Will Tigers sign more arms for the bullpen?
Club didn't pursue big-name relievers early in Hot Stove season
DETROIT -- The holiday sales have pretty much wrapped up at the mall. The shopping season for some Major League clubs is still rolling.
For the Tigers, who largely held off on bullpen dealings through the heart of the Hot Stove season in November and December, this might be the time that they add arms to a relief corps that has been scrutinized since the American League Division Series collapse against Baltimore.
It began with Tuesday's one-year contract with lefty Tom Gorzelanny. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski's comments afterward left open the possibility that more deals could follow.
"This is the time of year you just never know," Dombrowski said, "that guys you didn't think you'd sign a month or two ago listen to overtures. We've talked about how our payroll is a very hefty one."
Those payroll considerations largely kept them out of the bidding as top free-agent relievers changed the shape of the market, from Andrew Miller's four-year, $36 million deal with the Yankees to Luke Gregerson's three-year, $18.5 million contract with Houston to Zach Duke's three-year, $15 million deal with the White Sox.
Aside from setup man Joaquin Benoit four years ago, the Tigers have avoided long-term contracts with non-closing relievers. The market trend on the heels of a reliever-dominant postseason, however, put multiyear deals in abundance once the offseason began.
Either the Tigers had to adjust their negotiations for the top guys, or they had to wait for the market to sort out and see who was left. From November's General Managers Meetings, their approach has been pretty clear.
"We've had a list of guys we've been considering all along," Dombrowski said Tuesday, "but we also knew it would take a little while for the bigger offers to be made to some guys."
Gorzelanny, a pitcher the Tigers had tried to acquire at other points in recent seasons, was obviously on the list. Detroit also reportedly had shown interest in fellow lefty Neal Cotts, whose dominant 2013 season was followed by '14 struggles.
Another lefty, Joe Beimel, coming off a stellar season in Seattle, has drawn interest from Detroit in the past. So has Joe Thatcher, also on the market after a rough stretch run with the Angels.
A fair number of right-handers also remain available, including former Tigers prospect Burke Badenhop, non-tendered swingman Alexi Ogando and ex-Tiger Joba Chamberlain. If there's depth in Detroit's bullpen, however, it's more on the right-handed side.
Also on the market is lefty Phil Coke, a Tiger for the past five seasons before becoming a free agent in the fall. Though Coke has reportedly drawn interest from multiple clubs, he has yet to reach a deal.
"I think our situation with Phil is we're open-minded," Dombrowski said. "We've been open-minded. We haven't aggressively been pursuing signing Phil. I can't really say one way or the other."
A full 40-man roster puts the Tigers in a bind for offering Major League contracts. That might depend on the situation.