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Tigers sign Xavier Avery to minor-league deal

The Tigers added depth to their outfield ranks and footspeed to their camp this week by signing former Orioles and Mariners farmhand Xavier Avery to a minor-league contract.

Avery first proclaimed the news on his Twitter account Thursday.

 

Chris Cotillo of SB Nation later reported the agreement Friday. An industry source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the agreement, which includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training with the Major League club. The Tigers, who usually announce minor-league signings in batches, have not confirmed.

Avery, who will turn 25 on New Year’s Day, was a second-round pick by the Orioles in 2008, bypassing a football scholarship to the University of Georgia. He appeared in 32 games for Baltimore in 2012, batting .223 (21-for-94) with six doubles, a triple and a home run and six RBIs. He stole six bases in nine attempts.

Since then, he has spent most of his time in Triple-A, including the last season-plus at Tacoma in the Mariners system after the O’s traded him to Seattle for Mike Morse on Aug. 30, 2013. Avery batted .275 (110-for-400) at Tacoma this year with 21 homers, two triples, 10 homers, 38 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 39 attempts.

Avery has split time between left and center field the last few years. The left-handed hitter seemingly slots into the depth role that Ezequiel Carrera tried to fill this past season. The Tigers designated Carrera for assignment Thursday after a disappointing stretch run in Detroit.

Avery could serve as insurance if Anthony Gose, acquired from Toronto last week, struggles to hit next year. The Tigers have two other potential center fielders on their 40-man roster with prospects Tyler Collins and Daniel Fields, but neither has much (or in Fields’ case, any) Major League experience.

Tigers claim Josh Zeid off waivers from Astros

The Tigers’ search for bullpen help led them to the waiver wire on the day teams have to set their 40-man rosters and protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. Detroit claimed 27-year-old right-hander Josh Zeid from the Astros, who tried to sneak him off their roster after he missed the final two months of the season for surgery on both feet.

He’s not a big-name addition by any stretch, but he’s the kind of pitcher on the rebound the Tigers have turned into bullpen depth in years past.

Zeid, acquired by Houston three years ago in the Hunter Pence trade, had a nice rookie season in 2013 before struggling through this year. Working mostly middle relief, he gave up 16 earned runs on 30 hits over 20 2/3 innings, covering 23 appearances, with seven walks and 18 strikeouts. Most of that damage came in a month-long stretch from the end of June through July, in which he gave up 10 earned runs on 14 hits — three of them home runs — over 6 2/3 innings.

Zeid went on the disabled list after that with lingering injuries that led to surgeries on both of his feet, keeping him out of the rest of the season. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training.

When he’s healthy, he’s a power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, slider and a splitter he developed with the help of former Tigers pitcher and ex-Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail.

The Tigers didn’t need to go far for a scouting report on Zeid. He played in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers two years ago for Team Israel, a team managed by Brad Ausmus.

With Zeid added to an already full roster, somebody had to go. That fell on outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who went from part-time center fielder in August to late-game defensive replacement and pinch-runner by season’s end. Any question about whether he was expendable was answered when the Tigers traded for Anthony Gose, another speedy center fielder who bats left-handed but with more consistent defensive prowess.

Sources: Tigers talked catching with Astros

The Tigers picked up the club option on Alex Avila’s contract earlier this week, but they remain in the rumor mill surrounding catching. While sources confirmed a report from FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi that Detroit had talks with the Astros about their catching surplus, the sources said talks ended with the Tigers moving on.

The Astros have three catchers on their roster following the addition of former Angels catcher Hank Conger two weeks ago. The Tigers talks were believed to center around switch-hitting backup Carlos Corporan, who has pounded Tigers pitching the last two years (9-for-22, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs). Two of those home runs came off Max Scherzer in 2013. Corporan also homered off Evan Reed this past May.

Corporan, who turns 31 in January, is a .226 career hitter with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs in 199 career games. He would make sense as an offensive backup to a defensive-minded catcher, especially if the Tigers were to trade Avila and go with prospect James McCann or Bryan Holaday behind the plate. He set a career high with 48 starts for the Astros this past season, though it’s unclear whether he could fill a platoon role.

