NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers have a clear lineup at eight different positions now that Torii Hunter is taking over in right field. The one exception is left field, where the division of playing time depends on who's there.
As the Tigers finished up what team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski described as a busy first day of talks at the Winter Meetings, left field wasn't any clearer than it was last week.
Andy Dirks will probably be one of the left fielders. Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos could be another, but Dombrowski made it clear Detroit won't keep either of them in the big leagues just to take the short end of a platoon.
It does not sound like free agent Scott Hairston would be an option, though Dombrowski didn't mention him by name. Dombrowski made it clear he will not talk about specific free agents, even his own, but his outlook on what a potential free-agent signing would look like did not sound like the deal Hairston is expected to get.
The Tigers have been rumored to be interested in Hairston, a longtime lefty killer who batted .263 with 25 doubles, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 398 plate appearances this past season for the Mets. One report suggested the Tigers have offered the 32-year-old Hairston a two-year contract.
Dombrowski, however, said Monday evening that the Tigers have not offered any free-agent outfielder a multi-year contract.
"No, we have not," Dombrowski replied.
Dombrowski did not sound particularly inclined to offer any free-agent outfielder a multi-year contract. He wants somebody to push his highly-touted rookies, maybe provide insurance for them, but by no means block them.
"Can you [go with a multi-year deal]? I guess you can. But are we looking to do that? No," Dombrowski said. "It depends on who the player is. I mean, if you think it's somebody that's so solid for you that it's a definitive move for you, that's one thing. I think ideally you're looking for short term."
Dombrowski reiterated the role for Garcia or Castellanos would have to be greater than the role for a right-handed-hitting platoon outfielder. But he doesn't want to preclude it.
"You're not going to ideally have them [just] for 40 games to hit," Dombrowski continued, "but do they earn anything more than that? Let's say you sign Player X for one year at $2 million. Well, then, Castellanos and Garcia, they don't have a chance. Maybe that's better, maybe it's not, but they're talented enough that we feel that it's not out of the question that one of them could earn some playing time in Spring Training.
"I'm not saying that we're counting on it, but we're also not saying it can't happen, so that's what we constantly weigh, depending upon who the player is that we're talking about. The last couple years, we've had a hard time coming up with a right-handed bat."
Garcia will be judged in part on how he fares in winter ball. He entered Monday batting .273 (6-for-22) with a double and an RBI for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan League.
The judgment on Castellanos will fall almost entirely on how he performs in spring camp. His performance in the Arizona Fall League showed he was "out of gas," as Dombrowski put it, but he still drew praise from talent evaluators, including the MLB Scouting Bureau.
"He needs some time off," Dombrowski said, "but everybody thinks the guy's going to hit like crazy. This is not just our reports. We're talking about a bureau report that we get that [says] some people think the guy's going to be an impact bat almost immediately. That was their words: Impact bat."
Lefty reliever an area to consider for Tigers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Don't rule out the Tigers from adding a lefty reliever after all. If they do, though, it'll most likely be a secondary reliever to complement Phil Coke, not replace or push him.
It sounds like a minor move, but it takes on a little more importance after the Tigers non-tendered Daniel Schlereth on Friday. Duane Below and eventually Darin Downs filled the role down the stretch, but the Tigers went with Coke as their lone lefty for the postseason. Al Alburquerque and his strikeout slider was judged as a good enough pitch that he could be used in traditional lefty situations.
That's probably not the way the Tigers would want to leave Spring Training if they could help it, especially to watch Alburquerque's early workload.
"We're very happy with Coke as one of our left-handed relievers, and we have some other guys that are in the mix for the No. 2 spot," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "If we said to ourselves, 'This guy is better than what we have,' would we do that? Sure. Is it something that we're going to go out and sign a big-name free-agent player to do that? The answer is no. We're looking for things to do, and that's one area."
Tigers still talking to Anibal's camp
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Don't count the Tigers out of the Anibal Sanchez negotiations quite yet. Their chances, though, are up for debate.
The Tigers remain in talks with Sanchez's agent on a potential deal to keep the free-agent right-hander in Detroit. A source with knowledge of negotiations said a CBSSports.com report Monday morning of a four-year, $48 million offer from Detroit that was supposedly an insult to Sanchez was not accurate.
That doesn't mean the Tigers are much closer than that, but it means they're still in dialogue
The widespread belief is that if the bidding on Sanchez gets to the six- or seven-year contract stage that many expect it to go, the Tigers will be out. It won't necessarily be a sign of how the Tigers value him as much as what it would do for future talks on Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both of whom are two years away from free agency.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, citing Major League rules, declined to comment on the status of negotiations or the level of interest.
"We've expressed an interest in the beginning to sign him. And then, other than that, I really can't say anything more," Dombrowski said.
If Boesch returns to Tigers, he has to win role
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers aren't discussing whether Brennan Boesch is on the trading block, as suggested by various reports, but team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski's comments portray a player who would need to battle in Spring Training to get a role back -- if he's still around in Spring Training.
Dombrowski, too, used the word "if."
"If he's with us at that point, then he'd come to camp and battle for a spot on the club," Dombrowski said, "and it wouldn't be right or center. Does he win time away from [Andy] Dirks at this point? Is he an extra outfielder?"
If he doesn't make the team, Dombrowski was asked about the idea of sending Boesch back to Triple-A Toledo for more seasoning.
"Could he benefit? Perhaps," Dombrowski said. "But at some point, I think you have to quit looking at that when a guy reaches a certain age and service time, because their heart's not going to be in it. I don't know where he fits into that category, but I would think there's a long way before we get to that point."
Tigers slugger and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was announced on Monday as one of 32 Major League players who have already committed to take part in next spring's World Baseball Classic. Cabrera will be part of Team Venezuela, as he was in 2006 and 2009. Dombrowski said designated hitter Victor Martinez will not participate for Team Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, instead spending Spring Training with the team to work back into shape after missing this past season recovering from knee surgery. Martinez is hitting off a tee, Dombrowski said, and has started a running program. Another Tiger who won't be playing in the World Baseball Classic is catcher Alex Avila. He was claimed by Team Spain, citing his heritage, but will spend Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla. If Avila were to take part in the WBC, assistant general manager Al Avila said, it would be for Team USA. Dombrowski would not comment on whether the Tigers have offered a contract to Jeremy Bonderman, but he said in general they have offers out on starting pitchers to come in as protection in case of injuries. At this point, some pitchers are waiting to see if they can find a guaranteed contract somewhere else.