October 3rd, 2010

Inge sure sounds like a Tiger next year, and beyond

To hear Brandon Inge talk about the multi-year contract offer he received from the Tigers, one would think he already had his signature on it. That was the tone of his voice. 
“I’m absolutely ecstatic about it,” Inge said. “This is where I want to play, as long as they’ll let me. A multi-year [deal], I feel like they’re showing me a little respect. And it’s another thing where everyone’s comfortable with everyone, meaning myself and the organization. They know what they’re going to get. I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can, rain or shine, whether I’m injured or not. And I think it maybe eases their mind a little bit.”
He caught himself eventually and cautioned that he hasn’t agreed to it yet, that there’s still a business side involved. Still, walking away from the interview, it was difficult to envision Inge not being a Tiger next season.
“You never know,” he said, “but in general, [it’s] the gesture of telling me that they want me back and already starting out with an offer. And obviously, there’s a dirty business side of it, but that’s just to be handled. You just have to do what’s fair for you and your family at that point. I’m not looking to break the bank. I just want what’s fair. That’s all.”
It is not hard to envision Inge and the Tigers reaching an agreement before he hits the free-agent market.
“I don’t want to make it for certain, because like I said, there’s a business side of it, but absolutely,” Inge said. “If it’s fair, which I don’t really foresee them not being fair, then absoultely, without a doubt. I’m a person who’s big on loyalty. If they stick beside me and they showed me the gesture this way, then I’m going to stick beside them. I love that. That’s right up my alley as far as respect for the game, respect for an organization, and a lot of loyalty.”
The fact that the Tigers started out with a multi-year offer, rather than a one-year stopgap, is a good sign. Inge had hinted that he was looking for a multi-year deal, possibly even three years, but two years is a good starting point for both sides. 
The fact that they started out on that road seemed to catch Inge by surprise.
“It was a matter of whether I was wanted, in my mind,” Inge said. “My only thing was I’m not going to play somewhere where I’m not wanted, that’s all. I’m not saying that in any disrespectful way, but if somebody doesn’t really want you around, then that’s probably not the best move they should make, and I respect that. I’d go my separate ways, then. And obviously [the offer], that’s what I wanted to hear.”

Tigers want Inge back, and other end-of-season items

Just finished a long, long conversation with Dave Dombrowski, and he pretty much mapped out the Tigers’ offseason plans and priorities. The biggest point of it: The Tigers will indeed be looking for a middle-of-the-order bat, either in the outfield or at DH, but they want to keep Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta at 3B and SS, respectively.

Dombrowski confirmed the Tigers have talked to Inge and his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, in the last couple days about a multi-year contract and made him an offer. It’s still early, but considering Inge clearly wants to stay in Detroit and the Tigers not only want him back, but seem to consider it a priority, there’s every ingredient for a match.
“We want him back,” Dombrowski said of Inge.
The Levinsons also represent Peralta, and Dombrowski said they’ve been in touch about him, too. That doesn’t mean they’re going to pick up his $7.25 million option, but one way or another, they would like to have him back at shortstop. 
“We’re looking to sign him as our shortstop,” Dombrowski said.
The other contract option they face is Magglio Ordonez, who is in a middle ground right now. Not surprisingly, Dombrowski said they’ve told Ordonez and agent Scott Boras that they will not exercise his $15 million option. However, Dombrowski indicated that they’re open to bringing him back.
“That will not close the door by any means,” Dombrowski said. “For us, he is definitely a possibility.”
Ordonez, in turn, expressed what Dombrowski called “a strong desire to remain a Tiger.” So again, the two key pieces for a deal are there. Whether that results in an agreement is something different. Ordonez is a Boras client, and as the Yankees will attest with Johnny Damon, sometimes those negotiations can stretch out in an effort to get the best deal.
“Magglio will not be a quick sign,” Dombrowski said.
As for the rest of the pending Tigers free agents, the answer is essentially no. Dombrowski told Johnny Damon and Gerald Laird they will not be purusing them as free agents, and Dombrowski said they “most likely” won’t pursue Jeremy Bonderman.
“We’re not closing the door per se, but we’re not actively pursuing him,” Dombrowski said of Bonderman.
Some of the other notes to come out of the nearly hour-long interview:
  • Alex Avila is going to get the majority of the starts at catcher next year. As Dombrowski said, “We’re going to give Alex Avila the primary responsibility at catcher.”
  • Dombrowski stopped short of saying Ryan Raburn is an everyday outfielder, but he came awfully close. “I think we feel he can be a primary guy,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn’t say he’s an everyday guy, but he’s going to play a lot.”
  • Confirming what Dombrowski told WDFN next month, they’ll go into next season with Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore competing for time at second base. Dombrowski also said Danny Worth could see time there, as could Carlos Guillen when he’s healthy.
  • Dombrowski on Rhymes: “We like what we see. We think he has a chance to be a spark for us.”
  • Dombrowski seconded what Leyland said earlier about the bullpen as a priority. “Ideally, we’d like to have one more guy in the back end,” said Dombrowski, who used Brandon Lyon as an example of the kind of signing they’d like to make there. 
  • The Tigers will not be pursuing Cliff Lee, or anyone at the very top end of the free-agent starting market. However, Dombrowski cautioned that they won’t necessarily be looking for a stereotypical fifth starter.
  • The Tigers are open to having a full-time DH, if that’s what it takes to add a bat in the middle of the order. In other words, they can find room for Adam Dunn.
  • Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells will compete for outfield spots next year.

Coke heading to Tigers rotation next year

For those of you who figured something was up when Phil Coke was named to start today’s season finale, you were right. After Jim Leyland said earlier this month that he was still unsure whether Coke was better suited as a starter or a reliever, Leyland said Sunday morning, “My intention is to have Phil Coke in the rotation.”

Coke will slot in behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Leyland said Armando Galarraga will compete for the fifth spot in a mix that could include some youngsters and maybe a free-agent pickup. He didn’t name Andy Oliver, but one would presume he’ll be a key figure. He did not name Jeremy Bonderman, either, which means we’re probably going to get some news on Bonderman from team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski later today.
Sunday will mark Coke’s first Major League start. He was most recently a starter at Double-A Trenton in 2008.