February 2nd, 2009

Still no Verlander deal

A number of you have asked about Verlander talks and what’s going on there. Still no deal, obviously, but Dave Dombrowski sounded optimistic they could still get a deal done before the hearing later this month.

“We’re really still hopeful that we can get a deal negotiated and not go to arbitration,” Dombrowski said Monday afternoon.

The two sides are still talking, which is a positive sign, but that means little unless they can eventually get a deal done. And the fact remains that this is the latest I can remember the Tigers going with an arbitration case since Dombrowski took over before the 2002 season.

The hearing is set for Feb. 13, according to the Detroit Free Press. When the two sides exchanged figures a couple weeks ago, the Tigers asked for a $3.2 million salary, while Verlander’s side asked for $4.15 million. The thing to keep in mind here, and the thing that usually spurs a deal, is the chance to compromise somewhere in the middle. An arbitrator can’t do that; he has to choose one of the figures submitted.

Will it affect the relationship between Verlander and the team? I doubt it. Remember, Verlander’s father Richard is a union negotiator, so Verlander has a good general knowledge of the process. Also remember that negotiations were tough to get Verlander signed after the draft, with the Tigers backing away before Verlander’s father stepped in.

Mailbag: Free agents, draft picks, Porcello, Rogers

While those of us who are Steelers fans are still taking in Sunday night’s Super Bowl win, this also marks the start of that awkward little stretch between the time football season ends (there’s still the Pro Bowl, I guess) and when spring training begins. If you look at baseball and football as the two big sports, this is the one time of the year when neither is going on, and it’s a little awkward. This is when we make news out of items like the truck carrying the Tigers equipment leaving for Florida. This is also the time when some of the Tigers pitchers who hadn’t made the trip to Florida yet head down that way — especially this year, since Tampa and the surrounding areas were a little crowded for that football game.

Anyway, we’re starting to get new questions coming in, and it’s much appreciated. If you have any questions, click here and send them along with your name and hometown.

I know the Tigers are pretty much set with their ’09 roster, but is there any chance they might try to make a run at one of the top remaining free agents if the price is right? Ben Sheets or Oliver Perez would solidify the rotation quite nicely, while a guy like Bobby Abreu would help solve the perennial search for a productive left-handed bat.
- Matt G., Palmyra, Va.

Most likely not. Dave Dombrowski said at TigerFest that he didn’t expect to be actively involved in the remnants of the free-agent market after signing Brandon Lyon, that they definitely aren’t looking for another starter, and that the positional roster is pretty much set except for the last spot on the bench. It isn’t simply a matter of the money it would take to sign Sheets or Perez; it’s also about what they have invested in Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis for the next two years and getting a return.

Any additional signing this winter will probably be a reliever, and probably to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. That said, it’s worth noting that the calendar has turned over to February, which is around the time Chad Cordero has been expected to start throwing off of a mound. That should get the wheels in motion for teams that have been looking at him.

I was reading about all the unsigned free agents. Do you see any of them signing with the Tigers when it gets close to spring training and the FA’s panic? I realize they most likely will not be able to afford a Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Jon Garland, Ben Sheets, etc. But what about a less well-known player like Juan Cruz? I understand about the draft pick but is that all that would hold them back? Give up an unknown kid for a proven relief pitcher?
- Jerry, Points Unknown

Draft picks have become golden for a lot of teams, even before the economy turned sour, and this year’s free-agent market has only heightened that. Even if a club has to pay a good contract to a first-round pick up front, it has that player on the roster for six seasons without hitting the open market. And recent history shows that if that’s the strategy you’re going for, the right picks can get to the Majors in a hurry. The road for a standout college player to the big leagues, depending on the position, isn’t as long as it used to be.

Recently you noted that Ryan Perry could have a Verlander-Zumaya type impact for the 2009 Tigers. What about Rick Porcello? His exceptional sinking two-seam fastball would seem to be perfect for a setup role in the pen. I know that long-term he will be a starter, but is there any reason he couldn’t be the seventh or eighth inning guy this year?
- Rod S., Northville

Yes. The Tigers want Porcello to further develop as a starter before bringing him up to the Majors. You can argue that he can work on his pitching in a big league bullpen, and that’s a fair point, but it isn’t the same as starting work. Power pitchers, especially younger ones, tend to focus on a fastball and one secondary pitch as relievers rather than their whole repertoire. At this point, it wouldn’t be good for Porcello to fall into that mold.

With Kenny Rogers leaning toward retirement right now, what are the chances he will do what Roger Clemens has done and join the Tigers after the All-Star break?
- Samuel W., Grand Prairie

Very little. If the Tigers are in contention around midseason, it most likely means that their starting pitching has shored up. And while I think Rogers could come back in midseason if he wanted, I’ve had the impression the last couple years — while Rogers has weighed retirement — that he didn’t want to go that midseason route. I don’t know this for sure, but I think that if Rogers isn’t signed somewhere by the end of April, you won’t see him pitch again.

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