December 7th, 2011

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 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.