October 31st, 2013

Tigers interviewed Rick Renteria

Padres bench coach Rich Renteria officially joined the list of Tigers managerial candidates on Wednesday Thursday, interviewing with team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski on Thursday in California for the opportunity to replace the recently retired Jim Leyland.

Renteria, who couldn’t travel to Detroit due to recent hip surgery, didn’t come in as a household name, and he brought little recent history with Dombrowski, though the two worked together when Renteria managed in the Marlins farm system in the late 1990s. His extensive experience as a minor-league manager and big-league coach, however, is somewhat Leyland-like.

Renteria actually played for Leyland when he made his Major League debut for the Pirates in 1986, Leyland’s first year in Pittsburgh. Renteria, a former first-round pick, had a couple cups of coffee with the Mariners in the late 80s before playing the 1993 season with the expansion Marlins at age 31.

He found a place with the Marlins in his post-playing career, becoming the first former Florida player to manage in the organization. He was the Midwest League Manager of the Year for Kane County in 1999, moved up to Double-A Portland after that, then moved into the Padres farm 10 years ago as a Class A coach.

Renteria is the fourth person to interview for the job, joining Lloyd McClendon, Tim Wallach and Brad Ausmus. There’s a lot of speculation that the Tigers will interview Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who until now has been busy with the World Series.

Seven Tigers file for free agency

The day after the World Series ends, free agency filings mark the unofficial start to the offseason. It has always been a formality — I mean, nobody forgets to file for free agency — and now it’s actually an automatic move rather than something players and agents actually have to do.

Thus, the list of Tigers goes as expected. Joaquin Benoit, Jeremy Bonderman, Octavio Dotel, Omar Infante, Brayan Pena, Jhonny Peralta and Ramon Santiago are all now officially among 147 Major League free agents.

The second part to that is the five-day period in which teams hold exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents. Players and agents can talk with other teams during that period, but technically they can’t talk contract parameters. It used to be a longer exclusive period, but was mercifully whittled down in the last few years. We already know the Tigers won’t try to re-sign Pena. We have not heard any direction on the other guys yet, though it’s safe to assume the Tigers are going to make a push to re-sign Benoit and Infante.

The exclusive negotiating period ends at midnight on Monday evening/Tuesday morning. Teams can still re-sign their own free agents  after then, but the players are free to talk contracts and sign anywhere.

The other part of that is the qualifying offer teams can make to players to guarantee draft-pick compensation if they leave. The labor agreement signed a couple years states that the one-year qualifying offer has to equal the average salary of the current 125 biggest contracts. This year, that works out to $14.1 million, which is $800,000 more than last year. Teams have until 5pm ET on Monday to make an offer. Players then have a week to decide whether to accept it.

The risk/reward is obvious. On the one hand, $14.1 million is a lot of money to offer Benoit or Infante, who didn’t even make half of that this past season. On the other hand, a one-year deal allows them to fill a key spot for next season and still keep the role open for prospects to assume in 2015 — Bruce Rondon at closer, Hernan Perez at second base. It would be a surprise if the Tigers made qualifying offers to two guys who don’t figure to make as much in average salary on the open market.

In addition, the Tigers have one player to option to weigh, a $3.25 million option on Jose Veras that can be bought out for just $150,000. The Tigers are believed to have three days to decide on that one. Considering the price on relievers and the lack of depth the Tigers face if they can’t re-sign Benoit, it would be a surprise if Detroit doesn’t pick up this one.