The talks supposedly took place prior to the Tigers picking up Avila’s $5.4 million option for 2015. The option pickup, however, doesn’t necessarily guarantee Avila staying put. The move only guarantees cost certainty with Avila, rather than going to arbitration, in his final season before he’s eligible for free agency.

Tigers add Nesbitt, Machado to 40-man

The Tigers filled their 40-man roster on Thursday, purchasing the contracts of relief prospect Angel Nesbitt and infielder Dixon Machado to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Both Nesbitt and Machado were eligible last year and slipped through. Their breakout seasons this summer made it nearly impossible to expect the same luck this time around.

In a year when several Tigers pitching prospects hit growing pains on their way up the system, Nesbitt took advantage, turning closing opportunities at Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie into a springboard into the Tigers prospect ranks. He ranking 17th on MLB.com’s end-of-season list.

Nesbitt saved 20 games between the two levels, but the raw numbers were more impressive: 43 hits allowed over 66 2/3 innings with 23 walks and 72 strikeouts. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and hits 98 mph on occasion, plus improving secondary pitches, the soon-to-be 24-year-old has a potential Major League arsenal if he can learn how to best utilize it.

Machado was on Detroit’s 40-man roster at this point last year, but was designated for assignment to open a spot for Joe Nathan. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he hit just .215 in 37 games at Lakeland while producing limited power. He rebounded mightily this year, producing a .779 OPS and 31 doubles between Lakeland and Erie while showing better defense.

It was the offensive outburst the Tigers had long been waiting to see from Machado, who actually hit better after his midseason promotion to the Eastern League. While Detroit has a glut of middle infield prospects, including Eugenio Suarez and Hernan Perez at the upper levels and Domingo Leyba and Javier Betancourt further down, Machado is just 22 in a system that still needs all the depth it can get, if for nothing more than potential trade pieces.

Nesbitt and Machado took the two open spots on the roster, which tightened last week after the Tigers re-signed Victor Martinez and traded for Anthony Gose. Detroit could have opened a spot by removing a player, such as outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, whose role this past season as a speedy left-handed hitting center fielder now seems redundant with Gose on board going into 2015.

Among the Tigers prospects eligible for the Rule 5 is 6-foot-8 right-hander Edgar De La Rosa, who blossomed into a power pitcher at Class A Advanced Lakeland. His 7-9 record there belied his 3.30 ERA and 116 hits allowed over 139 innings, though he suffered from 53 walks.

Endrys Briceno is the highest-ranked prospect now eligible, sitting at 18th on MLB.com’s list at season’s end, but he spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The most intriguing Rule 5 eligible Tiger, however, might be a Major League veteran. The Tigers signed Joel Hanrahan to a minor-league contract last week, but doing so technically left him exposed to the draft. The former Pirates and Red Sox closer hasn’t pitched since 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be healthy and ready for Spring Training.

Hanrahan reportedly turned down at least one Major League contract offer to sign with the Tigers, so the interest is there. However, any team that drafts him would also take on the roster bonuses in his contract, starting with the $1 million bonus he gets for making the active roster. He can make another $2.5 million in bonuses down the line.

For that reason and others, De La Rosa is more likely to get drafted than Hanrahan, according to two Major League talent evaluators.

Would Tigers trade David Price?

Thursday will mark the one-year anniversary of the Prince Fielder trade. But we don’t need to wait that long for the annual reminder of Dave Dombrowski’s oft-used offseason phrase: There is no such thing as an untradeable player.

“I don’t think you go in and say someone’s untouchable,” Dombrowski said a few offseasons ago. “When you start doing that, you end up not making many trades. … They always used to say, if Barry Bonds is the best player in baseball at that time, and somebody offered you two Barry Bondses, you’d make the trade. And that’s just way it is. So I think you keep an open mind. Those things don’t happen very often, but I think we keep open minds to just about anything.”

The Tigers aren’t going to trade one David Price for two David Prices. That deal isn’t out there. But if the Tigers could trade one David Price for some help at other spots, and in the process gain payroll room to re-sign Max Scherzer, would they do it? Would they have to do it?

Expect no firm answers until Scherzer (or Price) signs a long-term contract somewhere.

