Running Out Of Options

Entering spring training, every year there are position battles. The Tigers as an organization have relatively very few heading into 2012. We could debate whether or not that should be the case, but the fact of the matter is, players like Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn, and Gerald Laird are all destined to have a spot on the team. The only true battles will be waged for the 5th rotation spot, some playing time in the OF (mainly LF), and the last spot in the bullpen.

That isn’t good news for guys living on the fringe, who have no more minor league options left.

The Tigers currently have 4 players on their 40 man roster who don’t have any minor league options left. What does that mean? Well, besides options being almost as complicated as the U.S. tax code, in layman’s terms, it means that if these players don’t make the team, they must pass through waivers on their way to Toledo.

Clete Thomas, Collin Balester, Don Kelly, and David Pauley are the 4 Tigers which need to make the 25 man roster out of spring training in order to definitely remain a Detroit Tiger.

Balester, a big right-handed pitcher acquired in a deal for Ryan Perry, seems to have an inside track on one of the bullpen spots. Five spots are all but assured, and David Dombrowski earlier this off-season already suggested they expect Balester to make the roster. It’s highly unlikely the Tigers trade a former first round pick in Perry for a guy that they will try and slip through waivers later on. Unless Balester implodes to the point of throwing baseballs over the screen, he is going to be on the Tigers roster.

Don Kelly of course has very little worry. Even if he is outplayed by guys on the roster, he is going to be getting some starts at 3B and LF for the Tigers this season. His defensive versatility means that he is going to be on the roster, and probably playing quite a bit more than he should.

The two guys who are potentially playing for their Detroit Tiger lives are David Pauley and Clete Thomas.

Pauley is a more likely candidate of the two to make the roster, having had some success the past couple years with the Seattle Mariners. He will be in a battle however. If we assume that Balester will be in the long man role, the Tigers could be looking for an occasional multi-inning reliever in the 6th and 7th innings. I don’t see the open reliever spot getting many high leverage opportunities, so Pauley and his lack of stuff might not hurt him in that regard. His main competition is likely to come from Luis Marte, one of the 5th starter candidates (Duane Below), or potentially even Brayan Villarreal.

Thomas has been relatively quiet the past couple of seasons. He has been the victim of some injuries and an expanding K rate. He does offer some on base ability, and his defensive prowess in the outfield is probably second on the team to Austin Jackson. This battle is likely to come down to Thomas and Andy Dirks, who performed pretty well as a rookie last season with the Tigers. This is where being out of options actually may help a guy. Dirks, who is a second year player, has options remaining, and if the competition is a dead heat, the Tigers may give the nod to Thomas.

It should be noted that even if one of these guys without options doesn’t make the team, it doesn’t mean the Tigers organization will lose them. There is a reason that they are on the fringe after all. I do think that Balester, Kelly and Pauley would all get claimed if put on waivers, but Thomas I am not so sure. Especially if he has a rough spring.

This could be somewhat of a crossroads for Clete Thomas. I do believe he has some utility on a major league roster for someone, but at the age of 28, time is  running out for a guy who has been somewhat of an afterthought the last couple of seasons. A good spring could help him as much as anyone.

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Tags: Brandon Inge Brayan Villareal Clete Thomas Collin Balester David Pauley Detroit Tigers Don Kelly Duane Below Gerald Laird Luis Marte Ryan Raburn

  • jgorosh

    I’d be genuinely surprised if they weren’t going to give Clete every chance to win the LH part of the LF platoon. They’ve left him on the 40 man this long, no reason to do so unless he’s going to get the first shot. Dirks has options left.


      @jgorosh You are correct though Jordan. IF the Tigers didn’t view him as a potential solution, I’m sure they would have cut ties with him before the Rule 5 Draft.


    Cletus is a great guy but the odds are heavily stacked against him. I just don’t see him on the opening day 25 unless Kelly or Dirks get injured.

    Ultimately Thomas will be DFA and assigned to AAA-Toledo. I just don’t see anyone claiming Thomas either.

    • jgorosh

      @JAYRC_MCB A bad team would probably take a flier on him. There are plenty of worse guys who have been on 40 man rosters these days. He’s one of the 1200 best players in the league, that’s for sure.

      • MCBjohnverburg

        I agree, I just think he needs a decent spring, which he has a history of doing. There is no reason a team like Baltimore wouldn’t try him. I do think he has a shot to make the Tigers because of the option thing though.I

      • JAYRC_MCB

        @jgorosh Meh, I’m not so sure. I wish him well but I don’t see it.

        He hit .251 last season, .183 in 2010 and .240 the year before that. 130 strikeouts/32 BB doesn’t do much for me either.

        Perhaps y’all are right and I’m wrong. I’m sure “Clete’s Cougars” agree with you. I just don’t see a team clogging their 40-man roster with a 28-year-old thats not exactly lighting the world on fire. Plenty of younger guys with high ceilings out there that would better fill a roster.

  • JohnJParent

    I know his uncle will be all over me for this, but Clete has really taken a step backward in the past season (yes, I know he was coming off a lost season to microfracture surgery). His strikeout rate has not only remained a problem area, but has actually gotten worse. At 28, he’s not going to improve. Dirks may not have the complete defensive package that Thomas offers, nor the pure power Thomas can provide (when he makes contact), but Dirks is a more complete player with far fewer holes in his game.

    A couple of years ago and I agree that Clete would surely have been claimed by another club, but his regression was so steep last year that I have serious doubts as to a club using a roster spot on him, even if he has an impressive Spring. He might get another shot in Detroit, but my gut says it only happens if someone gets hurt. It might even take two someones.

  • Bob1951

    They could always create another roster spot for Thomas by releasing Inge forthwith. Forgive me, but I just love kicking that loser when he’s down. With Kelly and Worth available to play an occasional 3rd(and actually get a hit once in a while), Inge is an anachronism, and it’s time for him to go. I’m not a religious man, but I do pray that he has a horrible spring training and gets booted out of town. If that should happen, whatever success the Tigers have this year will be gravy.