February 5th, 2014

Dombrowski on Scherzer: Only time will tell

With the snow, there was a smaller audience for Dave Dombrowski this year when he made his annual visit to the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon, but there weren’t really any headlines missed. Dombrowski touched on a decent number of topics, but nothing particularly new.

On Max Scherzer and his contract situation, built into the context of the rotation and the Doug Fister trade, Dombrowski kept his comments guarded, not surprisingly.

“Everybody knows his situation,” Dombrowski said. “We’d love to have him stay a Tiger for a long time. I think Max would like to stay here. He has expressed that. Only time will tell what takes place.”

Time, of course, is somewhat limited if the Tigers hope to sign Scherzer before free agency rather than in the midst of it. Scherzer has made it clear he does not want to talk contract once the season starts, though he left open the possibility of signing an extension at season’s end. Add in other suitors in free agency, and it does nothing to help the Tigers’ chances at keeping him.

Dombrowski noted that one way they looked at their rotation going into the Doug Fister was by contract status. By trading Fister and shifting Smyly back to starting, the Tigers gave themselves a trio of starters under team control for the next several seasons (Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez by long-term contract, Smyly by service time).

Dombrowski did look back at the Doug Fister trade and the players they received in return, noting the lack of a David Price deal this winter as a potential sign about the difficulty in acquiring prospects.

“We like the combination,” Dombrowski said. “You can see clubs are very reluctant to trade young players right now, particularly young pitchers. You can look, for example, to Tampa Bay with David Price. They were talking about trading him. They have not traded him, and one of the reasons they haven’t traded him is because the young players that they were looking to acquire, just like us, many of them are not available. It’s a time period when clubs are reluctant to trade young pitchers, but we think we got a real good one.”

Other items of note …

  • With the lineup pretty well set, the one area of competition Dombrowski referenced was in the bullpen for the final spot or two. In so doing, he referenced Justin Miller as a candidate for one of the spots. He also referenced Luke Putkonen, Jose Ortega and Jose Alvarez. “I think a lot of the biggest questions, if we’re healthy, go towards the bullpen,” Dombrowski said.
  • Corey Knebel was not on that list, which isn’t a surprise since he wasn’t invited to big league camp. Dombrowski did, however, reference Knebel on a potential fast track. “He’s a guy that we like a lot,” Dombrowski said. “He’s got a plus arm, plus breaking ball. We sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He probably tired out a little bit at that time. He had tremendous numbers last year. I don’t know if I’d put a time frame on it. He’s going to go to our [minor-league Spring Training] minicamp. If we need pitchers, I’m sure that at some time we’ll see him over in big league camp. We’ll just leave it in his hands and see what happens. We do think he’s a guy that can move quickly, that doesn’t need a lot of time in the minor leagues, but I don’t have a specific time frame.”
  • Dombrowski was asked again about rumors he could be a candidate for commissioner. “I really haven’t thought much about that one,” Dombrowski said. “I appreciate the comments. I’ve seen my name out there at times, too, but I’ve got a job that I enjoy, and to me, that’s where my total focus is at this time. My goal is to win a world championship. That’s first and foremost. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
  • Dombrowski sidestepped a question about parity in baseball, though he noted revenue sharing. He does not see a salary cap coming anytime soon. Interestingly, however, he did bring up the imbalance created by the recent rash of massive local TV deals for teams. “I think one of the biggest disparities right now that’s taking place is, as local television contracts become larger, that increases the revenues of some markets compared to others. It’s a significant difference in baseball. But how we deal with that, that’s really a more global question than in my situation.”
  • Dombrowski expects Bruce Rondon to be ready to pitch on time following the elbow soreness that ended his season last September.
  • Dombrowski said they look for outfield prospect Tyler Collins to begin the season at Triple-A Toledo. “When he went to Double-A last year, he had a solid season, but I think he got too pull-oriented at the plate, so he became a little home run conscious,” Dombrowski said. “For us, it’s [a matter of] going back to try to use more of the whole field, which we’ve discussed with him.”