Tigers lose Dirks to waivers, make qualifying offers to Scherzer, Martinez (updated)
As expected, Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez received qualifying offers Friday. Andy Dirks, meanwhile, received a waiver claim and a change of scenery to the Blue Jays.
Those were the highlights of a flurry of Friday moves by the Tigers, who picked up the $7 million option on Joakim Soria and did a whole lot more beyond that. Essentially, they set their 40-man roster for the start of what promises to be a busy offseason.
Detroit also purchased the contract of outfielder Wynton Bernard from low Class A West Michigan and outrighted the contracts of utilityman Don Kelly and reliever Evan Reed to Triple-A Toledo. Shortstop Jose Iglesias,
left right-hander Drew VerHagen and relievers Bruce Rondon and Luke Putkonen were reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
The Tigers had until Monday to extend one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offers — the average annual value of baseball’s top 125 contracts — to free agents. Scherzer and Martinez now have until a week from Monday to decide on it, but will almost surely decline, as both are expected to garner lucrative multi-year deals on the open market.
By extending qualifying offers, the Tigers set themselves up to receive compensation picks in next summer’s First-Year Player Draft should Scherzer and Martinez sign elsewhere. Detroit has avoided qualifying offers in recent years, but with Scherzer and Martinez in line as potentially the top pitcher and hitter on the market, the offers made total sense.
Dirks was in a different situation, eligible for arbitration this winter after what amounted to a lost season to injuries. The 28-year-old outfielder, a part of Detroit’s outfield from 2011 to 2013, underwent back surgery in March, then suffered a a series of setbacks — including a hamstring strain — that thwarted his rehab assignment in July and August.
“When will he be 100 percent? I don’t know that answer quite at this time,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said at his season-ending presser earlier this month. “We still have to make some decisions in that regard.”
That answer still wasn’t clear for them to go into a second year of arbitration with Dirks. Dombrowski had expressed the need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder in the mix, but decided Dirks wasn’t the answer.
“We had made the decision based upon his current health situation,” Dombrowski said Friday in an email, “and not being sure if we could count on him for next season.”
The Blue Jays, who have a history of offseason waiver claims under general manager Alex Anthopoulos, took the chance. With that, prospects Tyler Collins, Daniel Fields and Steven Moya stand as the only left-handed-hitting outfielders on Detroit’s 40-man roster.
Also claimed off waivers was lefty reliever Patrick McCoy, who goes to Baltimore after pitching in 14 games out of the Tigers bullpen, allowing six runs on 21 hits with 13 walks and 11 strikeouts.
Bernard earned Midwest League MVP honors at West Michigan, albeit as one of the older players in the league. The speedy outfielder batted a league-best .323 (164-for-507) for the Whitecaps with 30 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 47 RBIs and 45 stolen bases in 131 games.
Bernard would have been a minor-league free agent had he not been added to the 40-man roster. The move puts him in line to spend Spring Training with the Major League club.
Kelly and Reed are likely to decline their outright assignments and elect to become free agents, but Dombrowski said the team could still re-sign Kelly. The Tigers did that after the 2012 season and ended up re-signing Kelly to a minor-league contract two months later. They kept Kelly on their 40-man roster last offseason and avoided arbitration.
Still to be decided is a $5.4 million club option for catcher Alex Avila, who would otherwise be eligible for arbitration. Since Avila isn’t eligible for free agency, the Tigers have until Nov. 20 to pick up or decline the option.