This situation was first mentioned as a possibility when the season ended and Dombrowski informed Bonderman and several of his fellow free agent teammates that they would not be pursuing him this offseason. Now that camp is drawing near, and Bonderman is still unemployed, could a reunion be in the works?
Obviously, there would be no risk involved in inviting him to camp. The Tigers could give him a shot to make the club as a long reliever and spot starter. If it doesn’t work out, Bonderman would have the option of heading for Toledo or seeking a new job elsewhere. If Bonderman were to pitch well enough, the club would have the rotation depth they currently lack and with a familiar face in the organization.
The bullpen is pretty well set already, but there isn’t a clear choice to replace Eddie Bonine as the long man. Bonderman’s certainly capable enough of doing the job. Even if you scoff at his reduced strikeout rate and high ERA, he would represent an upgrade over what Bonine gave last year. A huge upgrade? Maybe not, but certainly worth a look.
Minor league deals for veteran pitchers are almost always a wise investment. The reward far outweighs the risk in these cases. Bonderman will be another year removed from shoulder surgery and the extra time might, just might, bring some life back to his once-blistering fastball. He’s never been more than a two-pitch pitcher and many fans have opined in the past that his repitoire is better suited for relief work, anyway.
Bonderman may still get a contract with another club. He may get a major league deal, he may even get a shot to compete for a starting job. At this point, however, pickings are going to be slim. Would he accept a deal to come back to Detroit on such conditions? He might. Bonderman talked last year about retiring, but he hasn’t done so as of yet. If he doesn’t get the contract he wants from another club, I’d like to see what he can do as a reliever in Lakeland.