Tigers ink versatile reliever Dotel for one year
Right-hander will break record for most teams played for with 13
DETROIT -- Octavio Dotel is keenly aware of the place he's about to hold in Major League history for most teams. He's happy he's about to get the record for playing with the most Major League clubs now that he has a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Tigers, his 13th team.
He's happier that he has found a home in Detroit with a bullpen that has a chance to win games and a team of familiar faces that has a chance to go far.
"The reason I came to Detroit is because of the chance," Dotel told MLB.com in a phone interview Friday afternoon as he waited for his flight home from Detroit Metro Airport. "It's one of the teams that has more of a chance. I think after I had the chance to pitch in the playoffs, I said, 'This is where I want to be.'"
The Cardinals' run through the postseason, with Dotel's relief help, helped convince him that a chance to win with a contender was more important than the role. The Tigers' run to the American League Championship Series, and their loss there, convinced team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and others that bullpen depth should be on their shopping list this winter.
"We are pleased to add an established reliever like Octavio Dotel," Dombrowski said in a statement announcing the deal on Friday. "He has been successful in various roles throughout his Major League career and his addition to our club solidifies our bullpen for the 2012 season."
Dotel will have a $3 million base salary next season. The Tigers hold a $3.5 million option for 2013, which they can buy out for $500,000. Though the two sides considered a vesting option, it would've been difficult to decide on a meaningful statistic for someone whose job centers around the seventh inning.
Dotel knew the role as he was weighing the contract. Tigers manager Jim Leyland called him to make sure he understood what he was getting into.
At age 38, the role wasn't as important as the chance to win.
"I think our situation is really, really strong," he said.
It's stronger with Dotel, whose experience and versatility should be a massive help.
Dotel went 5-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 65 games between the Blue Jays and Cardinals last season, having switched sides in a Trade Deadline swap. His secondary statistics were borderline dominant, having allowed just 36 hits over 54 innings with 17 walks and 62 strikeouts. He allowed just eight of 50 inherited runners to score and he held opponents to a .185 batting average.
It was Dotel's fourth straight season with at least 62 appearances, defying any notion of an aging reliever. His workload with the Cardinals, ranging everywhere from the fourth inning to the ninth, dispelled any idea that he had to have a certain role to be successful.
"I can do any job," he said. "I can do the sixth inning to the ninth inning. I've been through it before."
He has closed for good teams and terrible ones, and he has set up for plenty of others. Leyland told him that while the seventh inning would be his logical place, he could pitch the sixth to rescue a starter in trouble and pitch the eighth to give setup man Joaquin Benoit a rest.
Leyland's call was part of a concerted effort to bring Dotel to Detroit. The Tigers had tried to sign him before, including last offseason and the Trade Deadlines before that, but never could pull it off. If they couldn't get him this time, it wouldn't have been for lack of effort.
"I think it was [down to] the Tigers and Brewers," Dotel said. "They were pretty close [in their offers], but the Tigers were more aggressive."
They were also more impressive with the team they presented.
"I do [feel happy] to be here, I really do," he said. "Because the situation with Detroit, the players they have, the bullpen they have, they pretty much have everything. All we have to do is play the way we know we can play, and we can win the division."
Dotel knows most of the roster already -- not just the fellow Dominicans, but fellow veterans. Get around the league long enough, and opponents become as familiar as teammates.
"I know [Ramon] Santiago, Benoit, [Jose] Valverde, [Jhonny] Peralta," Dotel said, running down the list. "I played with Gerald Laird last year. I know [Miguel] Cabrera and [Victor] Martinez. I know a lot of guys there. I feel like I'm at my house."
Get around the league long enough, and eventually you become known for it. He's a better pitcher than a journeyman, but the journey has been long since his rookie season with the Mets in 1999 and five seasons in Houston after that.
From a 2004 trade that sent him from the Astros to the A's in the Carlos Beltran deal, Dotel has been on the move. He pitched for the Yankees in '06, the Royals and Braves in '07, then the White Sox in '08 and '09. He closed for the Pirates for most of '10, went to the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, then went to the Rockies in mid-September.
Add in Toronto and St. Louis, and Dotel had a dozen teams on his resume, tying him with former Tigers slugger Matt Stairs and Ron Villone for the Major League record. When Dotel throws his first pitch with the Tigers, he'll hold the mark alone.
"After being all over the place, that's good," Dotel said. "Matt Stairs was the guy. He played [close to] 20 years. I've played a lot fewer years . I'm very happy I've got the record, and I hope to keep going."