topic (which didn’t make the online clip), he dismissed the idea that he’ll be going back to starting, saying the Tigers have already talked to him about being a setup man.

Zumaya on ESPNEWS Tuesday

Supposedly he’s scheduled to appear at 4:50 pm ET. I would imagine Guitar Hero will come up, but I’m not sure.

Good deal

Take into account the free-agent class of pitchers this offseason (and the Tigers certainly had to in their negotiations), and Jeremy Bonderman’s contract looks like a very good signing. The trick to consider is that it’s almost like two different pay scales — one for the two years of arbitration Bonderman had left before he could become a free agent, and another for the two years after that. Bonderman will make $25 million over the final two years of the deal, and that’s not just backloading.

While the Tigers can now count on Bonderman under contract through 2010, Bonderman gains some security on his side. Remember, he had a scare with a sore elbow down the stretch in 2005, and while it turned out to be a minor injury, it showed the risks that a pitcher can face. Put that pitcher on the cusp of free agency, and it becomes an even bigger deal. Bonderman takes that out of the equation with this. He can go into spring training and focus on his changeup. As far taking away the motivation of a contract year, he’s too competitive to let the security of a contract affect him.

You can make an argument the Tigers could’ve waited a year for a long-term deal, but I agree with Dave Dombrowski that if it didn’t happen this offseason, it probably wasn’t going to happen.

Tigers sign Bonderman to 4-year contract

That didn’t take long.

Looks like Vernon Wells is staying in Toronto

So you can stop floating those questions about why the Tigers don’t trade for him. Stability won’t come cheap for the Blue Jays, whose reported seven-year, $120 million extension would top the average annual salary for Alfonso Soriano. But the way this market was unfolding this winter, it’ll probably look a lot more reasonable by next offseason. And the value for the Blue Jays keeping their co-star after trading Carlos Delgado a couple years ago should bring back some of that investment.

We’ll see what ripple effect this has around the league, especially in Texas. If the Rangers were really hoping to sign Wells next winter, what do they do now? Plan for a run at Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones? Or try to re-sign Mark Teixeira, which could in turn affect what the Tigers do at first base for 2008 and beyond?

Jose Mesa

That deal is a bit of a head-scratcher, isn’t it? On one hand, you have to appreciate the desire to add some veteran help in the sixth and seventh inning after Jim Leyland often tried to get through the seventh and eighth with just Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney down the stretch. On the other hand, you wonder whether $2.5 million might’ve helped the Tigers get a left-handed reliever. That said, the difference in the two cases is that Mesa gets a one-year deal, something that doesn’t seem possible with the bigger-name lefties still on the market.

This does not set up a trade, Dave Dombrowski insists (though one wild Rocco Baldelli rumor floating last week suggested the Devil Rays wanted a young closer such as Fernando Rodney). Nor does it set up a move to return Joel Zumaya to starting. What it does set up is a spring training battle between Jason Grilli and Zach Miner for the long relief spot, assuming the Tigers take two left-handers in a seven-man bullpen. Grilli, you’ll remember, picked up some of those seventh-inning assignments in games when Zumaya and/or Rodney were rested.

Without having watched much of Mesa this year, the difference between his home and road splits is pretty surprising. He also tired a bit down the stretch from all those appearances. We’ll see how it plays out in Detroit.

Winter meetings post-mortem

Notes and leftovers while I get used to the cold of Detroit again and get over the frustration of holiday travel …

  • I was marveling earlier this week at how these were the first winter meetings I had covered where I didn’t have to worry about finding Scott Boras and asking about one of his free agents. Then I returned from dinner Thursday night, after most teams and many agents had left, and found the curious sight of Boras surrounded by Scott Boras in otherwise desolate lobby talking about Matsusaka. For what it’s worth, Boras intends to speak with the Tigers about free-agent lefty Scott Schoeneweis.
  • An industry source said the Tigers had interest from the Rangers in Marcus Thames before Texas signed Marlon Byrd on Friday. As you may recall, the Rangers have two lefty relievers in C.J. Wilson and Ron Mahay, but they could turn Wilson into a starter.
  • The Tigers could add another lefty relief candidate in the coming days. They’ve been talking with the agent for former Yankee and Diamondback Randy Choate, but so have the Twins.
  • The Tigers lost out on another organization of the year award Thursday when Topps honored the Indians. Unlike the Baseball America Organization of the Year award, which went to the Dodgers, Topps decides its winner on a points system.
  • A lot of teams were thinking along the same lines as the Tigers in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Though the needs were different for every team, escalating salaries for free agents and high demands for young players on the trade market made it more appealing for teams to spend $50,000 and take a chance on unprotected players, however long the odds of them making the team may be.
  • The Royals’ signing of free agent Gil Meche for that many years and that much money is crazy, no doubt. But for all the talk about Meche’s 55-44 record, 4.65 ERA and lack of a breakout season, he’s going to be a problem for the Tigers. Detroit’s hitters have really struggled against him with Seattle in recent years, including a .208 average and 2.25 ERA this past season, and now they’ll have many more matchups. Now if Jeff Suppan returns to the AL Central, things could really get interesting.
  • It’ll be interesting to see what affect Brandon Inge’s new contract has on the White Sox dealings with Joe Crede, one way or the other.
  • Baseball’s winter meetings wrapped up on the same day that ESPN had its College Football Awards nearby at Disney’s Boardwalk. So you had the odd coincidence of having Barry Bonds and Jim Tressel at Disney World around the same time. It’s a small world after all.

Tigers acquire Rule 5 pick

The Tigers didn’t select anyone directly in the Rule 5 Draft, but the Brewers drafted lefty Ed Campusano for them in exchange for cash to cover the pick. He’s a big pitcher who was apparently generating some minor buzz leading into the draft. He will be used as a reliever and have a chance to win the second lefty job in the bullpen in Spring Training.

The same rules apply as if the Tigers had drafted him themselves. They must keep him on the Major League 25-man roster or DL all season, or else offer him back to the Cubs for $25,000.

For what it's worth

Our Nationals reporter, Bill Ladson, cites two sources saying no serious offer was on the table regarding a reported three-way deal with the Tigers, O’s and Nationals. A Baltimore Sun article reported talks with Baltimore and the Nats involving Marcus Thames and possibly Ryan Church.