November 19th, 2012

Decision time on Raburn has arrived

The Tigers have spent the last few weeks without an answer for Ryan Raburn’s situation. When team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was asked about Raburn during his season-ending press conference a few weeks ago, he said he hadn’t talked with Raburn yet. Nor was there an answer during Friday’s Torii Hunter press conference, though Dombrowski’s remarks about potentially adding a right-handed hitting outfielder as at least a platoon option alongside Andy Dirks seemed to hint Raburn was a player without a role.

Well, Raburn’s fate as a Tiger is about to be answered. It could come as soon as Tuesday, when the team has to set its 40-man roster. If not Tuesday, it could be answered Nov. 30, the deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players. (Given Dombrowski’s track record, I’d expect the answer to come Tuesday. Remember, he released Marcus Thames a few years ago soon after the offseason began, rather than wait for the non-tender date.)

Raburn avoided arbitration the last couple years with a two-year, $3.4 million contract he signed after the 2010 season. That contract is now up, but Raburn has a year to go before free agency.

If the Tigers designate him for assignment Tuesday, Detroit can try to trade him, or it can wait to see if another team claims him on waivers. Neither seems likely. The Tigers have had a few weeks to try to work out a trade, and Raburn’s arbitration eligibility would carry over to any team that claimed him.

Technically, Raburn still has an option left, but it’s a moot point. The Tigers seemingly used it up when they sent him to Triple-A Toledo at the end of May, but since he was called up less than 20 days later, so it wasn’t. With more than five years of service time, however, Raburn has the right to decline a minor-league assignment.

Cross out those options, and the other choice is releasing him, parting ways with a versatile player who showed promise for years but has never put a full productive season together. It would be a tough choice for the Tigers to make. If Raburn doesn’t have a role, however, Detroit might not have another choice.