With rotation set, Tigers shift focus to 'pen
Detroit announces Pelfrey deal on eve of Winter Meetings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers arrived at baseball's Winter Meetings on Sunday afternoon with much of their offseason shopping list crossed off. But as long as they're at the Opryland Hotel, they're still going to get a makeover for their bullpen, mingle with other clubs and see what conversations might lead to.
Team officials had barely checked in when they made their official announcement on Mike Pelfrey's two-year, $16 million contract, completing their rotation buildout following Jordan Zimmermann's signing at the start of the week. Add in last month's trades for closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin, and the main priorities for general manager Al Avila and his team were checked off early. One large gap remains in the seventh and eighth innings, and the Tigers could begin taking care of that soon, as they were reportedly nearing a two-year deal with veteran reliever Mark Lowe.
Sunday's reported agreements for Darren O'Day to re-sign with the Orioles and Ryan Madson to jump to Oakland are expected to get the free-agent relief market moving at last. It's not a deep crop, and crossing two of the bigger names off the list whittles it down further. But with O'Day reportedly getting a four-year contract and Madson agreeing to a three-year deal, it's a market that has some definition now.
The Tigers have been in the thick of that market, though not necessarily at the top. Detroit seeks two relievers, one preferably left-handed to work alongside Blaine Hardy and help bridge the gap between the starters and Rodriguez in the ninth. Tyler Clippard, a previous Tigers trade target, is on the free-agent market. On the left side, Antonio Bastardo and Tony Sipp head up a market that includes former Royal Franklin Morales.
It might not be cheap, but it's their focus while they're here.
"The reliever market, it looks like it's tending to go that way," Avila said. "We're working hard. The minute we walked through that door, we were on the phone fielding calls and calling guys. I don't know where it's going to go. That's why it's good to develop your own guys. That's why you also have to try to sometimes sign veteran guys that come in that will compete and give you a chance, so you can keep those young guys in the mold."
A couple of signings here will complete the list the Tigers set when the offseason began. At the same time, with club executives gathered in one place and conversations abounding, don't be surprised if the Tigers explore other upgrades, including in left field. At this point, though, it's not pressing.
"We feel if we fix our pitching, we have enough hitting," Avila said. "That doesn't mean that you don't try to tweak something. It might not happen here, probably won't happen here. It could happen during Spring Training or the season, where you might make adjustments with the offense depending on need."
Plenty of other news will take place. Manager Brad Ausmus is scheduled to talk with reporters on Monday at 6 p.m. ET, when he'll likely discuss how his lineup fits together with Maybin on board. Avila is expected to talk with the media each day.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 11 a.m. ET and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 10 a.m.