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Will Tigers make a play for Cespedes?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
MLB.com @beckjason

Will the Tigers sign Yoenis Cespedes again?
-- Adam W., Thompsonville, Mich.

Regarding the void in left field and possibly in the batting order, do you see the Tigers pursuing a big-name player like Cespedes?
- Morgan P., London, Ontario

Will the Tigers sign Yoenis Cespedes again?
-- Adam W., Thompsonville, Mich.

Regarding the void in left field and possibly in the batting order, do you see the Tigers pursuing a big-name player like Cespedes?
- Morgan P., London, Ontario

How much do you think the Tigers are willing to pay to get Cespedes back?
- Paul P., Rochester Hills, Mich.

I think I could just about fill an entire Inbox with these. In fairness, there hasn't been much else to dominate headlines, but you'd think Jim Harbaugh was recruiting him.

:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::

The one thing I feel pretty good about is that the Cespedes watch might have an ending to it soon. After all the speculation and prognostication, we should all feel good about that. Former Reds GM Jim Bowden said on his MLB Network Radio Sunday morning show that the free-agent process is "intensifying" with Cespedes and suggested a deal could come together this week.

Cespedes is believed to be garnering increased interest according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, who noted the Tigers are "at least giving some consideration" to him. Where he goes, at this point, is anyone's guess. And seemingly everyone has had a guess.

The Tigers have been casting a wide net in their search for a left-field addition, keeping tabs everywhere from the top end of free agency to the trade market. That said, they've been pretty consistent with seeking a short-term and/or cost-controlled deal to limit their luxury tax risk. Unless something changed very recently, I believe there's still some limit.

Two factors are worth considering. First, as FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and others have pointed out, negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could have an impact on the luxury-tax threshold. Second, the Tigers do not have a long-term deal in place yet for J.D. Martinez; the two sides exchanged salary proposals last Friday ahead of a potential arbitration hearing next month. If Detroit doesn't get a deal done this offseason, it could impact its payroll, short- and long-term.

Last year, we saw signs of Justin Verlander returning to ace form, but considering his age and declining velocity, how much do you count on him next season and beyond as a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter?
-- Teppei T., Tokyo

For 2016, certainly, it's critical. No matter what the Tigers do between now and Opening Day, no matter what they've done already, the health and effectiveness of Verlander and Victor Martinez are the biggest keys to the season. Verlander's performance down the stretch -- 2.27 ERA, .207 batting average allowed, .548 OPS and 91 strikeouts over 99 1/3 innings in his final 14 starts -- played a huge role in how the Tigers maneuvered this offseason.

Verlander's average velocity last year was up from 2014 across the board, including a half-mile per hour on his fastball, according to Fangraphs. He wasn't at his averages from 2011 to 2013, but he had enough on his fastball to get his outs. What impressed me more was a tighter curveball that froze more hitters. If he has that for a foundation to his arsenal, he should have top-of-the-rotation stuff again. Long-term, like most pitchers who pitch into their mid-30s, he's going to have to adjust his game. But he still has better stuff than the vast majority of pitchers his age, and his track record of arm health is nearly unblemished.

Will Verlander be the Opening Day starter or someone else?
-- Gareth R., Sonora

Unless Verlander is injured, I expect it to be him. Unless somebody hacked his account, I suspect he feels the same.

 

Couldn't [Miguel Cabrera] or Verlander or even [Anibal Sanchez] restructure their contract, so we could go sign Justin Upton to a long-term contract?
- Mark P., Blair, Neb.

That's more of a football thing. Baseball doesn't work that way, for a few reasons. First, all long-term contracts are guaranteed, so there's no threat of a player getting released for less money in the middle of a deal. Second, the MLB Players Association would have to approve any such change in a contract. Third, for luxury-tax purposes, all long-term contracts are measured by average annual value.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Yoenis Cespedes