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 Change on deck. But how drastic? 
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Post Change on deck. But how drastic?
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Change on deck, but how drastic?
Status of Pudge, Jones, Rogers to tell '08 tale

October 2, 2007

BY JON PAUL MOROSI

FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

The Tigers won 88 games. They drew more than three million fans to Comerica Park. They remained in contention until the final week of the season.

They had, objectively speaking, a very successful season.
But change is coming. And it will be months -- or at least weeks -- before we know what that means.

Catcher Pudge Rodriguez, whose arrival before the 2004 season marked the team's return to relevance, will be a free agent if the club declines its $13-million option and pays him a $3-million buyout.

The veteran pitchers responsible for the Tigers' victory in last year's World Series -- Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones -- also are unsigned.

The Tigers' transformation from 2007 to 2008 will start with decisions on those three players.

"If Kenny comes back and Todd Jones comes back and Pudge comes back, you're probably tweaking," president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday during a year-end meeting with the media. "If they don't, then you're doing more than tweaking.

"There's a chance that they all could (come back). There's a chance that they all may not. ... And I don't know that answer at this point."

The Tigers also need to find a shortstop because Carlos Guillen will move to first, and must determine whether to find an everyday leftfielder or platoon Marcus Thames with a left-handed batter.

Rodriguez's status was the most popular topic during Dombrowski's session and promises to remain a subject of debate among fans until the Tigers' plans become clear.

Club officials have met regarding Rodriguez, and Dombrowski said he would consult with owner Mike Ilitch. Dombrowski said the team's window to reach a decision would end 10 days after the World Series.

"I don't know if it'll be soon or all the way down to the 10th day," Dombrowski said. "I'm really not sure."

The team would have several good reasons to bring back Rodriguez. He's a "no-doubt Hall of Famer," as Dombrowski said Monday. He was one of six catchers with more than 500 plate appearances, a sign of his durability. He's beloved in Detroit, because he signed a contract with the hometown team when it appeared that no other star would. Dombrowski also acknowledged that the team does not view its other catchers -- Mike Rabelo and Vance Wilson -- as possible starters.

Yet, Rodriguez will turn 36 on Nov. 30, and catchers tend to tire with age. He had a .420 slugging percentage -- his lowest since 1993 -- and walked only nine times and struck out a career-high 96 times in more than 500 plate appearances. He allowed seven passed balls, and the Tigers led the majors in wild pitches.

Dombrowski acknowledged that Rodriguez had a solid season overall, but that the wear and tear of 17 seasons have affected Rodriguez's defense.

"I think that would be unrealistic to think that it wouldn't," Dombrowski said. "I was around Carlton Fisk when he was up in years. I saw Gary Carter. It takes its wear and tear on every catcher.

"He moves well behind the plate. He's still quick. He's faster than most catchers. But the wear and tear is natural."

The Tigers could decide to decline Rodriguez's option and attempt to sign him as a free agent. In that event, he might be inclined to test a market that last winter produced a three-year, $16-million deal between veteran Bengie Molina and the San Francisco Giants.

Another option would be restructuring the deal, such that Rodriguez is signed for 2008 and 2009 without the club having to spend all $13 million next year.

The Tigers might delay their decision until after the World Series in order to explore free agents or trade possibilities -- although this year's free-agent pool isn't particularly strong.

The Tigers might avoid spending a lot of money in the pitching marketplace this winter. They have three starters -- Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson -- and Rogers could be the fourth if he decides to return on a one-year contract. If Rogers doesn't re-sign, Dombrowski said the team would look for another veteran.

"Our first preference is to have Kenny back," Dombrowski said. "Kenny knows we'd like to have him back. We've told him that. I think if he decides that he wants to play, this is his first choice. That's what he told us."

Dombrowski said he would leave the final starting job open for a young pitcher to win in spring training. Although Dombrowski declined to name candidates -- "We have a lot of them," he said -- right-hander Yorman Bazardo is likely to be considered because he pitched well this year (2-1, 2.28 ERA) and is out of minor league options.

The bullpen might look much the same as it did this year. Manager Jim Leyland said Sunday that if his seven Opening Day relievers were Jones, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Zach Miner, Jason Grilli, Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay, "I'd be satisfied with that."

Dombrowski on Monday reiterated that the club would like Jones to come back and specified the conditions of his potential return: "He would come into the season as the closer, but not committed 100% that he would be our closer all year. How that would fall into place would be determined (by) how he performed and how Zumaya continued to grow."

Jones would be fine with that setup if he returned, Dombrowski said, but that does not necessarily mean he will return.

Jones, who will be 40 on April 24, has recently expressed a desire to spend more time with his wife and two children in Pell City, Ala. The Atlanta Braves, who might be in the market for bullpen help, play a little more than 100 miles away.

"There's a club that's an hour and a half away from his house," Dombrowski said, without mentioning the Braves by name. "That's important to him.

"I don't know if that club would have interest in him, not have interest. I have no idea. I don't know, if they do have interest, what they'd be willing to pay him. I don't know where his agent gets involved."

