Blogs > Out of Left Field

A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their three straight American League Central titles.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tigers protect Angel Nesbitt, Dixon Machado from Rule 5 draft, but not Joel Hanrahan

The Detroit Tigers got a head start on protecting young players from the Rule 5 draft, adding a bunch of them to the 40-man roster during the season.

That, of course, was because they had to use them.

Thursday was the deadline to ensure a player’s protection on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft takes place at the Winter Meetings in three weeks, and the Tigers purchased the contracts of a pair of youngsters — reliever Angel Nesbitt and infielder Dixon Machado — to finalize that process.

With the 40-man roster full, the Tigers can’t take part in the draft itself, without clearing a spot for the player they’d want to pick.

The 23-year-old Nesbitt split the season between Single-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie in 2014, posting an overall ERA of 1.49 with 72 strikeouts in 66.2 innings of work.

Now 22, Machado finally started growing into his bat, hitting .286 with 39 extra-base hits between Lakeland and Erie, including a .305 average after his promotion to the Seawolves.

The Tigers also left recently re-signed reliever Joel Hanrahan off the 40-man roster. Theoretically, Hanrahan — who signed an incentive-laden minor league deal with the Tigers — is eligible to be selected, but the team that picked him would owe him the full value of the contract, at a reported $3.5 million with roster bonuses. One of the stipulations of the Rule 5 draft is that the selecting team must keep the player on the big-league roster (or DL) for the entire season, or offer him back to his original team.

Tigers claim RP Josh Zeid off waivers from Astros, DFA Ezequiel Carrera

The Tigers claimed reliever Josh Zeid off waivers from the Houston Astros, potentially reuniting him with his former World Baseball Classic manager from Team Israel, current Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus.

At one point last spring, Zeid was even hoping to recruit his one-time manager to join some other Jewish players on a trip to promote baseball in Israel. Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

"He's a big figurehead for me and us," Zeid told's Brian McTaggart in May.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Zeid is a relatively hard throwing right-hander, who hits the mid-90s with his fastball (94.77 mph, according to PITCHf/x), complementing that pitch with a plus slider.

The 27-year-old pitcher was sidelined partway through his second season in the big leagues with bilateral sesamoiditis, and had to undergo a pair of surgeries six weeks apart, one on each of his feet, to fix what could’ve become a recurring issue.

Zeid had a first surgery on Aug. 6 (right foot), then another on Oct. 6 (left foot), and just got out of a walking boot yesterday.

Included in the trade that sent Hunter Pence from the Astros to the Phillies, Zeid was converted to a reliever in the Houston system, making his debut in 2013 after two seasons at Double-A. He made 48 appearances in two seasons with the Astros, faring far better the first time around, before injuries cropped up last season. After limiting lefties to a .178 average in 2013, they hit .455 off him last season. He also gave up six home runs in a little less than 21 innings of work.

Carrera hit .261 in 45 games with the Tigers last season, after joining the franchise on a minor-league deal last offseason. He struggled defensively, though, and was effectively replaced by trade acquisition Anthony Gose.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tigers pick up $5.4 million option on Avila's contract for 2015

They waited as long as they could. They may have even entertained a trade offer or two.

But finally, the Detroit Tigers announced Monday they were picking up the $5.4 million option on catcher Alex Avila's contract for the 2015 season.

"Well, like we said before, we don’t have to do it yet. We usually wait on all those things until we have to do them," general manager Dave Dombrowski said at last week's news conference to announce the re-signing of Victor Martinez.

The team had until Nov. 20 to decide on Avila's option, or decline it for $200,000, and send him back to salary arbitration.

There were reports that the Tigers had entertained trade offers for Avila at the General Managers Meetings last week.

"I wouldn’t get into any individual discussions," Dombrowski said. "I would say that when you’re at the General Managers meetings, I was probably asked about every player just about that we have, at one time or another."

Avila's option would've vested automatically if he'd made the All-Star team in 2014, finished top 15 in MVP voting or won a Silver Slugger

Provided everyone's healthy, the Tigers are pretty solid defensively up the middle with a potential catching platoon of Avila/James McCann, Ian Kinsler at second and Jose Iglesias at short, along with recent trade acquisition Anthony Gose in center field.

Avila led the American League with 36 baserunners caught stealing, and was second in catcher caught stealing with 26.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tigers tell Torii Hunter they won't pursue his return

The Tigers let Torii Hunter know Friday morning that they wouldn't be pursuing his return to the club.

