DETROIT -- While Tigers fans welcomed their 2011 team at TigerFest, Armando Galarraga drew increasingly close to becoming a former Tiger.
The right-hander best known for his would-be perfect game last June was designated for assignment last week, taking him off Detroit's 40-man roster to make room for Brad Penny. There was some question at the time whether the Tigers would be able to deal Galarraga, but on Saturday afternoon team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski sounded more like a matter of when than if.
"We're making some progress on some trade talks at this point," Dombrowski said. "Not quite sufficient to make any announcements, but I would think by the middle of next week, we would be in a position where we would make a deal."
Asked then if a trade is likely, Dombrowski said, "Yes, I think so."
One possibility could be Arizona, where the Tigers traded fellow displaced starter Dontrelle Willis last summer. The Arizona Republic suggested the D-backs were "making a push" for Galarraga and could be exchanging names with Detroit for a possible return player.
Another interested party could be the Pirates, but while a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report indicated interest, it also suggested a deal was unlikely.
Any team that acquires Galarraga would inherit the one-year, $2.3 million contract agreement the Tigers and Galarraga reached last Tuesday. It would still not be guaranteed, which would allow a team to bring him in to Spring Training to compete for a rotation spot.
A team could conceivably release him by March 15 and owe him just 30 days' termination pay, or just under $380,000. If he's released by March 30, he'd be owed 45 days' pay, or just under $569,000.
Efforts to reach Galarraga through phone and text messages have been unsuccessful.
Galarraga had a statistical conundrum of a season, and his would-be perfect game ruined by umpire Jim Joyce's blown call was just the start of it. Galarraga could never turn that June 2 outing into momentum for the summer, and finished the year with a 4-9 record and 4.49 ERA.
Not since Eric Hillman in 1993 had a Major League pitcher won four games or fewer in a season when they posted a 4.50 ERA or less over at least 140 innings. Just three others besides Hillman had pulled off that feat since '85: Larry McWilliams and Zane Smith in '89, and John Dopson in '88. Galarraga was the first American League pitcher to do it since Frank Tanana in '81.
Galarraga's puzzling 2010 season came two years after he came out of an obscure Minor League trade with Texas to lead the Tigers in victories in '08, going 13-7 with a 3.73 ERA. He has gone 10-19 in the two seasons since, seen his walk-to-strikeout ratio deteriorate and struggled to pound the strike zone with the same effectiveness he enjoyed as a rookie.