Rogers inks one-year deal with Tigers
Veteran left-hander back for his 20th Major League season
DETROIT -- Kenny Rogers' work as an agent is over for now. He's back to being a pitcher, and he's officially back with the Tigers.
It's where many expected him to be all along. It just took a lot of twists and turns to get there.
Rogers' long-expected return to Detroit for what will be his 20th Major League season was finalized on Friday with an agreement on a one-year contract reportedly worth $8 million. The announcement caps what has been a surprising, long-running saga between the two sides that began with Rogers weighing whether he still wanted to be a pitcher and ended with Rogers representing himself to work out the deal he knew he wanted to bring Detroit the starter it wanted from season's end.
"I think everyone knows that I'm ecstatic about being back with Detroit," Rogers said Friday in a conference call with reporters. "This was pretty much my only decision. It was pretty much an easy one."
It started with his decision whether to pitch again at all or retire. After posting a 3-4 record with a 4.43 ERA in 11 starts during an injury-shortened season, he insisted his arm was healthy enough to pitch effectively. His question was whether he wanted to be away from home for another year.
Once he decided to play another season, however, agent Scott Boras caught the Tigers by surprise by saying he would listen to interest from other clubs. While Boras had initial talks with other clubs, including the Texas Rangers, Rogers continued to say that returning to the Tigers was his first priority. The seemingly contrasting statements foreshadowed a parting of player and agent when Rogers dismissed Boras and announced he would represent himself.
Friday brought Rogers' first remarks on that much-publicized move and what drove him to represent himself. He characterized it much the same way as Boras did two weeks ago, describing it as essentially a parting on good terms brought about by two different goals.
"Me changing representation, I guess you could say, was moreso my desire to stay with Detroit," Rogers said. "It had nothing to do with Scott as an agent or an attorney. He's as good or better than anyone else out there. But my position was [to re-sign] with Detroit.
"If I felt like being a true free agent, Scott would still be my representative. But in my heart of hearts, I felt like I didn't want to pitch anywhere else."
In that sense, he compared the situation with those of a few other 40-something pitchers in Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling and Jamie Moyer, for whom playing in a particular place is just as important, if not moreso, than the last dollar on the contract.
Schilling and Moyer negotiated their own deals, most recently Schilling's one-year contract with Boston last month. Agent Gregg Clifton negotiated Glavine's much-desired return to Atlanta.
"I think guys in my position who have been around for a while, I think we understand where we fit into any market, but also how much it means to play in the place that you enjoy," Rogers said. "That has value, and sometimes a very significant value. I wasn't really worried about how to go about this process. I've been basically involved in this process for, what, 20-some years. I felt like I had a relationship here that I was comfortable with, and I think I could be honest.
"It made it easier for me and [president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] to communicate, and we were able to get a deal done that was good for us both."
Much of the framework was put together since last week after Rogers brought himself up to speed on his new role and how to balance his needs with obligations to the marketplace.
|"I think guys in my position who have been around for a while, I think we understand where we fit into any market, but also how much it means to play in the place that you enjoy. That has value, and sometimes a very significant value."|
-- Tigers pitcher|
"It's been a process where Kenny and I have spoken probably a dozen times over the last couple of weeks," Dombrowski said. "We've had good conversations."
Rogers' deal is in the same range of Schilling's $8 million contract with the Red Sox. Rogers confirmed his deal includes incentive clauses that will bump up his salary if he enjoys a healthy, effective season.
The incentives aren't a problem for Rogers, who believes his injury struggles are behind him. His surgery at the end of last Spring Training to repair a blood clot in his shoulder put him behind schedule, he said, and he believes his late-season elbow problems arose out of trying to rush himself back to midseason form without taking enough time to build strength his arm.
"Physically, last year, no doubt, was very frustrating in a lot of ways, but I know the blood clot surgery that I went through early in the year is completely gone," Rogers said. "I don't have to worry about that. And the rest will take care of itself."
It took a while, but the contract went much the same way."
"I'm thrilled to death to have Kenny back," said teammate and good friend Nate Robertson, who called Rogers a big brother figure to the rest of the pitching staff. "I think it's some of the best news so far not only for the Tigers, but for the other pitchers."
With Rogers back in the fold, the Tigers rotation is now largely set with the 43-year-old lefty plus Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Robertson. Barring an unforeseen signing, the fifth spot will remain open for a Spring Training competition. Young right-hander Yorman Bazardo and former first-round pick Andrew Miller appear to be the favorites, though relievers Jose Capellan, Zach Miner and Chad Durbin could also join the mix.
"We like the guys we have," Dombrowski said. "We think somebody will step forward. There are other names, too. There are a lot of guys, I kind of like that. We have four veteran pitchers now. A couple of them are younger guys, Justin and Jeremy, but they've been through a lot at this point."
Rogers has been through a little this offseason, too. Now he can go back to his day job.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.