V-Mart press conference postscript: What’s next?
Victor Martinez is officially back, obviously. So is Joel Hanrahan, though he has to show his arm his healthy to advance from minor-league contract to Major League roster spot and activate his $1 million base salary. Torii Hunter, barring an unexpected twist, will not be back, as Dave Dombrowski answered Friday.
As for Max Scherzer, well, Dombrowski sounded noncommittal. If anything, he sounded more open to the possibility of a return than he did at his end-of-season press conference last month.
“I have no idea,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn’t even expect to at this point. Again, it’s only the middle of November. He has Scott [Boras] as his representative and he generally doesn’t move things quickly. So I wouldn’t even think I’d have a pulse on that.”
Dombrowski did not answer whether he has talked with Boras. Asked if the Martinez signing rules out Scherzer’s return, Dombrowski said, “We’ll just wait and we’ll see what happens.”
That’s a slight difference from last month, when Dombrowski said, “I think we probably made more of an effort to sign Max earlier in the year, so I don’t think your odds improve than what they were earlier. What I said at the time to them, why would they improve if we have one-on-one ability to speak with you, compared to having 29 other clubs speak with you? Only time will tell.”
It’s worth noting that the October comment came before extensive talks with owner Mike Ilitch on what the team can do. As the Tigers celebrated Victor Martinez’s return Friday, it was clear that a large part of it had to do with Ilitch being willing to make the investment and outbid other teams.
That was a 4-year, $68 million deal. Scherzer’s eventual contract will surely dwarf that. He passed on Detroit’s reported six-year, $144 million offer in Spring Training, then backed up his decision with an 18-win season that compared favorably to his Cy Young campaign of 2013. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman wrote during the GM Meetings this week that the Scherzer market seems quiet, but that’s not particularly rare early for free agents under Boras (Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez come to mind).
If Ilitch is involved, expect Boras to try to get the Tigers into the mix. And unlike the Stephen Drew and Rafael Soriano sagas of the past couple years, the Tigers organization would presumably be on board for another run at Scherzer. Martinez was the latest example of Ilitch rewarding a player who wins for him.
“We’ll just wait and see how that happens,” Dombrowski said. “But I will say we’re comfortable with the four starters that we have, and we’re also comfortable going with a fifth guy that’s a young guy, if we get into that situation. We did acquire David Price, as we said at the time, to help us in this type of situation.”
Perhaps the highlight of Friday’s press conference came when Ilitch was asked if the Martinez deal was a statement that he’s still in a win-now mode.
“Yeah, I’m ok,” Ilitch said as he reached for his wallet. “I’ve got some $20s in here.”
Other notes from Friday:
- Dombrowski did not want to get into Yasmany Tomas, the slugging Cuban outfielder who’s expected to draw a bigger contract than fellow countryman Rusney Castillo did this summer. Every sign so far, however, is that Detroit won’t be in play for Tomas. While they were presumably at his public workout in the Dominican, they hadn’t held a private workout for him as of last week, at a time when most teams seriously involved had already done so. And if they couldn’t outbid the Red Sox in August for Castillo, who fit the Tigers’ needs in center field, it’s hard to see them going beyond that level for a right-handed power hitting corner outfielder.
- Dombrowski didn’t address trade rumors involving Alex Avila, but his uncertainty about the catching situation suggested Avila is potentially in play. While Dombrowski ran down the list of pieces in his lineup, he mentioned Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose, but he did not mention Avila specifically, only that “you have two catchers.” As for the trade rumors, Dombrowski said, “I wouldn’t get into any individual discussions. I would say that at the General Managers meetings, I was probably asked about every player just about that we have, at one time or another.”
- Dombrowski indicated they have not shut the door on the rest of their free agents — Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Jim Johnson and Don Kelly. “We’ve had conversations with them,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t think we’ve closed the door. I mean, they’ve got a pulse of where we are.”
- Dombrowski was asked if he felt they’d have enough in their bullpen if they went to spring training with the guys they have now, including Bruce Rondon, Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan in the late innings. “Yes,” he said. “You can get better, but like we talked about in Joe’s case, we all know he didn’t have the year that we were hopeful he would, but he pitched and did all right for us back there. And now we’re in a situation where if he doesn’t get the job done, we feel like we have a guy in Soria to replace him. We like Soria a great deal.”
- The above comment does not mean the Tigers aren’t looking. “We’ll see how we’ll deal with it,” Dombrowski said a few minutes later. “I’m not ready to say we’re done, but I’m not in a point of mass emergency.”
- As for a lefty reliever to add to that list, Dombrowski said, “We’ll see what happens.”
- Dombrowski indicated he’s more confident in Rondon returning from Tommy John surgery than he is in Hanrahan. “I’m hopeful,” Dombrowski said of Hanrahan, “but I really don’t know. We’re in a situation where he’s had a lot of ups and downs, but he is a long time past Tommy John [surgery], we’ll just wait and see, I don’t really know the answer.”