“You know it’s coming,” an American League talent evaluator said before last week’s MLB General Manager Meetings, “the interest [from teams] at least.”

Sure enough, there’s interest out there if the Tigers eventually decide to go ahead with a deal. The Tigers, as is Dombrowski’s nature, are in a position to listen to inquiries, according to an industry source. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes along the same lines.

“I wouldn’t get into any individual discussions,” Dombrowski said Friday about trade talks in general at last week’s GM meetings. “I would say that when you’re at the General Managers meetings, I was probably asked about every player just about that we have, at one time or another.”

Dombrowski reminded reporters of the tie-in with Price last Friday when asked about the Tigers’ chances of re-signing Scherzer.

“We’ll just wait and see how that happens,” Dombrowski said Friday. “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.”

While there’s no shortage of starting talent on the free-agent market, both this offseason and next, that’s not necessarily appealing for teams seeking a short-term rotation fit. Price is eligible for free agency after next season, and if he hits the open market, he’ll be easily the best of the bunch. Really, he’d be the best starting pitcher to hit the market since maybe Cliff Lee after the 2010 season.

For a team that could use a youth infusion and more of a balance of talent, Price would be an enticing piece to offer up. For a team that’s still trying to win now, however, Price is a tremendous pitcher, the ace of a rotation for a team whose rotation is its strength.

Price and Porcello are projected to make $31.1 million combined next season under MLBTradeRumors’ arbitration forecast. Add that to the salaries due to Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez under their long-term contracts, and Detroit is due to pay more than $75 million for their top four starters. To add Scherzer without an accompanying move, even under the reported $24 million annual salary of the offer Scherzer didn’t take in Spring Training, and the five-man rotation would approach or surpass the $100 million mark.

Again, trading Price only would make sense if the Tigers could re-sign Scherzer as a result. While the Tigers figure they can fill one rotation void internally with Robbie Ray or one of the many other rookie starters they used in spots last year, it’s another thing entirely to believe they can do that with two spots.

To trade away Price and then sign another free-agent starter besides Scherzer would defeat a purpose. Trading Price would forfeit the compensation pick they’d receive in 2016 if Price signs elsewhere next winter. Re-signing another free agent who turned down a qualifying offer (James Shields, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana) would cost the Tigers their upcoming first-round pick, currently 24th overall.

Re-signing Scherzer would obviously mean they wouldn’t recoup the compensation pick they’d pick up if he signed elsewhere. But giving up a comp pick and giving up a traditional pick are two different things.

Ultimately, the wrench in such a plan could come down to timing. Reunion or no, agent Scott Boras has a history of having top free agents linger on the market past the Winter Meetings, sometimes past the holidays, in order to give the market time to build. While there might be more buzz about Jon Lester and James Shields right now than Scherzer, some teams are going to lose out on Lester and Shields, and that could lead some to Scherzer and give Boras enough teams to build a market.

More commonly, big trades happen around the Winter Meetings. Justin Upton went from Arizona to Atlanta in late January 2013, and the Mariners traded Michael Pineda to New York in January 2012, and Matt Garza went from the Rays to the Cubs in January 2011. In 2009, 2010 and 2014, however, there were no big deals. And other than Upton, no player trade had as big of a financial footprint as Price.

To hold onto both would pretty much ensure the Tigers entering luxury tax territory ($189 million) for a year. It’s not a foreign scenario for the Tigers, who paid luxury tax in 2008 after trading for Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Edgar Renteria the previous offseason. But that was under MLB’s previous system. The first-year tax rate is reportedly 12.5%, and goes up quickly from there for repeat offenders.

Tigers pick up Avila’s option

The countdown towards the Tigers’ deadline on Alex Avila’s $5.4 million club option ended a few days early. The team announced Monday that it has picked up the option ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

The club option was part of the contract that the team and Avila’s agent, Jim Murray, negotiated last winter to avoid arbitration. Avila made $4.15 million this year until that deal. Given the traditional salary increases from second- to third-year arbitration eligibles, the improvement in his defensive numbers, and the uptick in his metrics (Avila’s WAR rose from 0.6 last year to 2.1 this year, according to fangraphs.com), Avila was likely to get at least that much in arbitration.

