December 6th, 2012
The Rule 5 Draft was the unexpected news of the day for the Tigers as they prepared to head out of Nashville, and it overshadowed any reaction from club officials to agent Scott Boras’ remarks from Wednesday on their closer situation and Boras’ client, Rafael Soriano. (Here’s the link if you missed the remarks, or you can just page down.)
It was still worth giving Dave Dombrowski a chance to react. Not surprisingly, he had read Boras’ quotes, including the philosophical cliff of teams knowing what to expect with minor league players call-ups. Though Boras said the Tigers still had decisions to make on their club, Dombrowski indicated they had already decided what they’re doing.
“He’s entitled to his opinion, as everybody else is,” Dombrowski said, “but it’s one of those things where we like our situation. That’s what it comes down to. I can’t really say much more that I haven’t said about the Rondon thing to you guys. We feel comfortable with that and with the other arms we have in our bullpen.”
Dombrowski also read Boras’ remarks on the rarity of young relievers coming up and saving 30 games, and disagreed with the contention.
“There are guys,” Dombrowski said. “The last few years, you had [Andrew] Bailey, you had [Neftali] Feliz, you had [Craig] Kimbrel. The reality is, it can be done. I’m not saying [it will], but if you’re talented in this game and you have the right mental approach, you can accomplished. Again, we’re not anointing people, but this guy, he’s a good pitcher. We like him.”
In terms of young players getting a shot, Dombrowski contended, it has to be done — not necessarily at closer, but somewhere.
“The one thing that I keep saying, because I think it’s important: You’ve got to get some young blood with your club,” Dombrowski said. “Now, when I say that, you don’t want to put young blood in that you don’t think can help you. But you want to put talented young blood into your club. And unless you give them an opportunity, you’ll never get guys up there.
“People forget in 2006, we had a couple guys by the names of Verlander and Zumaya that played pretty important roles, and Granderson came in too. Well, they did all right. This guy’s that type of talent.”
Dombrowski said he’s ready for the second-guessing that will come, not necessary from Boras but from many circles.
“No matter who we have as a closer this year, the one thing is that they will blow a game,” Dombrowski said. “And at that time, when they blow a save, somebody will say, ‘They should’ve had such-and-such.’ If you’ve got a veteran guy, they say, ‘Well, why didn’t they give the young guy a chance?’ If it’s a young guy, they say, ‘Why didn’t they give the veteran guy a chance?’ That kind of comes with the territory, but that’s OK. That’s the way it is, and we feel comfortable where we are at this point.”
For the first time since 2008, the Tigers have selected a player in the Rule 5 Draft. For the first time since 2004, they have two. For a contending team, it’s rare.
The Tigers are getting Jeff Kobernus, a speedy second baseman out of the Nationals farm system. The Red Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, then traded him to Detroit for Triple-A Toledo utilityman Justin Henry. They’re also getting left-hander Kyle Lobstein from the Rays system through a trade with the Mets, who selected them and then dealt him to Detroit for cash considerations.
Both are former second round picks, and both are guys Dave Dombrowski said they targeted going in.
You might remember the Rule 5 as a way the Tigers added prospects when Dave Dombrowski was trying to rebuild the organization years ago. They carried three Rule 5 pitchers in 2003 with Wil Ledezma, Matt Roney and Chris Spurling. In those cases, the Tigers saw upside in the future. In this case, both Kobernus and Lobstein are guys the Tigers feel can help them right now.
The 24-year-old Kobernus hit .282 with a home run, 19 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 53 attempts over 82 games at Double-A Harrisburg. He has 120 steals in 149 attempts over 290 career games. He has played almost entirely second base in his career, but the Tigers see him as a potential utility guy.
“We not only like his ability to play second, but we think that perhaps — and he hasn’t really done much of it — he could have some versatility where we might be able to move him to the outfield and get some playing time there,” Dombrowski said.
He has played very little shortstop, but he’s not an answer to the Tigers’ potential moves there.
“We didn’t really take him because we think he’s going to play shortstop,” assistant general manager Al Avila said. “We took him because he can play second, we feel he can play some outfield and he’s a pretty decent hitter. If he plays shortstop, that’s kind of icing on the cake for us.”
The 23-year-old Lobstein went 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA over 27 starts at Double-A Montgomery, striking out 129 batters over 144 innings. It’s a pretty good snapshot of his pro career over the last four seasons, but the Tigers like the stuff.
“He’s more of an average fastball guy, good breaking ball and a changeup,” Dombrowski said. “We just like him as an overall pitcher. We look at him as a guy that might be able to come in as a starter and compete, but of course we don’t look at him as ahead of the other guys. He’s a guy that would be protection and maybe a second lefty, because we do like him in that regard.”