Re-signing Victor Martinez for four years precluded the return of Hunter, whose two-year contract expired at the end of the season.


Hunter's agent told Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski that the 39-year-old outfielder did indeed want to play, maybe as long as two more years, and that Detroit was his preferred destination.

But with the addition of Anthony Gose in the outfield, moving Rajai Davis back to a corner, the Tigers did not have regular at-bats to give to Hunter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tigers swap Devon Travis to Blue Jays for speedy CF Anthony Gose

Priority one: Re-sign Victor Martinez.

Priority two? Fix the outfield.

Apparently, the Detroit Tigers took care of both of those in the same day.

Hours after reportedly coming to a four-year deal with Martinez to keep in him in a Tigers uniform through the age of 40, a report had the Tigers trading prospect Devon Travis to the Toronto Blue Jays for speedy center fielder Anthony Gose.

Shi Davidi, a columnist for Sportsnet in Toronto, broke the news on Twitter. The Tigers confirmed it less than 10 minutes later.

The 24-year-old Gose, who has played 202 games in parts of three seasons for the Jays, is a career .234 hitter, but a plus defender in the outfield. He also hits left-handed.

"Anthony is a true center fielder than can provide us with above average defense in center field with a good arm,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said. “He possesses above average speed and can steal bases at the major league level. He swings the bat from the left side and we feel that he will continue to improve his offensive game."

Dombrowski said in his end-of-season news conference that the Tigers wanted to upgrade in center field, at least getting a left-handed complement for incumbent starter Rajai Davis.

Named the No. 1 prospect in the Tigers system by Baseball America just Wednesday morning, Travis had sped through the organization’s minor league system over the last two seasons on the strength of his bat. His 2014 season started with an injury, however, and he missed the Arizona Fall League after core muscle repair surgery.

REPORT: Tigers have 'very, very real' interest in free agent OF Melky Cabrera

No matter what happens with their biggest two free agents — Victor Martinez (the No. 1 priority to re-sign) and Max Scherzer — the Tigers have some fixing to do with their outfield.

Given general manager Dave Dombrowski's remarks about looking into a center field upgrade, a lot of eyes naturally turned to the only real center fielder on the free-agent market, the Blue Jays' Colby Rasmus.

Turns out, the Tigers might actually be more interested in Rasmus' former teammate, Melky Cabrera.

A report from Greg Brady of Sportsnet 590 in Toronto Monday evening indicated as much.

"Hearing tonight Tigers' interest in Melky Cabrera is very, very real," Brady tweeted, noting that J.D Martinez would move from left to right, replacing Torii Hunter, Rajai Davis would stay in center, and Cabrera would play left field.

"Tigers likely don't go past 4 years for Cabrera — and may not need to. He's got a WS ring, so not exactly chasing. May be more $ elsewhere," Brady subsequently tweeted.

All three of Brady's original tweets are below.

Considering Cabrera is a switch-hitter, he'd give the Tigers another left-handed bat to run out against right-handed starters — another thing Dombrowski wanted to add — and one that has a little bit of pop in it.

He's not, however, a fix in center field — while he's nine years younger, like Hunter, he's past his center field days — and he won't come cheaply.

In addition to the draft pick the Tigers would lose for signing a player who'd received a qualifying offer, they'll probably have to pony up more money for Cabrera than they did for Hunter the last two seasons. ESPN's Jim Bowden predicts a four-year deal with an average annual value of $16 million for Cabrera; the AAV for Hunter's two-year deal in Detroit was $13 million.

More likely, maybe, would be the Tigers pursuing Cabrera as a potential Victor Martinez replacement, should the designated hitter sign elsewhere.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jim Leyland, lounge singer, belts out 'Who's Your Daddy' at Royal Oak Grille

Jim Leyland always said that if he hadn't had a career in baseball, he might have liked to have tried to have one in music, as a singer.

He wouldn't have been half bad, either, as evidenced by him belting out Toby Keith's "Who's Your Daddy" at the Royal Oak Grille in Royal Oak, where Leyland lived when he managed the Detroit Tigers. According to Deadspin, which posted the original story earlier today, Leyland sang it after signing "Happy Birthday" to his daughter, Kelly.

There's no indication if it's a recent video, or not. But it's still amusing.

The Tigers held organizational meetings in Detroit a few weeks ago. Leyland is currently a special assistant to general manager Dave Dombrowski, but resides in Pittsburgh full-time.

Here's the video of the song, courtesy of the YouTube account of Detroit Sports 105.1-FM: