Tigers happy to have band back together

Following offseason of trade rumors, vets focus on making playoff run

January 19th, 2017

DETROIT -- and J.D. Martinez see each often enough over the past couple of offseasons that they feel like family. They work out at the same gym in south Florida and do many of the same activities together.

And yet, when they were seated next to each other Thursday at the media session that begins the Tigers' annual Winter Caravan, Cabrera could've hugged his teammate. He was that happy to see him back at Comerica Park.

"No trade for me," Cabrera proclaimed with a smile. "No trade J.D."

"I want to stay with Miggy," Martinez answered.

"I want to stay with J.D.," Cabrera said.

There were no group hugs, no tears shed. But as the Tigers got together as a group for the first time since their season ended in Atlanta, there was definitely the sense that many were glad to see familiar faces.

After an offseason of trade rumors, they couldn't be sure how many teammates they'd see again. Now that so many are back, they know nothing is guaranteed. They could be looking at the last run of this team as currently constructed, and they want to make the most of it.

"I think we have a really good team," said. "I think we have basically the same team we had last year when there was a bunch of hype around our team and a lot of people thought we had a team to contend and be a World Series contender. It's the same team, and now all of a sudden we're not good anymore because of words, I guess, because [general manager] Al Avila was talking about moving guys. …

"There's no reason why we can't contend this year. I think a lot of guys are excited to prove that. I think a lot of guys are excited to make Al's job really, really tough come Trade Deadline time and kind of handcuff him, where maybe we can add some pieces at the Trade Deadline and put ourselves in a good position."

Though Avila called players and told them that they could hear trade rumors, different players handled it differently. While Martinez took Avila at his word not to buy into reports unless he heard from Avila personally, he still had his ears perked up, whether by watching MLB Network or getting calls from his mother after every rumor she found on her phone.

"She'll call me every other day: 'Hey, did you hear anything?'" Martinez said. "And I'm like, 'Nooo ... why, what did you hear?'

"I'm like, 'Mom, don't call me anymore about this. I will call you.' That didn't stop her. She'd still call me every week and tell me what team I was going to next. One day I'm in New York, then the next day I'm in Philly, then I'm in San Francisco. I'm like, 'I'm not doing this.' I'm like, 'You know what? I'm just getting ready for baseball.' I'm getting ready for Feb. 18, getting ready to go, whether I'm here or anywhere else. I can't control anywhere else."

That was pretty much Kinsler's approach, though he had the leverage of a partial no-trade clause that included some rumored potential targets, such as the Dodgers.

"There's room for discussion, as opposed to just getting put on a new team," Kinsler said, "so it's nice to have that protection. I don't think that was going to stand in the way of a trade. I think negotiations for me ... if a team wants to trade me, it's very difficult to come back to that team. I think it's just kind of awkward to have a trade in place and then have it fall through."

He's glad it never came to that.

"I think to see how everything was handled, I thought Al did a great job," Kinsler said. "He was very honest with the players, very honest with the media. I think he caught a lot of slack for being honest, which is crazy. But as far as the no-trade clause, when you have protection, you need to use it. That's what it's built in for. That's how I was going to go about it."

Cabrera has full no-trade rights, but he reiterated what he told Venezuelan reporters last month: He wouldn't have blocked a trade if it benefited the Tigers. He's glad he didn't have to decide. He's glad to not have to reintroduce himself to a new group of teammates, too, either in Detroit or somewhere else.

Though the Tigers could still do some dealing before Spring Training begins in four weeks, manager Brad Ausmus said he doesn't expect anything big. For at least one more season, the band is back together.

"Hopefully we can come together and hopefully we can win a lot of games," Cabrera said, then turned to Martinez. "J.D is going to come back and hit 40 home runs."