October 2008

Elias rankings are out

The Elias rankings are out, which determine what kind of compensation teams would be due to receive for free agents they lost if they offer the player arbitration. A “Type A” free agent nets a team a supplementary pick at the end of the first round plus the signing team’s first-round pick (or second if their first-rounder is one of the top 15 picks overall).

The difference between Type A and B free agents is huge for a team looking to sign a particular player. It’s the difference between giving up a first- or second-round draft pick and not giving up anything. For the Tigers, who place a lot of importance on the draft, it’s particularly big.

Edgar Renteria, as the Free Press reported this morning, is a Type A free agent, which could leave the Tigers with an interesting decision. If they offer Renteria arbitration by the Dec. 1, they would get two extra draft picks if another team signs him. The flip side, of course, is that Renteria could turn around and accept arbitration, earning him a very good salary on a one-year contract. With the Tigers looking for a short-term fix at shortstop, a one-year deal is something they could probably live with — unless they set their plans at shortstop before then. It’ll be interesting to see if this slows the process at all for the Tigers, though this could be a slow-moving market anyway.

Not that it matters to the Tigers anymore, but Ivan Rodriguez ended up as a Type B free agent. Jason Varitek is a Type A, for those of you who have been asking about the Tigers possibly looking at him (and looking at the mailbag, there have been many who have asked). Orlando Cabrera is also a Type A.

Kyle Farnsworth did not make the Type A or Type B list, so no compensation for losing him.

Clearing up Renteria's option

Originally, it was an $11 million option for 2009. However, Renteria’s All-Star selection in 2006 triggered a bonus that made it a $12 million option. The buyout remained the same at $3 million, which I guess is all that matters at this point. It’s academic, I know, but I wanted to clear up any confusion since a couple different totals are being listed out there.

Meet the new bullpen coach, same as …

Jeff Jones is back as bullpen coach. The Tigers announced his re-hiring Thursday.

Detroit let him go at season’s end as part of a package with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez’s dismissal. Manager Jim Leyland kept saying at the time that the new pitching coach should be able to pick his own bullpen coach, someone he knows he can work with. That someone, it turns out, is Jones.

“Jeff has done a tremendous job for the Tigers organization over the years,” Leyland said. “After talking with both Jeff and [pitching coach] Rick Knapp this week in Detroit, we felt Jeff was the best fit to be the club’s bullpen coach.”

Garcia update

Indeed, no, Freddy Garcia has not started pitching in Venezuela yet, as he had hoped to be doing by now. His agent, Peter Greenberg, wrote in an email that he’s now hoping for early November. There’s no sign of a major injury, but the progress is slower than originally planned. He’s long-tossing for now and is expected to resume throwing off of a mound shortly.

As far as what this does for his situation in free agency, I don’t imagine much. If he comes back in November throwing strikes with good velocity, I don’t think many teams will remember the delay too pointedly. Whether he does well or not, however, this could mean he will not be a quick signing by any club while scouts wait to see how he looks.

Tigers, Renteria set to move on

As agents go, Barry Meister has a very good sense of humor. He can lose a call to a reporter on his cell phone, call back the reporter, then say he meant to hang up on him.

Also as agents go, Meister figures to have a lot of phone calls this winter, because he has more than a few clients on the market. He has not, however, heard from the Tigers just yet.

Among his players, Meister represents soon-to-be free agents Edgar Renteria and Kyle Farnsworth. The Tigers decided by season’s end, of course, that they would decline Renteria’s option and let him hit the open market. However, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski left the door open a crack to bring him back at a lower salary than the $12 million he was set to earn. It’s becoming clearer, though, that Detroit is going to scour the market.

Renteria and Meister are preparing for the open market as well.

“I think Edgar’s going to kind of point himself in a different direction,” Meister said.

The Tigers retain exclusive negotiating rights with Renteria until a couple weeks after the World Series ends.

Meister also represents Kyle Farnsworth, whose late-season stint with Detroit did not go well for either side. For what it’s worth, though, Meister said Farnsworth would be willing to return if the Tigers want him back.

“He likes it there,” Meister said. “He thinks [manager Jim] Leyland’s a really good guy. He felt  the clubhouse was good.”

Again, there’s no indication the Tigers plan to re-sign him. But on the relief market, there’s more demand than supply.

The Tigers could still end up calling Meister on the relief front, though, because Meister represents closer Brandon Lyon. He’s set to become a free agent unless the Diamondbacks move to re-sign him. And in a market where Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes are expected to be in high demand, Lyon is in the next tier. That’s a conversation that can’t really take place until Lyon files for free agency once the World Series ends.

Lyon’s second-half numbers were alarming — an 8.46 ERA, a .976 OPS from opponents, and just seven out of his 26 saves for the year. He saved just two games after August 1 as Chad Qualls took over the closer’s role in Arizona. On the other hand, he was very effective in the first half (2.43 ERA, 19 saves, .658 OPS). Teams are going to have to figure out whether that was a sign of Lyon wearing out in the role or a product of a heavy first-half workload.

