November 2010

Bonine agrees to minor league deal with Phillies

Three years after Chad Durbin went from Tigers swingman to finding a home in the Phillies bullpen, Eddie Bonine will try to do the same. The long reliever and occasional starter has agreed to a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invite, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told MLB.com.

Bonine became a free agent when the Tigers outrighted him last week, and interest built quickly, notably among National League teams. Detroit made a push within the last day or so to try to keep him, but they couldn’t match the Phillies offer in terms of money.

He’s the second reliever in as many days to leave the Tigers organization. The Astros signed Casey Fien to a minor-league deal yesterday.

Bonine went 4-1 with a 4.63 ERA in 47 appearances with the Tigers this year, his first full season in the big leagues. One of those appearances was a spot start; the rest were relief appearances. He struggled mightily down the stretch with a .395 opposing batting average and a 7.52 ERA, but there’s reason to believe in a rebound if he can improve his knuckleball and stay out of counts where he has to challenge hitters with his fastball. He’ll turn 30 next June.

As of now, Max St. Pierre is the lone Tiger among their minor-league free agents that Detroit has re-signed.

What this means for the long end of the Tigers bullpen isn’t yet clear, and probably won’t be until they get their rotation figured out. Brad Thomas is expected back, and there’s hope Zach Miner will be ready for the start of Spring Training after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.

Nevin is officially new Mud Hens manager

The Tigers made Phil Nevin’s promotion to Triple-A Toledo official Thursday, formally announcing his hire as the Mud Hens new manager at an afternoon press conference at Fifth Third Field.

“We felt he has the personality, the drive, the desire,” Tigers vice president/assistant general manager Al Avila said. “He had the right qualities in our mind.”

Nevin succeeds Larry Parrish, who managed the Hens for eight years before being named as Atlanta’s new hitting coach last month.

The hire brings Nevin back to the club where he played briefly in 1995 and ’97 after the Astros traded the former top overall pick to the Tigers. At that point, he was a former top prospect struggling to stick in the big leagues, and it was another couple years — and another trade — until he finally broke out as a Major League player.

Nevin feels he can relate those experiences to players, both top prospects and youngsters trying to break through.

“I understand what they go through,” he said. “I understand how they’re looked at.”

Nevin joined the organization last year as the manager at Double-A Erie, a move made by former Tigers player development Glenn Ezell after Nevin spent 2009 managing in independent ball. Nevin wanted a shot, and the Tigers gave it to him. While the SeaWolves finished 66-76, the record was a little deceiving. They got off to a terrible start, losing their first eight games, and played pretty close to .500 ball the rest of the way.

Avila said that made an impression on club officials. The team began to gel after the rough start, and then Nevin had to repeat the process with an influx of new players after midseason.

“Don’t see the start,” Avila said. “See how they end.”

The 39-year-old Nevin played in Toledo in 1995 after he was the player to be named later from Houston in the Mike Henneman trade. He was a Mud Hen again in 1997 before the Tigers traded him to the Angels. He also was a Tiger in 1996 and ’97. As he pointed out, he did not get to play at Fifth Third Field, since it was several years from being built. His Hens days came at Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee.

Nevin said he has been in touch with Parrish several times over the last couple weeks.

Tigers player development director Mike Rojas said they’ll embark on a new search for Nevin’s successor in Erie, which will have its third different manager in as many years and fourth in five seasons. Like the Mud Hens opening, this search will include a look at candidates inside and outside the organization.

Phil Nevin expected to take over in Toledo

The Tigers haven’t made it official, but barring a last-minute shocker, Phil Nevin is getting a promotion in the farm system. He’s expected to be introduced Thursday as the new Mud Hens manager, filling the job Larry Parrish handled capably for eight years before the Braves hired him as their hitting coach last month.

Mark Anderson of TigsTown.com first reported the move. Tigers player development director Mike Rojas told MLB.com they haven’t made a final hire and wouldn’t get into names, but hoped to have something to announce after meeting with officials in Detroit Thursday.

Nevin joined the organization last year as the manager at Double-A Erie, a move made by former Tigers player development Glenn Ezell after Nevin spent 2009 managing in independent ball. Nevin wanted a shot, and the Tigers gave it to him. While the SeaWolves finished 66-76, the record was a little deceiving. They got off to a terrible start, losing their first eight games, and played pretty close to .500 ball the rest of the way.
The 39-year-old Nevin played in Toledo in 1995 after he was the player to be named later from Houston in the Mike Henneman trade. He was a Mud Hen again in 1997 before the Tigers traded him to the Angels. He also was a Tiger in 1996 and ’97.

No word yet who will replace Nevin in Erie. One in-house candidate could be Andy Barkett, who managed at Class A Lakeland for the past few years, but he is a Florida native.

Market for Martinez starts to emerge

Two days into free agents and their agents talking with other teams, the competition is stacking up for Victor Martinez. The Boston Globe cites a major league source saying that six teams have inquired on Martinez, including the Red Sox.

The Tigers, of course, aren’t commenting on their talks with agents on specific players. But Dave Dombrowski said Monday they’re moving forward in discussions and talking where they see a fit.

“We know what our thought process is,” Dombrowski said in general. “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.”

Tigers shut out on Gold Gloves

There’s a belief out there that once a player is among the best at his position, it usually takes him an extra year or two after that to be recognized for it with a Gold Glove award. It’s just that difficult for new candidates to get into the thought process of coaches and managers. So even if Tigers rookie Austin Jackson deserved recognition for his defense in center field this year, he wasn’t going to get it.

