Is Mark Buehrle a fit in Detroit?
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.