The Midseason-Offseason Tigers Rumor Mill

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If the droning July and August months of regular season baseball are the “dog days,” December and January should be considered the “polar (bear) nights” of the offseason.

Was that not clever enough? Sorry, the writing staff here is off its game. After all, we are smack in the middle of the “polar bear nights.”

November is fresh with postseason chaos. Teams fire managers, re-sign their stars before they become open game and acquire bats from the Athletics. Oakland, for all of Beane’s movie-worthy wisdom, traded away Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox in the regular season and now lost Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in the offseason, apparently forgetting their team made it to October and instead decided on a bi-annual fire sale.

They needed some way to stay warm. These are dark and dangerously quiet times in the MLB. These are the polar bear nights.

Moving away from incredible figures of speech, Detroit finished its annual “make a splash in the offseason” phase with the Cespedes acquisition, and has moved onto its “worry-about Cabrera-while-ignoring-the-bullpen” phase. You know, the tradition in Detroit. Mike Ilitch has pizzas to sell at Joe Louis before it shuts its doors and thaws its ice. But that hardly stops us from taking a look at news and possibilities for its future, including a possible makeover just past left field.

Now that the holiday season is officially over and we can stop worrying about what kind of pie Grandma Nancy likes, let’s clear our heads and recap what’s already been done for Detroit and what may be coming around the corner.

What’s Been Done

 2014

  • Oct. 22, 2014: Miguel Cabrera undergoes successful surgery to repair bone spurs and relieve a previously unknown stress fracture in his right ankle.
  • Nov. 20, 2014: Ezequiel Carrera is designated for assignment (to Triple-A Toledo) for the Tigers. He declines the assignment and instead elects to become a free agent. Two weeks later, on Dec. 3, he signs a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Bye bye Ezequiel.
  • Dec. 2, 2014: Andy Dirks becomes a free agent after briefly picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays. He remains a free agent for over a month before signing a minor league contract with Toronto.
  • Dec. 11, 2014: Big day for the Tigers. The Red Sox trade outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and two minor leaguers to Detroit in exchange for Rick Porcello.
  • Dec. 11, 2014: Detroit acquires pitcher Alfredo Simon from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for SS Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Jonathon Crawford.
  • Dec. 29, 2014: SS Jose Iglesias is cleared to resume “most baseball-related activities,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Iglesias missed all of 2014 with shin fractures.

 2015

  • Jan. 6, 2015: Tigers agree to a one-year contract with 32-year old lefty pitcher Tom Gorzelanny.
  • Jan. 10, 2015: Nick and Vanessa Castellanos get married — because we all need a reminder love exists once and a while.
  • Jan. 13-15, 2015: Conflicting reports surface that 1B Miguel Cabrera may or may not have recovered completely in time for the Feb. 19 Spring Training date. Two days later, Cabrera posts a picture of himself without the post-surgical walking boot.
  • Jan. 15, 2015: Detroit designates pitcher Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo.

What Could/Should/Might Be Done

There is a real possibility Tigers reporters in the past month might have been talking to a bobblehead instead of the real Max Scherzer. An article a day has surfaced confirming everything from yes, Max still has function of his arm, and yes, he still wants a whole lot of money. Other than that, speculation on his landing spot has ranged from Los Angeles to St. Louis to, of course, back in Detroit. Turning down $144 million last season makes the love affair between Tigers fans and Mad Max a whole lot more strenuous, but nothing is complete until the All-Star dons a different color scheme. And so far, he has been all too patient trying on new clothes.

Brian Wilson was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 2014 season. After Tommy John surgery in 2012, Wilson played just over a full season with the Dodgers, with his pitching consistency nothing short of tumultuous. A 4.66 ERA over the shortened season earned him a straight release by the West Coast team, who will be footing his hefty price tag of $9.5 million depending on where he lands in 2015. Dombrowski has shown his favoritism toward tried and tested ex-closers. His problem is he has also seen tried and tested closers fail in pressure situations before. A lot. Too much.

Los Angeles gave up on him, and although it might cause wounds to reopen for Detroit, picking up Wilson is an all-too Tigers move. If they can convince Wilson to agree, a minimum contract leaves little for Detroit to gamble with, and promise of at least competition for postseason play may be appetizing for the man who watched his 2012 Giants World Series run on the bench. At least he had a beard to keep him warm.

Miguel Cabrera probably won’t report immediately to spring training, regardless the style of paraphernalia on his foot. He knows better than anyone how he feels, and rushing to play against the 20-year-old prospects is far from a priority. Call it an opinion more than anything else, but if Cabrera needs March to rest and uses April as his Spring Training, I doubt many Tigers fans would be upset.

Finally, four Tigers (David Price, J.D. Martinez, Al Alburquerque and newbie Alfredo Simon) all filed for arbitration before the deadline on Tuesday night. Simon and Albuquerque will have few problems negotiating a salary, and J.D. Martinez is due to make much less than he deserves for his 2014, even with a substantial pay increase.

Price, on the other left hand, is interesting. The ease of putting together his salary may lead people on to whether Dombrowski still sees Scherzer as a potential threat. A higher salary in 2015 for the Cy Young winner may raise questions about Detroit’s willingness to pay All-Stars their due. On the other hand, Dombrowski going to arbitration would mean rare stinginess from the general manager. Taking Price to an arbitrator would be an easy indication of Scherzer trying to squeeze himself back into Detroit. Mr. Dombrowski has never needed an arbitrator in his 11 year as GM, and after the 2014 that saw almost half the roster file arbitration without problems, 2015 should be a walk in the park.

Yes, Comerica’s tundra is rather uninviting this time of the year. The youngins on the roster probably won’t waste any time heading down to Lakeland for a month in 70 degree tropic paradise. The rest of us, sadly, have a couple more months until the diamonds defrost and the pine tar comes out. In the meantime, watch out for those polar bears. Real killers. Especially at night.


Richie Cozzolino is the co-host for Tiger Talk at Impact Sports