Veras becomes free agent after Tigers decline option
DETROIT -- While the Tigers continue their search for a manager, they've started the process of putting together a club for 2014. That roster will apparently not include setup man Jose Veras.
The Tigers announced a series of roster moves on Friday, the most notable being their decision to decline the $4 million club option on Veras. The veteran right-hander, acquired at the July non-waiver Trade Deadline, immediately becomes a free agent who can talk to any team.
In addition, the Tigers lost two other players on waivers. The Houston Astros claimed left-hander Darin Downs, while the Arizona Diamondbacks claimed left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo.
Neither of the waiver claims was a huge surprise, but the Veras decision was. His exit, coupled with closer Joaquin Benoit's free agency and potential arbitration cases on left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Al Alburquerque, means Detroit's bullpen is wide open going into the offseason.
It also means president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has a chance to do a makeover on a relief staff that began the season as a weakness, became a strength over the summer, then haunted the Tigers in the postseason.
Veras turned 33 years old the day after Shane Victorino's grand slam off him gave the Red Sox the lead for good in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. It capped a season in which the former Astros closer became Benoit's setup man in Detroit during the middle of a division race.
Veras had nine holds and two saves in 25 appearances for the Tigers, 12 of them in save or hold situations. He gave up seven earned runs on 16 hits over 19 2/3 innings with Detroit in the regular season, walking eight and striking out 16. Veras gave up a walk-off homer to Brett Gardner on Aug. 11 at Yankee Stadium and an inside-the-park home run to Carlos Santana on Aug. 31 at Comerica Park.
Veras saw action in six postseason games, three of them with late-inning leads, but only one of them ending up as a Tigers victory. He recorded two big outs in a 1-0 victory at Fenway Park to open the ALCS, but he was part of the eighth-inning Red Sox rally the next night that culminated in David Ortiz's game-tying grand slam off Benoit.
Veras' final outing with the Tigers will be a moment in history for the Red Sox. Veras was called upon with the bases loaded to face Victorino, put him in an 0-2 count, then paid for a curveball that Victorino got under and sent over the Green Monster.
Once Boston finished off the World Series, Detroit had three days to decide whether to pick up Veras' option for buy it out for $150,000.
Both Tuiasosopo and Downs were surprise stories for the Tigers -- Tuiasosopo earning a platoon role in left field out of Spring Training after emailing Detroit about a Minor League contract in the offseason, Downs carving out a role as a second left-hander in 2012 after signing a Minor League deal. Neither played a part in the postseason.
Tuiasosopo hit well enough over the season's first half that he was earning consideration for more regular work. He went into the All-Star break batting .329 (28-for-85) with seven doubles, six homers and 22 RBIs. Tuiasosopo managed just 12 hits the rest of the way, none after Aug. 28, when he went into what became an 0-for-22 slump to end the season.
Tuiasosopo's struggles opened a role for Jhonny Peralta in left field for the postseason. With top prospect Nick Castellanos expected to compete for a spot as a right-handed-hitting left fielder next spring, Tuiasosopo's best shot was going to be elsewhere.
Downs spent the first half of the season as a long reliever and the third lefty in the bullpen before going on the 15-day disabled list July 7 with rotator cuff tendinitis. The injury was believed to be a factor in a miserable stretch in which Downs gave up 12 earned runs on 20 hits over 10 2/3 innings. The 28-year-old returned in mid-September as an extra reliever after depth issues prompted the need for another arm.