Essentially, the Tigers had four options with Avila. If they didn’t pick up the option, they could’ve faced another potential decision next month on whether to tender Avila a contract or drop him from their roster, either to try to negotiate a new deal or simply let him go. There’s also the trade option, which began circulating the lobby at last week’s MLB General Managers Meetings. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that the Tigers were listening on trade interest on Avila, and that the Red Sox, Braves and Cardinals could be interested. Detroit has also been linked in rumors to complementary type catchers, such as switch-hitting Astros backup Carlos Corporan.

Notably, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski did not mention Avila by name on Friday when running down the list of hitters in Detroit’s expected lineup for next year, using the term “two catchers” instead.

“I wouldn’t get into any individual discussions,” Dombrowski said Friday. “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.”

Monday’s move doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility. If teams were interested in trading for Avila before this, the fact that his salary is now set doesn’t hurt. If any team was waiting to see if Avila might hit the open market as a nontender move, however, that possibility is over.

Boras: No word that Tigers won’t pursue Scherzer

While most of America was getting ready for another football Sunday, Scott Boras was talking with MLB Network Radio about his time to shine, the baseball offseason. And aside from the Newsday report a few days ago about Manny Ramirez, and an explanation about the agent-player relationship, nearly every question from former Major League general managers Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden dealt with Boras’ top free-agent client this winter, Max Scherzer. That included a question from Bowden whether the Tigers are still involved.

“I’ve never heard anything from anyone to suggest they’re not,” Boras said. “You have to remember that over the past 3-4 years, when you go back and look at the Detroit Tigers, as good as they are with all the offensive weaponry and pitching they have, when Max Scherzer pitches, they win 70% of their games. In all other games, the Tigers play at about 54%. So Max Scherzer has a huge impact on the success of the Detroit Tigers.”

That meshes with Dave Dombrowski’s wait-and-see-what-happens comments from Friday regarding Scherzer, even if the team winning percentage seems like an incomplete formula for judging value.

A report from Jon Heyman at this week’s General Managers meetings in Arizona stated there was very little buzz about Scherzer’s market. There have more reports about teams that supposedly aren’t interested in bidding for Scherzer than there have been reports of teams that are.

“A lot of teams in baseball want a number one starter,” Boras said, “so when you’re talking about a high profile and highly compensated player, teams want to make sure that they express their interest and they do it in a very private, unsuspecting manner. They talk about what moves they can make with their team to either add or make room for a guy like Max. The one thing we know is that the past 11-12 years, when you go back and look at the World Series champion, they had a starter on their team that had a 3.6 WAR or above. that means you’re a number one guy.”

Scherzer had a 6.0 WAR this year by the baseball-reference formula, or 5.6 WAR by the formula that Fangraphs uses. He has had better than a 3.6 WAR every season since 2012.

One thing Boras seemed to hint it in the quote above is that some teams that might appear set with their rotation could end up making a trade to open up a spot for Scherzer. He didn’t mention any specific teams in that predicament, though the Nationals had trade rumors regarding Jordan Zimmermann last week. Washington supposedly had talked about Scherzer last year before trading for Doug Fister.

“I think that there are a number of teams that have a two-step process,” Boras said. “Say you need bullpen or you need catching or you need offense, whatever your other weakness. You can trade one of your good pitchers for someone like that and also then add a number one, which then strengthens your team in two areas. …

“So the club acquiring Max both gets someone offensive or someone who fills a hole in the bullpen and gets a number one, and they trade a number two or a number three pitcher they have under control.”

Boras did not give any indication how many teams have expressed interest, saying some teams won’t react until their division competitors make moves, and others won’t react until making the trades they need to fill room.

“It’s really early in the process to fully examine who’s interested in a player of this type,” Boras said. “In the endm normally with players at this level, you can always say it’s narrowed down to 3-4 teams, but the truth of the matter is, who those 3-4 teams are to be, I don’t think the owners know themselves.”

Boras made a point to downplay concerns about Scherzer’s wear and wear.

