December 2011

Tigers trade Perry to Nats for Collin Balester

Hours after the Tigers’ signing of Octavio Dotel left Ryan Perry as a man without a role, he became a former Tiger. Detroit sent the former first-round pick to the Nationals Friday night in exchange for Collin Balester.

“Acquiring Collin Balester from the Nationals today adds another good arm to our organization,” team president/general manager Dombrowski said in a statement. “He has shown the ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen in the past, a role we are looking for him to fill for our club in 2012.”

Perry was the centerpiece of a reliever-heavy Tigers draft in 2008, a hard-throwing right-hander who was the setup man of the future, if not a potential closer. But after he made the team out of camp the next spring, he never really found the consistency to hold down a role.

Dotel’s signing took away any chance Perry had for the seventh-inning role. He has down the long relief role before, but if the Tigers were going to sign a swing starter anyway, Perry was a man without a job.

Perry went 2-0 with a 5.35 ERA for Detroit this past season, allowing 39 hits over 37 innings with 21 walks and 24 strikeouts. His career stats in three seasons as a Tiger included a 5-6 record, 4.07 ERA, 82 walks and 129 strikeouts over 161 1/3 innings.

Balester went 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA for the Nationals this past season, striking out 34 batters over 35 2/3 innings. He went 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA at Triple-A Syracuse, with 46 strikeouts over 39 1/3 innings.

Perry was one minor league option remaining, so the Nationals don’t necessarily have to keep him on the big league roster out of camp. Balester is out of options.

Dotel: “I’m very happy I’ve got the record”

As you probably have heard by now, Octavio Dotel’s deal with the Tigers is now official, having passed his physical Friday. He’ll get a $3 million salary in 2012 with a $3.5 million club option for 2013 or a $500,000 buyout. There was some speculation about a vesting option, but the problem with middle relievers is figuring out a stat that could trigger it. Games pitched doesn’t necessarily signify a good year. So it’s a straight team option with a higher base salary for Dotel over this past season.

Had a very good phone interview with Dotel this afternoon as he was waiting for his flight home from Detroit Metro Airport. He said his decision came down to the Tigers and Brewers, with the Padres also pursuing him for a setup role.

“They were pretty close [in their offers],” Dotel said, “but the Tigers were more aggressive.”

Dotel confirmed that manager Jim Leyland called him Wednesday to explain the role the Tigers see for him. It centers around the seventh inning, but could include the sixth inning on some days depending on the matchup, or the eighth inning on days when setup man Joaquin Benoit or closer Jose Valverde are off for rest.

“I really appreciated that,” Dotel said. “I understand my role, and I really appreciate that they told me my role.”

Dotel said he has no problem with roles.

“I can do any job,” he said. “I can do [anything from] the sixth inning to the ninth inning. I’ve been through it before.”

In the end, it was more about the team than the role. He signed the last two offseasons with teams on the outside looking in on the playoff races, starting the 2009 season as the Pirates closer before opening the 2010 season as the Blue Jays setup man. Both times, he was traded at the July deadline. The Tigers had interest in signing him last year, he said.

He wanted to sign with a contender this time, and after previous interest, the Tigers made sense.

“The reason I came to Detroit is because of the chance [to win],” he said. “It was one of the teams that has more of a chance. I think after I had the chance to pitch in the playoffs [this fall with the Cardinals], I said, ‘This is where I want to be.’ …

“I do [feel happy] to be here. I really do, becuase the situation with Detroit, the players they have, the pitchers they have, the bullpen they have, they pretty much have everything. All we have to do is play the way we know we can, and we can win the division.”

Then there’s the record. All Dotel has to do is throw a pitch for the Tigers, and he’ll take over the mark for most Major League teams with 13, breaking out of a tie with Matt Stairs (remember him, he played two weeks with the Tigers in 2006) and Ron Villone.

“After being all over the place, that’s good,” he said. “I’m very happy I’ve got the record, and I hope to keep going.”

Tigers, Dotel agree to terms on one-year deal

The Octavio Dotel deal is complete, pending a physical. It’s a one-year contract with an option for 2013. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported a $3 million salary for Dotel next year.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski declined comment on the deal, other than to say they have interest in him.

Tigers, Dotel close to finalizing one-year deal

The Tigers found the man they wanted to shore up the middle of their bullpen, and Octavio Dotel found another new home. They found a match Wednesday evening, and the two sides spent Wednesday evening putting together a one-year contract.

The deal was not finalized as of late Wednesday evening, but a baseball source characterized it as close. It’s expected to include an option for the 2013 season, a compromise between the multi-year contract Dotel was seeking and the one-year deal the Tigers preferred.

The Tigers have a policy of not confirming contracts until a physical has been completed. That likely won’t happen until after the Winter Meetings have concluded at the Hilton Anatole hotel.