If Jones doesn't return, the Tigers would seek a late-inning veteran -- though not necessarily a closer -- to replace him, Dombrowski said.

The Tigers will begin to address their off-season questions this month. They will hold organizational meetings in Lakeland, Fla., in two weeks, and can begin contacting free agents once the World Series is over. Teams may discuss trades in October, but Dombrowski said he had yet to do so.


October 2nd, 2007, 10:44 am
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When Dombrowski talked about exercising Pudge's option it sounded more like a fair-well speach than support for bringing him back....


I just hope we bring in a few good free agents and hit it hard next year...


October 2nd, 2007, 12:46 pm
Play by Play Announcer - Al Michaels

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Well, it's official. They are bringing Pudge back for the 2008 season, picking up his $13 million option. I personally have no problem w/ this, but figured the Tigers would try to resign him to a 2 year deal w/ a cheaper annual rate. At any rate, Detroit needs to draft or trade for a catching prospect because I believe Pudge is done after this season.

$13 million is a lot of coin for a 36 year old catcher on the decline. Thoughts?

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October 9th, 2007, 1:12 pm
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TADOne wrote:
Well, it's official. They are bringing Pudge back for the 2008 season, picking up his $13 million option. I personally have no problem w/ this, but figured the Tigers would try to resign him to a 2 year deal w/ a cheaper annual rate. At any rate, Detroit needs to draft or trade for a catching prospect because I believe Pudge is done after this season.

$13 million is a lot of coin for a 36 year old catcher on the decline. Thoughts?


Holy COW... TAD... My thoughts were exactly in line with yours... I thought that we would either 1) renegotiate the 13 million to a 9 million dollar deal, or 2) Give him something like a two-year 16 million dollar deal and spead the salary equally over the next two seasons. I am truely shocked that we're going to pay him $13 million for one season next year... I don't think he could have came anywhere close to that in the free market, and on his face or on his own merits, standing alone, regarding his projective pay for next season, he isn't worth that much. That said, his over-all contribution to the club, his leadership, his great ability to call a game and calm down young pitchers at the mound, all justify his salary. In the end I don't have any problem with it, but I would have preferred we looked towards a more economic alternative that possibly gives us pudge as a back-up catcher next season while we groom a younger player, finding a FA, or look towards developing a rookie.


October 9th, 2007, 1:24 pm
Play by Play Announcer - Al Michaels

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WHAT?!?! My thoughts are in line w/ wjb's!!?? SCARY :shock:

LOL....J/K

But seriously, there is a rumor floating around that Detroit may try and insert Inge back at catcher (his original position) after next season and look for a replacemnt 3rd baseman. Not too sure if I would agree w/ this change if true. I love Inge's defense at 3rd base too much.....

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October 9th, 2007, 4:33 pm
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I'm sure all of you have already probably heard but Pudge's option was picked up and to me it makes sense. I know by his standards he had a down year. He batted 280 this year but also keep in mind that he was the only Tiger that was hitting at the end of the year. He went from something like 260 to 280 in that last month. That is an incredible raise of an average at the end of a season, so even though he is old he seemed to get better as the season went on, that doesn't sound like a player at the end of his career. I keep hearing the name A-Rod being thrown around as a possible player the Tiger might go after this off-season. I guess it really depends on how much Little Caesar’s would like to shell out due to the fact there isn't a salary cap in MLB for better or worse.

My question would be would you want to spend the estimated $30 Million to bring in A-Rod at Shortstop?


October 10th, 2007, 2:41 pm
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Play by Play Announcer - Al Michaels

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Quote:
My question would be would you want to spend the estimated $30 Million to bring in A-Rod at Shortstop?


Nope.

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October 10th, 2007, 3:14 pm
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TADOne wrote:
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My question would be would you want to spend the estimated $30 Million to bring in A-Rod at Shortstop?


Nope.


yeah but if money is not an object would you want him. He will be the league MVP this year. He didn't complete fall apart in the playoffs this year either.


October 10th, 2007, 3:33 pm
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yeah but if money is not an object would you want him. He will be the league MVP this year. He didn't complete fall apart in the playoffs this year either.


Honestly, I would much rather make a run at Mariano Rivera if he is serious at testing the free agent market. I think having him in the back end of our bullpen, and not Jones, would make more sense than throwing a third of your payroll at one player....

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October 10th, 2007, 3:38 pm
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Personally I like A-rod a lot, but i don't know that I would want him on our team...

Our team is a team of good players that comes together to make a great team. We don't really have any 'spotlight' players. The closet thing we have is probably Sheff, but even he is self-admittedly past his prime and seemingly willing to be a role player at this point in his career.

I'm not sure what A-Rod would do to our clubhouse, and personally, I don't want to experiment with it at this point in our team... If we were in shambles I would say go for it (like taking chances on Mags, Percival, and Pudge), but we're not... We're a couple of small pieces away from being a world series contender... Let's pick 'em up and get after it!...


October 10th, 2007, 3:40 pm
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