The Detroit Tigers released Brennan Boesch on Wednesday. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Lakeland, Fla. — The Tigers said goodbye Wednesday to Brennan Boesch after concluding a once-dynamic hitting prospect had run out of time and potential in Detroit.
Boesch, who next month turns 28, was given his unconditional release after the Tigers had no luck in their bid to trade the left-handed hitting outfielder who has been the embodiment of ups and downs in his three years with the Tigers.
"We just didn't see a fit for our big-league club," said Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, as he spoke with a media group outside the Tigers clubhouse at Marchant Stadium.
"Andy Dirks has won the job (left field). We've been looking for a right-hand hitter and have tried to trade his contract ($2.3 million). We felt a change of scenery would be best."
Dombrowski said "a half-dozen clubs" had talked with him about Boesch, whose best for the Tigers was in 2011, when he batted .283, with 16 home runs and 25 doubles. But a man whose heavy attribute is his hitting failed to hit with any authority in 2012 (.240, 12 home runs) and was excused from the Tigers' playoff roster as they made their World Series march.
Boesch, somewhat surprisingly, was offered a contract for 2013 as the Tigers continued to hold hope he would either catch fire in camp or hit in such a manner that his trade stock would soar.
Neither scenario played out. Boesch arrived at camp and quickly strained an oblique muscle that sidelined him for the first two weeks of spring training.
Dombrowski, meanwhile, continued to discuss trade options that never evolved. And while Boesch maintains a minor-league option, the Tigers concluded time at Triple A Toledo would be of no benefit to Boesch or to the Tigers.
The Tigers are obliged to pay only one-sixth of his salary, meaning they are on the hook for slightly less than $400,000. If he is claimed on waivers during the next 48 hours, the acquiring club is responsible for his entire salary.
The Tigers have had heavy competition for outfield jobs they prefer handing to players with more dimension and defensive skill. Don Kelly and Jeff Kobernus have been front-runners in a bid for backup outfield jobs, with Quintin Berry also in the mix.
Boesch's departure marks the end of a Tigers career that began when Detroit made him a third-round draft pick in 2006 as he was wrapping up his junior year at Cal-Berkeley.
He was a middle-ground prospect until catching fire with Double A Erie in 2009 (28 home runs). He was called up to the Tigers in April of 2010 and doubled in his first big-league at-bat, at Texas.
He had a blistering first half of the 2010 season ahead of a more steady 2011, which ended in July when he tore a ligament in his thumb.
Last year, as the Tigers prepared to add a booming left-handed bat to their lineup, Boesch instead struggled. A few weeks into this year's spring camp it became apparent to Dombrowski, and to manager Jim Leyland, there was no longer room or time to accommodate a player whose popularity stretched from the clubhouse to Comerica Park's seats.
Boesch's ability to speak Spanish and his ease with players of all cultures and ethnicities made him something of a United Nations ambassador on a diverse roster.
He appealed to fans. Boesch is the son of a prominent California attorney, Phil Boesch, and Vivian Boesch, a former television newscaster. He never advertised his privileged background.
"This can be a humbling game," Dombrowski said. "He's a fine individual. A fine, fine person. A great family."