November 29th, 2011
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.
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.
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.