Vasquez claimed on waivers

The Tigers put right-hander Virgil Vasquez on outright waivers with the idea of taking him off the 40-man roster. The Red Sox claimed him on Tuesday.

Most of you will remember Vasquez for his spot starts with the team in 2007. Though Vasquez was on the 40, He did not pitch with the Tigers at all in 2008, passed over for Armando Galarraga early in the season, Eddie Bonine heading into the summer and Chris Lambert later on. He went 12-12 with a 4.81 ERA in 27 games for Triple-A Toledo.

Boras suit vs. Sheff finally over

Near the end of last season, Gary Sheffield was raving about the chance to go through an offseason workout regimen without having to come off surgery for the first time in several years. Now it appears he’ll get to go through a Spring Training without having to worry about a deposition or testimony. But it comes at a cost: About $550,000.

The long-running lawsuit between Boras and Sheff was finally ruled upon Friday, and Boras won, albeit a much smaller victory than he would’ve liked. According to the Associated Press story, arbitrator Joshua Javits ruled that Boras was due his five percent commission only on the $11 million option Boras negotiated out of his old contract, allowing him to hit free agency a year early after the 2003 season and sign with the Yankees. Boras, whom Sheffield fired, wanted his commission on the entire Yankees contract, which Sheffield negotiated on his own with owner George Steinbrenner.

This is the long-running suit that had Sheffield missing days for the last five springs to go over to Tampa and testify, and it was the reason for Sheffield ripping Boras every spring. From the story this past spring:

“It’s probably personal with him,” Sheffield said of Boras. “But when
it’s done, it’s going to be personal to me. I’m going to warn
everybody. Trust me, it’s going to be the ugliest thing you’ve ever
seen. There are people you don’t want to mess with, and I can guarantee
you I’m one of them.”

Asked about his time dealing with Boras, Sheffield said, “Total hell. I
wish I would’ve never introduced myself to him. Bad person. Bad
person.”

No idea if Sheffield plans to go off on Boras now that the suit is over.

Tiger Stadium conservancy reaches goal

Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy board member Gary Gillette said Friday that they’ve presented the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation with proof of the $219,000 it required in an escrow account to keep the project to preserve Tiger Stadium going and hold off a full demolition. The fundraising went into the day Friday while the nonprofit group finalized some donations and finished paperwork. An official announcement is expected next Tuesday.

It’s a big step for the project to preserve a portion of the ballpark along with the baseball diamond and turn it into a field for youth and high school games, along with an accompanying museum.

The next move is two-fold. The conservancy has until Dec. 1 to present plans and a budget for the project to the DEGC for approval. If that goes through, they’ll have to submit a second deposit of $150,000 by Dec. 10. The first deposit was part of the money submitted today. Another $69,000 was paid to the city to cover the cost of security around the ballpark site for the next six months.

All the while, the conservancy will be trying to raise money for the cost of the project itself, expected to run around $15 million. Now that this first step is out of the way, they expect the rest of the road to be a little easier.

“We have been all along working on the long-term plan,” Gillette said. “In fact, the long-term plan has been more solid than the short-term plan.”

Hey, it's raining in Chicago

As I had mentioned before, I’m helping out on MLB.com’s coverage of the Rays-White Sox series. As many of you no doubt know, the series turns to Chicago, where the Tigers had rain delays or postponements almost every day they were here this season. No exaggeration, it rained more days than not over the Tigers’ four trips here — the last trip, of course, for the makeup game following back-to-back rainouts in mid-September.

My spirits were bright on Saturday, when I came to the park for the off-day workout with sunny weather on a beautiful fall day in the Windy City. The forecast was iffy for today, but there was optimism that it would stay dry. The sun was out this morning, after all. They were even able to get in batting practice for the White Sox this afternoon. Some sprinkles started falling around the time the White Sox were wrapping up, but maybe it was a passing shower.

Sure enough, I’m in the press box looking down at a field covered by that familiar red tarp while a steady rain comes out. It’s like one of those deja-vu moments, like you know you’ve lived this before.

Cardinals re-sign Dave Duncan

You can cross off one under-the-radar name off the list of available pitching coaches. The Cardinals announced Friday that they’ve re-signed Dave Duncan to a new contract. This was the last year on his deal, and though it was unlikely he’d leave St. Louis or manager Tony La Russa — especially for an uncertain situation in Detroit — he was at least not contractually obligated to the Cards.

The contract status of Jim Leyland and his staff could be a challenge for the Tigers as they look for a pitching coach. With only one year left on their deals, it’s difficult to ask a pitching coach to come in on what could be a one-year basis and solve a lot of questions. If you sign him to a multi-year deal, you give him more security, but then you either tie another manager’s hands on coaching selections if Leyland isn’t re-signed, or you’re forced to buy out the contract.

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