11/29/10 10:00 PM EST
Tigers to focus on right field at Winter Meetings
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
The Tigers still have needs to fill, from another bat to at least another bullpen arm, and they still have the payroll space to do it. And as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski suggested last week upon announcing their deal with Victor Martinez, they'll have a plan.
"We've actually made four signings this wintertime, so I think what we'll probably do next week is sit back [and analyze]," Dombrowski said.
It isn't expected to be a wide-ranging plan, but it's expected to go through agent Scott Boras' path at some point next week.
The Tigers filled their need for a big bat to protect Miguel Cabrera when they signed Martinez, but they didn't necessarily fill out their lineup. While Martinez can simultaneously serve as the club's primary designated hitter and its second catcher, complementing the left-handed-hitting youngster Alex Avila, he doesn't take up space in the outfield corners.
When asked if the Tigers could look for another bat, that's where Dombrowski ended up in his rundown.
"We're in a spot where Victor is the DH," Dombrowski said. "We have Austin Jackson in center, and we think Ryan Raburn will step up in left. You are only talking about one other spot."
If it's right field specifically -- Raburn has played all three outfield spots, but mostly left -- it's not a particularly deep market, and it doesn't include speedy left fielder Carl Crawford. The free-agent market for right fielders starts with the unique face of Jayson Werth, continues to the familiar face of Magglio Ordonez, then takes a steep drop.
Both Werth and Ordonez are represented by Boras, who uses the Winter Meetings as a public stage better than any agent in the industry. But beyond Boras' following, there's an order to how he conducts business, especially when he has multiple players who can fill the same need. His top-tier signings usually enhance the market for the guys who are the next on the list, and he's expected to do the same with Werth, Adrian Beltre and Ordonez.
What that means for the Tigers is that they could talk with Boras about Werth next week and not miss out on Ordonez. Between owner Mike Ilitch's willingness to spend, Dombrowski's thoroughness in exploring possibilities and Boras' eagerness to work with Ilitch, it would not be a surprise if the Tigers checked about Werth.
The downside for the Tigers, especially if they don't go in on Werth, is that if a reunion with Ordonez is going to happen, it won't be a quick one. If Detroit's looking to wrap up its lineup tweaks quickly, that could leave Dombrowski with some decisions to make next week, including whether to take a serious look at the trade market.
If the Tigers are going to be aggressive at the Winter Meetings, right field is by far their most likely need to fill doing it. But next week will also likely show just how serious the Tigers are about further bullpen upgrades, whether they move now for a left-handed reliever or wait until after the holidays.
It's an intriguing question, especially given the way lefties have gone on the market. The past couple offseasons have seen the Tigers show a little interest in free-agent arms in January and February, but eventually decide to stay put. Those options have included lefties in the past, as relievers hoping for multiyear deals eventually settled on one-year contracts.
This market could be different on both sides. Added among the usual lefties on the market is J.C. Romero, who drew limited interest from the Tigers a few years ago and reportedly has drawn some interest this winter. If Detroit is going to pursue a lefty for a long-term deal, Romero would seem to be among the likely candidates. However, Dombrowski has been noncommittal at best recently about the need for lefty relief, citing the ability of Joaquin Benoit and Joel Zumaya to retire right- and left-handed hitters alike.
Likewise, Dombrowski has pointed out that the Tigers are pretty well set in their rotation, certainly their front four guys. Still, it wouldn't be a shock if they used part of the Winter Meetings to look into some low-risk, high-reward options for Spring Training invites to push Armando Galarraga and compete for the fifth spot.