DALLAS -- The Tigers have largely stayed out of the fray among free-agent starting pitchers, certainly among the big names. But there's another market for free-agent hurlers with the crop of Asian arms set to test the American waters, a market the Tigers have tracked more in recent years.
They've had scouts watching this year's group as well. Whether it's a market the Tigers might test, team president/ general manager Dave Dombrowski isn't willing to say, but it isn't one they've ignored.
"I don't think we're on the verge of [signing] anybody from the Asian market," Dombrowski said Tuesday from the Winter Meetings, "but we're aware of some players that are there."
The Tigers have already ruled out any pursuit of top name Yu Darvish, who may or may not be posted for a bidding process this winter. The potential contract offers he'll draw, as well as the bidding cost to earn the right to negotiate with him, doesn't appeal to the Tigers, who are looking for a lower-cost option to fill their fifth-starter spot.
Beyond Darvish are some lesser-known arms, including a couple of left-handers, that could attract Major League interest. Wei-Yin Chen, a Taiwanese lefty who pitched in Japan this year, is a true free agent who won't go through the posting system. With a lower-90s fastball, he throws harder than most Japanese pitchers on the market and projects as a potential lower-level starter.
Tsuyoshi Wada is slightly more of a finesse pitcher with a reported fastball in the 80s. He has had more wear and tear, but has more experience.
Tigers standing pat with offer to Zumaya
DALLAS -- The Tigers know what Joel Zumaya can do when he's healthy, having seen it in stretches over the last six seasons. They know the work he has done to get back to his current health since elbow surgery earlier this year, because he did most of his rehab at the team's Spring Training facility before he became a free agent six weeks ago.Thus, while Zumaya's public workout next week in Houston will attract plenty of clubs, the Tigers feel like they know all they need to know. "I don't think we'll be down there, but when I say that, I don't think it's a necessity," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday from the Winter Meetings. "We know Joel Zumaya, and so, we don't need to see him throw. We've been through that process before. I would anticipate he'll throw the ball very well from all indications." The Tigers have their offer on the table, a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, and they're not going to change it. They will not offer him a Major League deal with a guaranteed spot on the 40-man roster. "If somebody gives him a guaranteed big league contract, I would think he'll probably take it," Dombrowski said. "That would be my guess. ... For us, we feel the prudent situation is to make that type of [Minor League] offer. Beyond that, we're just not prepared to go [further]."
If Zumaya accepts the Minor League deal from the Tigers, it won't stop their pursuit of middle-relief help. They've kept in touch with the agents for free-agent right-handers Octavio Dotel and Luis Ayala, with Dotel believed to be higher in the pecking order."In this situation, if you're really counting on [Zumaya], you're prepared to do more [in an offer]," Dombrowski said. "But in our situation, we're just not prepared to make that type of commitment, or feel that it's certain enough that we're over and done with that need."
Tigers unwilling to pay Wandy's steep price
DALLAS -- The Tigers appear serious in their stance that they're more likely to add a swing starter who can slot into the back end of the rotation than add an established guy. They were approached at some point with the idea of trading for Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, according to sources, but while there was some limited interest, the idea died quickly.
Rodriguez, who turns 32 next month, has had some quietly solid seasons for some bad Astros teams the last few years. He went 11-11 this past season with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts, allowing 182 hits over 191 innings with 166 strikeouts. He's under contract for $10 million next season and $13 million in 2013, but there's a $13 million club option for 2014 that becomes a player option if he's traded.
That's $36 million over three years, which might be a little much for Detroit to pay to fill out its rotation. It's not known what the Astros might have wanted, but reports from the Winter Meetings suggested the Astros won't pick up any of his remaining salary.
Six Minor League free agents signed
DALLAS -- The Tigers announced a half-dozen Minor League free-agent signings, including a potential handful of Spring Training invitations.Some of the signings are meant to infuse some speed into camp. Quentin Berry, a 27-year-old outfielder from the Phillies' and Reds' farm systems, stole 42 bases in 49 tries between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville this past season. He has 242 stolen bases over his six-year pro career, including a pair of 50-plus steal seasons. Matt Young, who spent the last seven years as an outfielder in the Braves' system, stole 99 bases over the last three years at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. The 29-year-old made Atlanta's Opening Day roster this past season, but hit just 10-for-48 (.208) in 20 games as a Brave. Also brought into the organization was former Cleveland Indian Jerad Head, who hit .284 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs at Triple-A Columbus before getting 10 games in the big leagues. The Tigers also re-signed a handful of their own Minor League free agents. One of them, Omir Santos, served as the Tigers' backup catcher in September and then in the postseason. He'll provide insurance for the Tigers in case of injury, while likely serving as the regular catcher at Triple-A Toledo. Other re-signings included infielders Audy Ciriaco and Argenis Diaz, as well as left-hander Ramon Garcia.