Tigers taking 'see what happens' approach to Deadline
Veras bolsters Detroit's bullpen; club not willing to part with its top prospects
DETROIT -- The Tigers began the week leading into Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline by addressing their most pressing need, adding right-handed reliever Jose Veras to bolster their bullpen. The question now is whether they're done dealing.
For now, they're not ruling anything out. The mantra that team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski stated more than once Sunday afternoon still holds.
"We'll see what happens," Dombrowski said.
Detroit could still end up further bolstering its bullpen, either with a supporting right-hander to take on middle relief or with a lefty specialist to address the struggles of Phil Coke. The Tigers could yet make a last-minute run at a shortstop, if information begins to emerge about a potential suspension for Jhonny Peralta regarding his involvement in the Biogenesis investigation, though Dombrowski indicated Sunday he has no notification on what's going to happen with that.
"That's all Commissioner's Office stuff," Dombrowski said. "They'll let us know when they want us to know."
Officials from teams watching the Tigers expect them to keep looking at relievers. They're still waiting for some sort of sign that they're looking for a shortstop.
On either front, Detroit faces the same issue. Teams want high-level prospects who are Major League ready, or close to it. Aside from top prospects Nick Castellanos, Bruce Rondon and Avisail Garcia, the Tigers don't have a whole lot to offer at the upper levels, and they aren't inclined to deal any of those three unless it's for a major return that helps them for the long term.
By adding Veras, Detroit no longer has to negotiate at elevated prices on the bullpen market, where supply and demand have turned setup men into the hot commodity that starting pitchers used to be in past summers.
"I know what people are asking for right now with various conversations," Dombrowski said Sunday. "When you talk to other general managers, you get a pulse for that. But will clubs come off of those requests? Will they not come off of those requests?
"I always say at this time of year, things change on a daily perspective. Some clubs might say, 'Hey, we're close enough now that all of a sudden we're going to be in it.' And there might be somebody else that says, 'You know what, it's changed, and we're willing to make a move.'"
Monday's deal for Veras lined up perfectly with what Dombrowski said a day earlier: The Tigers like their late-inning relievers, but they could use some experience around them. Though Benoit said a week ago that he has never been told outright that he's the closer, Dombrowski sounds very much like a general manager who has his man for the ninth inning.
"All I can say is that we feel very comfortable in the ninth and eighth innings with [Joaquin] Benoit and [Drew] Smyly," Dombrowski said. "I don't know where you're really going to go out and improve that significantly.
"Now, can you get better? We're very young in our bullpen right now. We're talented, but we're young. That's really where I guess I'd leave it at this point."
Even with the 32-year-old Veras in the fold, the Tigers are young. The difference now is that manager Jim Leyland doesn't have to use as many youngsters in as many late-inning situations. Al Alburquerque, who was being stretched out to cover two innings at a time last week, could now be freed up for strikeout situations, the role he used to own. Rondon, the closer in waiting, has subtly been mixed into more late-inning situations with encouraging results.
One more right-hander could allow Leyland to mix and match to his heart's content. One more lefty could ease some of the burden on Smyly, whose 61 innings in relief rank second among Major League relievers.
"We have some guys, and I think some of them could end up being very good for us," Dombrowski said. "Some days, they're very, very good, and some days they're not quite as good. That's what happens when you're young at times, but it doesn't mean that they cannot contribute.
"So that's what you look at, and I think it's also very dependent upon how deep into the game our starters go. That makes a difference."
Any talk of a monster deal for a proven closer, however, is all but done. What once looked like an inevitable pursuit of Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon looks more unnecessary, even after a three-game series sweep of the Phils put them further out of contention and led Papelbon to pick apart his club's weaknesses.
Though a report Sunday night that the Tigers and Rangers had talked about a potential Joe Nathan sent a buzz across Michigan, it's difficult to see Detroit giving up the kind of hitter that would help Texas right now. Realistically, the Tigers don't have that kind of depth.