The Tigers had every intent at keeping Zach Miner after they designated the right-hander for assignment last month, and Miner had plenty of interest in sticking with Detroit. But there was more interest in Miner than one might expect for a swing pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery.
And when it came down to picking a deal, Miner said, the Royals were a better opportunity for him. Kansas City announced its minor-league contract with Miner on Friday. (UPDATE: Miner will earn $950,000 if he spends the entire season with the big club, any DL time included. That’s the same salary for which he signed with the Tigers last year.)
“There were a few teams that checked in, and the Tigers and the Royals were the most aggressive,” Miner wrote in an email to MLB.com. “But in the end, we just felt like KC was going to be a very good opportunity going forward, not only for this year, but for a few years down the road.”
The prevailing thought a month ago was that no team would value Miner more coming off surgery than the Tigers, who knew what they had in him after four seasons in Detroit. But the Tigers also had it clear that they envision Miner as a reliever, not a starter, and they go into 2011 with potentially few openings in their bullpen between the addition of Joaquin Benoit and the development of their young relievers.
Kansas City, on the other hand, has openings abound, including in the rotation, and Miner said the Royals feel like he could start.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Miner, who goes from being able to drive to Spring Training from his Florida home to now trekking to Arizona. But it was arguably the best decision for his career.
“I really enjoyed being a Tiger,” Miner said, “and loved playing for Jim Leyland.”
The Royals have seen enough of Miner to know what they’re getting if he’s healthy. He has pitched more innings in his career against Kansas City (49) than against any other opponent, going 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in seven starts and 10 relief appearances.
What this means for Detroit isn’t clear quite yet, and might not be until we know how soon Miner is ready to pitch in games this coming season and how Joel Zumaya looks heading into camp. If Zumaya’s ready and Ryan Perry matures as a reliever, the relief corps is pretty well stocked from the seventh inning on. With both Miner and Eddie Bonine gone, though, the Tigers have lost their two experienced right-handed long relievers, as well as two ground-ball specialists. The Tigers might add another minor-league invite for depth, but at first glance, there’s a good opportunity for Robbie Weinhardt to make this team out of camp.