The 38-year-old Dotel will be playing for his 13th Major League team, and his third in the American League Central, but he has been a Tigers target on several occasions over the last five years. He’ll finally get his shot in a seventh-inning role to bridge the gap between Detroit’s starting rotation and the late-inning duo of setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde.

Dotel’s pursuit was down to two teams by Wednesday evening, pitting the Tigers against the Cardinals. Dotel won a World Series this fall in St. Louis, and by all accounts felt a strong pull to go back. However, the chance to win in Detroit and the strong Latin presence on the team helped draw Dotel to the Tigers after they began courting him a couple weeks ago.

Tigers closing in on reliever, looking like Dotel

The Tigers are closing in on filling their need for a reliever to handle the seventh inning, and it’s looking more like Octavio Dotel is the answer.

Without naming names, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated they’re zeroing in on their guy.

“We’re making some strides,” said Dombrowski, who had talks ongoing late Wednesday afternoon just before his regularly scheduled daily meeting with reporters.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers were one of two teams primarily involved in negotiations on Dotel, according to a source. Detroit has other options, including Luis Ayala, but Dombrowski indicated they’re zeroing in on a somebody, and that adding that arm has become a priority.

“If there’s one area, after we signed [Gerald] Laird, after we signed [Ramon] Santiago back, if there’s one area that probably received a little more focus than us than others, it’s been trying to tweak that bullpen,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve been looking at a lot of different [bullpen] options, but we do have priority/priorities at this point.”

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com tweeted that the Tigers are the front-runners for Dotel, with a National League club also involved. The Cardinals, where Dotel won a World Series ring a couple months ago, and Brewers have also been linked to Dotel in recent days.

Dotel is believed to be seeking a two-year contract. Dombrowski said Wednesday he would “prefer not to” offer a multi-year deal to a reliever at this point.

“The preference would be short-term,” Dombrowski said, though he said that sentiment isn’t as strong as it would be for any starting pitcher they might sign for the fifth spot.

Leyland pondering whether to hit Cabrera third

When Jim Leyland batted Miguel Cabrera third in the ALCS, he did it out of necessity. Magglio Ordonez was out. Delmon Young was out, then back but hobbled. There was no ideal guy left to put in front of Cabrera and take advantage of strikes.

That all is done now, but Leyland hasn’t eliminated the idea of keeping Cabrera in the third spot quite yet.

“I might,” Leyland said in his media session Wednesday.  “I’m thinking about it.  That will be one of those lineups that I makeup all winter long, and have him in the three spot and have him in the four spot.

Leyland has made out about 10 lineups by his count, and he has gone back and forth with it. Keeping Delmon Young there is another option. Moving Brennan Boesch back there, where he was for much of July and August, is another.

“With Boesch and Young, Miguel is not a burner, Boesch does good,” Leyland said. “If [Austin] Jackson is doing well, that’s three guys that can get around the bases better, so I might leave him fourth, but I would consider it.”

The question of where to hit Cabrera, regarded by many as the best hitter in the American League, has been debated pretty much ever since he arrived in Detroit four years ago. Leyland’s preference has always been to bat Cabrera fourth and try to enhance his RBI opportunities. Others have argued that putting Cabrera third guarantees he’ll bat in the first inning and betters his chances to get more plate appearances.

“You look at that two ways,” Leyland said, restarting the debate. “You can come up in the first inning with two out and nobody on.  If he comes up [in the first] and he hits fourth, that means he has somebody [on base], so you can look at that a lot of different ways.  Some guys thought it was [right to have] the best actual contact type hitter third, but our lineup is pretty deep.

“I feel real comfortable, I think with whatever our lineup looks like.  I think it will be okay.”

Tigers inquire on Gio Gonzalez

The Tigers are among the teams interested in A’s left-hander Gio Gonzalez should Oakland GM Billy Beane decide to deal him, but any chance of a big push appears to be dim.

The Tigers inquired on Gonzalez here at the Winter Meetings as an idea to see if they could do something bigger than expected for a good price. The asking price in return, however, apparently cooled that interest. While top pitching prospect Jacob Turner could be expendable in a package for Gonzalez, who has four years left before free agency, other potential pieces in a package beyond that appear to be a problem.

The Tigers are open to improving, but they’re not going to do it while taking away from the core of the team that won the AL Central and made it to within two games of the World Series. Unless the asking price comes down, it doesn’t appear to be a good fit, and with so many additional teams reported to be interested, a discount doesn’t look likely.

Gio-graphy: Getting Gonzalez will take big package

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski noted a little progress on gaining some regard from other teams in Detroit’s position prospects, but he also noted that the primary interest from teams in trade talks has been the team’s highly-touted pitching prospects, as usual. If the Tigers are going to make a serious attempt at acquiring Gio Gonzalez from the A’s, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser suggested late Tuesday evening, there’s no reason to think they could do it without giving up highly-regarded pitching prospects, starting with Jacob Turner.

