November 2011

Cespedes to work out for Tigers, Dombrowski

The Tigers have been among the many teams scouting Cuban five-tool outfielder and recent YouTube sensation Yoenis Cespedes, and they haven’t made a secret that they’ve watched him. Now, even team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is apparently going to get a first-hand look at the man who appears set to surpass Aroldis Chapman as the most hotly-pursued Cuban talent.

An industry source confirmed Dombrowski will watch Cespedes work out in the Dominican Republic, which has been Cespedes’ home since defecting from Cuba earlier this year. Credit Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com with the first report on Dombrowski, who was out of pocket on Wednesday when the Tigers announced their two-year contract to bring back free agent infielder Ramon Santiago.

Tigers interest in a Cuban prospect is not unusual. They scouted Chapman a couple years ago and were interested before the bidding escalated. But Dombrowski’s trip to watch him is rare. Usually, international operations director Tom Moore handles those duties, with vice president Al Avila and special assistant Dick Egan making scouting trips to Latin America. Avila told the Detroit Free Press two weeks ago that they’ve scouted Cespedes several times. Special assistant David Chadd watched a Cespedes workout earlier this month.

That level of observation suggests the Tigers are serious in their interest. With the level of bidding expected, it makes sense for the man in charge to want a look. Cespedes has been working out for teams since the start of November, including private workouts reportedly for the Nationals and Yankees among others.

Tigers re-sign Ramon Santiago to two-year deal

Ramon Santiago tested the market for a long-term deal and a potential starting role, but in the end, he always had an interest in returning to Detroit. So did the Tigers, though not quite in the everyday role he might have wanted. There was enough in common for a deal, and that got done on Wednesday with a new two-year contract.

This doesn’t end the Tigers’ search for infield help. Both manager Jim Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conditioned their statements with the possbility of more moves to come. Right now, though, it looks like Santiago would get at least a timeshare at second base, as well as starts backing up Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.

“Santiago and Ryan Raburn will be playing second base as the club stands today,” Leyland said. “He will probably [also] get time at short.”

Dombrowski’s answer was much the same.

“We are set to open with Santiago and Raburn,” Dombrowski said. “However, we will see what happens.”

Click here to check out the full story on Santiago posted on the site.

Dmitri Young released by Venezuelan club

Not really Tigers news, I know, but given that Tigers fans were among the first to hear this past summer about Dmitri Young’s comeback attempt, it’s still something that had been followed. Young’s comeback attempt appears to be done after his Venezuelan team reportedly released him earlier this week.

Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional had the news on his site, ElEmergente.com. Craig Calcaterra of NBCSports.com picked up the story.

Young was batting .167 (11-for-66) through 20 games with no homers, three doubles and three RBIs, according to the Venezuelan League’s site.

Young made the move to play in Venezuela as a way to prove he still had something left for Major League clubs to take a chance on him and get into a big league camp. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2008 and just turned 38 years old this fall, but Young said over the summer that he was in his best shape in years, maybe the best shape of his life, having lost 50 pounds by his estimation and gotten his diabetes under control.

Not sure what Young’s next move will be. He has had an interest towards a broadcasting career whenever he really is done playing, so that could be on the horizon. Hopefully he can stay involved in baseball in some capacity.

Lamont reportedly passed over for Valentine

Reports out of Boston suggest that the Red Sox have decided on Bobby Valentine as their next manager over Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Lamont said he hasn’t heard from the Red Sox about any decision. But that delay could just be to keep their options open if negotiations are ongoing and somehow hit a snag.

For now, the Red Sox have the last managerial opening left in the Majors, though the Astros organization could be in for changes this winter with a new owner, team president and general manager.

Lamont and Valentine were reportedly the two finalists for the Red Sox job, which has been open ever since the team and Terry Francona parted ways last month. Lamont was one of a handful who interviewed earlier this month, but among just a few to get a second interview.

Tigers interested in Dotel, but for what role?

