Tigers may swing deal to bolster 'pen
Relief corps missing Rodney, Cruceta as spring winds down
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With Spring Training in its final days and teams needing to figure out what to do with pitchers who are out of options, this is the time when trade talks pick up steam.
For the Tigers, with their bullpen in flux while Fernando Rodney begins the season on the disabled list and Francisco Cruceta possibly begins the season still in the Dominican Republic, they have plenty to talk about.
Manager Jim Leyland isn't counting on a trade yet, but he's bracing for it.
"I think there's a strong possibility that something could happen these last few days," he said Saturday morning. "I don't know if anything will happen. It's just kind of my gut telling me something's going to happen, somehow, some way. I don't know."
Both Leyland and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, whose job it is to look at potential deals, caution that they have no trade in place. However, they have a bullpen where they could swing a trade, and they have scouts farmed out around Florida and Arizona.
At the same time, plenty of teams have players without Minor League options whom they will try to deal before they try to pass them through waivers.
"At the end of the spring, you always have more conversations," Dombrowski said. "Now, would I describe them as more serious conversations? Not really."
Some of them pop up out of the blue. Just pulling into the parking lot at Bright House Field, Dombrowski said, he received a call from another club offering up a player.
Other talks, of course, follow up on conversations from earlier in the spring.
"In general, the conversations are getting heavier and more often," Leyland said. "When there's mild interest in a player early on, a lot of times that becomes a lot more serious interest later on. And I think that's basically what I'm trying to say."
The Tigers have been linked in rumors to various relievers whom other teams have reportedly been trying to deal, from Mets right-hander Jorge Sosa to the Cubs' Michael Wuertz. Several other clubs, however, have bullpen competitions that include pitchers without options, including the Rangers -- where the gifted but inconsistent Robinson Tejeda has been converted to relief and is competing with Wes Littleton and Franklyn German, among others -- and D-backs, where Dustin Nippert is part of a cluttered competition. The Tigers had a scout in Arizona to watch the Rangers face the Mariners on Saturday as their bullpen picture unfolds.
As Dombrowski pointed out, however, they're not simply looking to fill spots. They have pitchers to do that. Anything they do would have to make sense.
"My club's fine right now," Leyland said. "There's no pressure to do anything from Dave's standpoint. I like our club. Would you like to upgrade one spot in the bullpen? You might. But if you can't do that, that's no problem."
Leyland has his 25-man roster set in his mind if they don't make a move. He's keeping that to himself for now in case they do make a move.
Exactly what the Tigers can offer in return would be the other end of the question. Inge's contract continues to be a road block in any talks. He was in the lineup for Saturday's rained-out game against the Phillies at shortstop in place of Edgar Renteria, who had his third straight game off while he deals with a sore back. Renteria could have played, Leyland said, but the manager wanted to take precautions.
Right-hander Yorman Bazardo, meanwhile, is out of Minor League options as he tries to make Detroit's bullpen as a long reliever. He could be offered up if the Tigers expect to lose him on waivers. Bazardo is scheduled to start Sunday's game against Cleveland, while Jeremy Bonderman will get his work in the Minor League game in the morning.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.