I have remained unconvinced, whatever statements Dave Dombrowski has made to the contrary, that the Tigers have any real interest in filling their 5th starter spot with a warm body from outside the organization. What we have heard is that they would be open to upgrading their rotation by signing or trading for a genuinely good starter (like Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Gio Gonzalez or Matt Garza) but they don’t consider it an absolute necessity. If they can’t get such a player, or if the price is too high, they have no interest in signing a 1-2 WAR innings-eater (like Penny was expected to be) but would be willing to sign a veteran to a minor-league deal to compete with their youngsters in Spring Training.
Well, it doesn’t look like option one is going to happen. Opposing GMs have been asking for too much in trade and the only decent starter still on the market is Edwin Jackson, and though Jackson might now be willing to take a 1-year deal the Tigers have shown no interest in pursuing him. It’s looking less and less likely every day that option two is going to happen either, or if it does that the Tigers would sign a veteran that you wouldn’t be horrified to see make the team out of camp. There are always at least a handful of decent veterans coming off mediocre years that can’t find any better shot than a minor-league deal with a chance to make the team out of camp. Last year the Yankees lucked out on two: Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Though neither of those two made big bucks this offseason, their 2011 numbers were enough to get them major league deals this winter.
We haven’t heard any such names mentioned in connection with the Tigers and one by one they all seem to be dropping out of the market.
Just today, the Houston Astros signed Livan Hernandez to a minor-league deal, according to Ken Rosenthal. Earlier Jeff Francis signed with the Reds, Kevin Millwood & Oliver Perez with the Mariners, Aaron Cook & Carlos Silva with the Red Sox, Zach Duke with the Astros, Rodrigo Lopez with the Cubs, John Maine with the Rockies, Scott Olsen with the White Sox, Joel Pineiro with the Phillies and Chris Young with the Mets. Brad Penny and Kenshin Kawakami look likely to sign deals to play in Japan any moment, Javier Vazquez plans to retire. Guys like Aaron Harang, Hiroki Kuroda, Paul Maholm, Jason Marquis, Chien-Ming Wang, etc… didn’t sign minor league deals but they’re off the market all the same.
If the Tigers didn’t grab any of those guys, then who is left? I think Justin Duchscherer is still out there, if he’ll be healthy enough to play. The same would go for Jon Garland, who might be worth a look (though if healthy, he’d probably require more than a minor-league deal and if unhealthy…). Scott Kazmir walked everybody he faced after coming back from injury last year and allowed 4 runs while recording one out in his only appearance in the Dominican this winter. Brandon Webb didn’t pitch last year due to a slow recovery from surgery, as far as I know he’s still out there. Ever-injured Rich Harden (this seems to be somewhat of a theme, eh?) is still out there too, though with his stuff he might be able to get guaranteed money to throw out of somebody’s bullpen.
If the Tigers don’t want any of those injury-plagued long shots (and who knows, maybe they do?) I don’t see anybody else still out there. It’s time to cross “Veteran Signee” off of our list of entrants in the 5th starter competition. By doing nothing and saying nothing, Dombrowski has loudly proclaimed that this will be filled from within the organization.