Octavio Dotel has made 695 appearances and pitched 888 1/3 innings in his 13-year Major League career. He has pitched the seventh inning in 162 of those games, according to baseball-reference.com, including 86 games over the past four seasons. If he’s going to pitch in a Tigers uniform, he’s going to have to get used to that kind of work.

That’s a decision Dotel might have to make, and he’ll likely have a few choices.

The Tigers have indeed had discussions about Dotel. So have the Mets and Cardinals, according to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, and the Reds, according to FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, who first tweeted about the Tigers’ interest.

While the other three teams have uncertainty at closer, the Tigers have theirs with Jose Valverde, who hasn’t blown a save since Sept. 2010. Detroit also has its eighth-inning setup man with Joaquin Benoit, one of the stingiest relievers in the American League over the last two years.

The fact that the Tigers have shown interest in Dotel should sound familiar. They’ve been tied together in rumors ever since 2007, when the Tigers were looking for relief help at the Trade Deadline. They had rumors the last few years when Dotel has been on the market, but nothing has ever come out of it, and Dotel has always landed elsewhere. He has been a closer and setup man all over the place — Kansas City, Atlanta, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Colorado, Toronto and St. Louis in the last five seasons alone — but now he could be courted more for depth.

When Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski talked about his bullpen at season’s end, he left open the possibility that they could add a veteran reliever to help bridge the gap between their rotation and the Benoit/Valverde duo. It’s not exactly glamour work, but it’s a regular gig on a club with a chance to win. But then, the defending world champion Cardinals and Reds have that chance to contend, too.

This early in the process, it’s unlikely that the Tigers have discussed roles with relievers such as Dotel. Still, it doesn’t take much of a look to realize how the Tigers bullpen shakes out. Valverde is entering the lone option year on his contract, putting him in line for free agency next winter. But Dotel’s last two contracts have been one year and an option, which has been declined, which in part explains why he has bounced around. The Cards turned down Dotel’s $3.5 million option last month.

Having just turned 38, Dotel can go year to year and look for the best situation. The question now is where the Tigers rank, and how interested they are.

Is Mark Buehrle a fit in Detroit?

MLB.com Hot Stove on Buehrle

Here’s what Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski had to say about his starting rotation during his end-of-season remarks last month:

“The most likely scenario would be that those young guys [prospects Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk, Duane Below) come to camp with the four guys that are set and compete for the fifth spot, and we have protection of a veteran type pitcher that can fill that if they’re not ready. But I also would say that, hey, if there’s some great starting pitcher that we really liked and was available for us, and we thought it was the type of move that made the most sense to get us better, would we be open to it? Yes. We like them all. We like every one of those [young] pitchers. But can I tell you 100 percent that they’re ready? No. Now, can they be ready? Yes.”

“Ideally, there would be an All-Star that would fall in our lap to fill that role for a year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re going to keep some flexability in how we get better.”

In other words, the Tigers could pursue a veteran starting pitcher, but it didn’t sound like they wanted a long-term contract that would block the path of their young pitching prospects, notably Turner.

With the news that the Tigers are among the teams that inquired on Mark Buehrle, I doubled back and asked Dombrowski on Monday whether the Tigers were more open to a long-term contract for another starter. His answer was short and sweet: “Our situation has not changed in that regard.”

With so many teams involved, it’s difficult to envision the Tigers being able to do a short-term deal with Buehrle. So if they’re going to go in on him, he would have to be that special case. And they would have to have a game plan on those young pitchers — other than trading them, because I don’t foresee them trading Turner.

From a pure pitching standpoint, Buehrle is a great fit — a veteran left-hander with pitching know-how and a style that gives a change of pace off the power arms in Detroit’s rotation. And contrary to the crafty left-hander stereotype, he isn’t that old; he’ll turn 33 in March.

