December 5th, 2011
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].”
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.
With Jose Reyes now off the market, the next free agent position player who could logically be a fit for the Tigers is third baseman Aramis Ramirez. So far, however, there’s nothing going on between the two.
Look for the Tigers and Ramirez’s representatives to touch base here at the Winter Meetings, but they haven’t had any contact since their earlier talks last month. That indicates the Tigers are not one of the four or five teams who are seriously involved with him.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com tweeted late Sunday that there was “nothing serious” going on with the Tigers and Ramirez. It looks now like there’s not much at all, though things change quickly sometimes during the Winter Meetings.
Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes talked with reliever Octavio Dotel, who confirmed interest from the Tigers, as well as the Cardinals, Brewers and Mets. Dotel apparently told Rojas he’s interested in returning to the Cards, whom he said have offered him a one-year contract. He would like a two-year offer.
Dotel is 38 years old. A two-year offer could be an interesting risk for a team. For the Tigers, it could be increasingly so, given that Jose Valverde will be a free agent next winter and Joaquin Benoit will be going into his contract year at that point. What the Tigers bullpen looks like then could be interesting.
Keep in mind, too, that Joel Zumaya is still out there. He’s going to throw for scouts Dec. 14, and his agents believe they can get as many as 20 teams watching him.