And he didn’t. Nor did any of the Tigers, who were shut out on Gold Gloves for the second time in three years.

With Gerald Laird’s numbers down this year, Jackson and Brandon Inge were the two Tigers with any sort of chance this year. Inge really didn’t have that much of a chance, the way Evan Longoria handled the hot corner this season. Fittingly, one of the defensive highlights MLB Network showed for Longoria tonight was the double play he started against the Tigers back in July at Tropicana Field, the play that left Inge and Jim Leyland marveling.

As for Jackson, again, he’s a rookie, and while his over-the-shoulder catches gave him some much-deserved highlight time, they didn’t give him enough votes. There were two first-time winners among AL outfielders, but it was Carl Crawford and Franklin Gutierrez, who joined mainstay Ichiro Suzuki.

Gutierrez has built his reputation over the last couple years as a great center fielder ever since joining the Mariners from Cleveland, where he was stuck in a corner spot with former Gold Glove winner Grady Sizemore entrenched in center. If Jackson can build off this past season with improvements in some areas — he had a couple late-season lapses — you wonder if he could break into the group.

Tigers begin free-agent process

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.

Tigers reach agreement with Peralta

UPDATE: The Tigers confirmed the deal in a release Monday morning. Terms are as listed.

The Tigers have agreed to terms with shortstop Jhonny Peralta on a two-year contract, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement. The deal is expected to be announced in the next couple days, and sew ups Detroit’s shortstop opening for the foreseeable future.

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes first reported the two sides were finishing up the final details this weekend. The contract is worth $11.25 million, and includes a third-year club option at $6 million.

The agreement takes Peralta off the market just as other teams had gained the right to talk to him about a contract. Peralta was prepared to listen to interest, but he made it clear Friday that his goal was to stay in Detroit, which acquired him in a trade from Cleveland near the end of July.

“My first preference is Detroit,” he reiterated to MLB.com in a phone interview from his offseason home in the Dominican Republic.

Peralta confirmed an agreement to the Detroit Free Press. Tigers officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The team generally does not confirm agreements before they’re formally announced.

Though an agreement was long-expected, negotiations between the Tigers and Peralta on a new deal took up the better part of a month, though they didn’t really pick up in seriousness until the last couple weeks. Peralta was hoping to get a two- or three-year deal as a trade-off for taking a lower salary than the $7.25 million club option the Tigers made clear they would not pick up. Detroit officially declined the option last week.

Peralta will still get a sizeable raise from his previous deal. He’ll make $5.25
million next season and $5.5 million in 2012, after which the Tigers will either
pick up his $6 million option for buy him out for $500,000.

Both sides stated encouragement towards getting a deal done once the Tigers made declined the option, the final piece of the five-year, $13 million contract he signed with the Indians after the 2005 season.

Peralta deal reportedly close

The long process of Jhonny Peralta’s contract extension might finally be nearing a conclusion. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports the two sides are close to a two-year deal worth $11.25 million.

Peralta told MLB.com Friday morning that he did not believe anything was completed yet, but he was optimistic they could get a deal completed in the coming days.
“I don’t think there’s anything yet,” Peralta said by phone. “But in a couple more days my agent will call me and see what I think [about] what they’re offering. More than anything, I think we’ll be getting close to [re-signing with] the Detroit Tigers.”
Rojas cites a source close to the negotiations saying the two sides need to finish up some details to complete the deal, but that it should be completed shortly.

R.I.P. Sparky Anderson

As youve probably heard by now, Sparky Anderson passed away Thursday at age 76 at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Look for full coverage, including Tigers reactions, at MLB.com and tigers.com.

Tigers trade Dlugach, outright Bonine, three others

Brent Dlugach began the year as a potential Tigers infield prospect in the upper ranks of their farm system, and went into the season as somebody to watch after an impressive Spring Training. Now, he’s part of the Red Sox ranks, having been traded Thursday as part of the Tigers’ moves take four Minor League free agents off their 40-man roster.

Also removed from the roster were right-handers Eddie Bonine and Jay Sborz, catcher Max St. Pierre and outfielder Jeff Frazier. All of them were outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, making them eligible to become six-year minor league free agents. Bonine elected to become a free agent immediately, while the others will become free agents on Nov. 6.

Of the group, Bonine had by far the most time in the big leagues this year, having spent the entire season in Detroit’s bullpen. The 29-year-old knuckleballer went 4-1 with a 4.63 ERA in 47 appearances, all but one of them in relief.

Bonine went into the All-Star break with a 4-0 record and a 2.81 ERA before struggling down the stretch, allowing 22 earned runs on 47 hits over 26 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .395 against him after the break. He was inconsistent with his knuckleball, especially late in the season, and hitters began to simply sit on his fastball.

Dlugach was briefly seen as a potential shortstop option, but a slow start at Triple-A Toledo and a high strikeout total left him looking up at the big leagues. He batted .258 for the year with the Mud Hens with six home runs, 41 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and 149 strikeouts over 117 games.

The Red Sox will send over a player to be named later or cash as part of the trade.

St. Pierre finally made it to the big leagues after 14 years in the Minor Leagues, all but one of them in the Tigers organization. He’ll most likely have a spot back in the system if he wants it, but it remains to be seen what he wants to do.

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