There’s good reason why he ranks among the most popular free-agent starters on the market. But history shows the Tigers have avoided those top free-agent starters and the contract that accompany them. Kenny Rogers was a second-level free agent with baggage (the cameraman incident) when Detroit signed him at the 2005 Winter Meetings. Jarrod Washburn was the far more popular left-hander that winter, and the Tigers didn’t go in on that. The one top free-agent starter the Tigers went in big on was Carl Pavano, and they had to thank their lucky stars to this day that he didn’t accept the offer and signed with the Yankees instead.

One Tigers postseason share = $126,901.50

Major League Baseball announced the players’ pool of postseason revenue and postseason shares for all eight playoff teams and four second-place clubs. While the World Series champion Cardinals and AL champion Rangers will receive $323,169.98 and $251,515.76, respectively, for each postseason share, the AL runner-up Tigers will also be bringing home some good extra money for the holidays — $126,901.50 per full postseason share, to be exact.

The Tigers awarded 44 full shares and partial shares equal to 10.12 shares, plus four cash awards. With $6,875,909.31 coming from the postseason pool, the split ends up at the figure listed above. The players’ pool comes from 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of each Division Series and the first four games of both League Championship Series and the World Series.

Tigers players vote on how many receive full shares, how many receive partials, and how many non-players receive partial shares or cash awards.

Three Tigers win Negro League Legacy Awards

One more set of awards for you, this one from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City: Justin Verlander did not win MVP honors this time, but he earned the AL’s Bullet Rogan Pitcher of the Year award. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson won the AL’s Oscar Charleston Award for MVP. Jose Valverde won the AL’s Hilton Smith Award for top reliever. Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, was the winner of the Buck Leonard award for top batting average in the league.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum established the Legacy Awards in 2000 to honor baseball’s best with awards given in name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends such as Charleston, Rogan, Smith, Leonard, Josh Gibson and Buck O’Neil. The awards are scheduled to be presented in Kansas City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012.

Tigers inquire about Aramis Ramirez

The Tigers have been in contact with the agent for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com. At this point, though, there are no negotiations going on to bring the former Cubs slugger to Detroit.

SI.com senior writer Jon Heyman first reported the Tigers’ inquiry, which took place earlier this month. The two sides supposedly haven’t talked since, but that isn’t unusual given the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether talks pick up into serious discussions remains to be seen. Free-agent negotiations and trade talks traditionally pick up in the days leading into baseball’s Winter Meetings, and that’s expected to be the case here, too, at least to see if there’s a fit.

For the Tigers, who have been looking for at least one more piece to their offense, it’s an interesting fit. The Tigers’ biggest need has supposedly been for a hitter to place near the top of the order, in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Delmon Young. Ramirez is a classic middle-of-the-order power hitter, with six 100-RBI seasons to his credit. After two injury-shortened seasons, he rebounded for 93 RBIs to go with a .306 average and 26 home runs in 149 games this year.

The Tigers return Brandon Inge for 2012, the back half of the two-year contract he signed last fall, and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has mentioned Inge in a possible platoon with superutilityman Don Kelly. All the while, though, the Tigers have remained open to an offensive upgrade.

Trammell, Parrish host Wayne State baseball camps Dec. 3

Former Tigers greats Alan Trammell and Lance Parrish will again join Wayne State University’s baseball program in hosting a pair of youth camps for kids in grades 2-12.

The second annual camps feature a morning session for kids focused on fundamentals, from pitching to catching, infield and outfield play, baserunning and hitting, even injury prevention and conditioning tips. Wayne State’s coaching staff and reigning NCAA tournament participating baseball team will be part of the session with Parrish and Trammell. The morning session runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

The afternoon session, from 2-5 p.m., is dedicated to high school prospects. The camp will allow high school freshmen to seniors to learn about the experience of the college student-athlete from the Wayne State baseball program, and get specific tips on speed, velocity and development.

Cost for each individual camp is $100 per participant. High school students are eligible to attend both camps. Registration is available online at the Wayne State baseball site, in person or by mail.

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