“Certainly the most unique thing about Max is that he’s just finished his 29-year-old season, but in pitches thrown and in innings pitched Max is comparable to [Clayton] Kershaw, who’s 26,” Boras said. “Max has … 1200 innings in his career, and … you have to go back to CC Sabathia when he was 25, Felix Hernandez when he was 25, Tanaka at 24, so all these pitchers who received major contracts, Max Scherzer is the equivalent of age 26 inningswise when he’s signing his contract. So his pitching odometer, which we created, is one of the lowest for someone who has his experience.”

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.”

V-Mart finishes 2nd in MVP voting

For the first time since 2010, the American League Most Valuable Player is not a Detroit Tiger. Victor Martinez came about as close as any designated hitter ever has.

While Mike Trout finally beat out a Detroiter for MVP honors, winning the vote unanimously, Martinez finished as the runner-up. He received 16 of the 30 second-place votes, twice as many as third-place finisher Michael Brantley of the Indians.

It’s the best MVP finish by a designated hitter since David Ortiz finished runner-up to Alex Rodriguez in 2005. In that case, Ortiz received 11 first-place votes in a close race.

This year, there was little question about Trout’s status as the favorite. The question was how well Martinez would finish, and whether the DH status would sink him. For the most part it did not.

Those who didn’t vote Martinez second still generally kept him high on their ballot. Four third-place votes went to him, as did three votes each for fourth and fifth place. Two voters placed him sixth on their ballot, as did one for seventh.

One voter, David Coleman of the Fort Bend (Texas) Herald, left Martinez completely off the ballot, not that it made any difference in the outcome.

Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera lost his crown, but still finished ninth an injury-hampered season. He received one second-place vote.

Martinez doesn’t have to worry about his perceived value too much. He’ll soon be able to officially celebrate a four-year, $68 million contract that will keep him in a Tigers uniform through age 39.

Tigers acquire Anthony Gose from Toronto

Hours after the Tigers took care of Victor Martinez, they made another move to address their center-field void. They also made Devon Travis’ reign as the Tigers top prospect an extremely short one.

Detroit’s trade of Travis to Toronto for Gose was their second move Wednesday at a GM Meetings that traditionally serves more as a springboard for moves to happen in the ensuing weeks.

“Anthony is a true center fielder than can provide us with above average defense in center field with a good arm,” Tigers president/general manager David Dombrowski said in a release. “He possesses above average speed and can steal bases at the major league level. He swings the bat from the left side and we feel that he will continue to improve his offensive game.”

After keeping Victor Martinez in a Tigers uniform, center field was the next priority on the Tigers’ list. With the free-agent market thin in center, they decided their best option was a trade with one of the handful of teams with surplus talent in center.

The 24-year-old Gose was available after spending parts of the last three seasons in Toronto. Despite an outstanding ability to cover ground in center and footspeed that produced two 70-steal seasons in the minor leagues, he struggled to find a regular role. He batted .226 this past season with a .311 on-base percentage, a .604 OPS and 15 stolen bases in 94 games, some of them in relief of injured Colby Rasmus.

Gose is a .234 career hitter in 616 Major League at-bats, with more strikeouts (170) than hits (129), and a .259 hitter with a .715 OPS over seven minor-league seasons. Improving that will be the challenge of hitting coach Wally Joyner, among others, and the key to making him the answer to the void in Detroit’s center field. Rajai Davis handled the position down the stretch, and could end up in a lefty-righty platoon with Gose, but is generally seen as a corner outfielder.

If Gose can take the next step and earn the role, the Tigers have five seasons of him become he could become a free agent, and two seasons before he’d be eligible for arbitration. The latter could be huge in managing a payroll that’s on track to eclipse last year’s $163 million mark.

Travis was a high-rising second-base prospect in the Tigers system, hitting at every level since his selection in the 13th round of the 2012 Draft out of Florida State. After batting .350 or better at two Class A levels in 2013, Travis had an injury-shortened 2014 campaign thanks an early-season oblique injury and a season-ending core muscle injury. In between, he batted .298 at Double-A Erie with 20 doubles, seven triples, 10 homers, 52 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and an .817 OPS.

Travis had started playing center field at Erie in August, both to clear the position block he faced at second base and to try to solve the Tigers’ center-field issues created when Austin Jackson was traded to Seattle in the David Price deal a month earlier. He’ll likely go back to the infield in the Blue Jays system.

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