Slusser reports the Tigers have strong interest in joining the Gonzalez sweepstakes, which so far has centered around the Yankees, and would probably be willing to include Turner as part of their offer. Essentially, then, Gonzalez would slot into the open rotation spot rather than replace one of the other four, and Turner would be a man without a role in Detroit.

A’s general manager Billy Beane told reporters earlier Tuesday that nothing was imminent. Dombrowski said Tuesday afternoon that talks on various fronts had reached “a lull period.”

The A’s have been attracting interest in Gonzalez as he heads into arbitration eligibility for the first time in his career as a super-2 qualifier. If another team acquires him, they’ll have to pay for Gonzalez’s success over the past couple years, but they’ll get four seasons out of the 26-year-old left-hander before he’s eligible for free agency.

With that type of control, and the level of interest from big-market teams, the A’s have every reason to expect a haul of prospects for their gifted young left-hander. What form that package takes will have to depend on the team.

Supposedly the A’s are interested in young outfield help, but while the Tigers have some young talent there, it’s not their strength. Andy Dirks just completed a surprisingly strong rookie season that included some stretches of everyday play and can play all three outfield spots, but he isn’t regarded as a top prospect. Avisail Garcia has the physique and ability to become a very good player, but has to find the consistent performance to match.

The Tigers also have some young infield prospects, but the A’s already have talent there, starting with Jemile Weeks. The Tigers prospects generating respect are the pitchers, starting with Turner and continuing with Drew Smyly and possibly Andy Oliver. If the Tigers are going to offer the type of package the A’s received when they traded Dan Haren four years ago, as Slusser suggests, they’ll probably have to offer a little bit of all of that.

Yes, the A’s are deep in starting pitching. But as Dombrowski has always believed, you can never have enough pitching. It’s a commodity.

Day 1 wrapup: No on Reyes, unlikely on Buehrle; maybe on Dotel?

While the Tigers were relatively quiet as these Winter Meetings got underway at the Hilton Anatole, we had some issues cleared up.

For one, that long-speculated chase for Jose Reyes never happened.

“We didn’t have any [discussions],” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday as the Marlins readied to celebrate their reported six-year agreement with Reyes.

Reyes is the clubhouse leader for the Werth-Crawford award for the big-name free agent the Tigers were linked to but were never close on. But the Tigers were never really linked to Reyes. They were viewed more as an outside possibility by other clubs.

They have been linked in some reports on Mark Buehrle, one of the top free-agent starting pitchers, but Dombrowski said Detroit would most likely not be in for a long-term deal with a starting pitcher.

“”You’re open to being in a position where you listen to anything,” Dombrowski said, “but we think if we have our four starters that are established, that we would go in with a young guy as our fifth starter. We’ve said that all along, really. We’ve said we’re open-minded to things, but no, we’re very happy to go in with one. We think we might have more than one that might be able to step up.

“Now when I say that, you’re looking for them to be your fifth starter. You’re not looking for him to be your first starter. But we feel comfortable to do that. Now, what we have talked about is potentially signing a veteran-type guy that could protect us, that could also slide into the bullpen.”

As for a long-term deal for a starter, Dombrowski said, “Well, I’d say that most likely we would not be heading in that direction. … That’s really not the focus we have.”

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reported earlier Monday that the Tigers are not currently in discussions on Buehrle.

If the Tigers go with Jacob Turner or another young starter, or even if they go with a low-risk veteran on a one-year deal, one way Dombrowski suggested they could bolster their chances is through bullpen depth to bridge the gap. That’s where Octavio Dotel or another free agent reliever could come in.

According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, the Tigers met Monday with representatives for free-agent reliever Octavio Dotel. They also had discussions before these Winter Meetings. The Cardinals, Brewers and Mets also are reportedly interested in Dotel, who won a World Series in St. Louis back in October.

“I think there’s a lot of candidates out there for that job,” he continued, “and we have our priorities in who we like. There’s a lot of guys that pitch in that type of role [that are available].”

Tigers outright Ryan Strieby to Toledo

The Tigers’ first move of the Winter Meetings was a subtraction, not an addition. Detroit outrighted the contract of first baseman Ryan Strieby to Triple-A Toledo, opening up a spot on their 40-man roster.

Detroit’s roster filled up once they signed Gerald Laird last month. This returns them to 39 players, though it doesn’t necessarily mean a move is on the way. This gives them some flexibility ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, for which Strieby will now be eligible.

Strieby was a power hitting prospect a few years ago, but wrist injuries have sapped his bat speed over the last few years. He hit .255 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs at Triple-A Toledo this past season, but he struck out 171 times in 557 plate appearances. By contrast, his previous career high in strikeouts was 101, and the last time he had at least 500 plate appearances in a season (2007 at West Michigan), he struck out just 78 times.

With Victor Martinez around, Strieby was no longer an insurance policy at first base.

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