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Tigers aren't actively shopping for relievers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Some fans scoffed when Dave Dombrowski said it.

No way do the Tigers actually believe they're OK with the bullpen!

That's just Dave being Dave.

He can't be serious!

But, as it turns out, Dombrowski, the Tigers tight-lipped president and general manager, might actually have been dead serious when he told local reporters earlier this month that the Tigers bullpen could really be all set.

That's a bullpen, mind you, that has finished, statistically, in the bottom half of Major League Baseball teams every year for the past eight, capped off by a disastrous showing in 2014, on the heels of a postseason meltdown in 2013.

Yet, stunningly, there's not one notable reliever who's been tied to the Tigers in all the rumors and rumblings that have hit the Internet since the season ended.

That includes such seemingly good fits as Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek and Sergio Romo, none of whom have the Tigers inquired about whatsoever — not even with a text message to an agent — sources told The News.

The Tigers, of course, will have a hefty payroll again next season, having given Victor Martinez a four-year, $68-million deal. They also haven't ruled out a deal for Max Scherzer exceeding $150 million, and they continue to look for significant outfield help. So once again, it seems, there might not be a lot left over for relievers, even though the last several World Series champions and runners-up have proven just how critical a lights-out relief corps can be to a team's title aspiratons.

Odds always were, rather than considering $40 million for Miller or even $15 million for Neshek, Dombrowski would be scouring for multiple low-risk bargain options, in the hopes that one might pay off — as Joba Chamberlain, signed last December for $2.5 million, did for much of 2014.

But if Detroit even was going that route, certainly it might've been able to trump the $1.8-million deal (buyout included!) the Royals gave veteran Jason Frasor on Friday.

Now, it could just be that the market hasn't fully developed yet. After all, the two biggest relievers, Miller and David Robertson, haven't signed, and when they do, they could kick down the dominos. The Tigers could jump into the fray then, though it's curious they wouldn't at least establish interest by now. Or they could be looking to add bullpen pieces via a trade. They've been tied to talks with the Red Sox and Marlins, among others, though the center pieces of such deals certainly won't be bullpen pieces.

The Tigers have made some bullpen moves this offseason, though none is a significant upgrade. They, as expected, picked up the $7-million option on Joakim Soria, in the hopes he pitches for them in 2015 much like he did for the Rangers in 2014. They also brought back Joel Hanrahan on a no-risk deal, hoping the two-time All-Star closer can finally make it back from Tommy John surgery, which he failed to do last summer.

Pat McCoy is gone, claimed off waivers by the Orioles, and Phil Coke likely will join him out the door. There's no indication the Tigers want to keep the frustrating left-hander around.

There's also no guarantee Bruce Rondon, who missed all of 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, will return at all in 2015, even though the Tigers hilariously insist he'll be ready for spring training.

Sure, the minor leagues are deep with quality arms, and Joe Mantiply could make the jump this spring. But but most of those arms project for Triple A (Buck Farmer), Double A and Single A in 2015, and in the major leagues in 2016.

That leaves the following guarantees in the Tigers bullpen: Joe Nathan (awful in 2014), Soria (awful for the Tigers in 2014) and Al Alburquerque, whom Tigers brass didn't even trust enough to use in the postseason in October.

Kyle Lobstein and Robbie Ray might be options, though one might have to be the team's fifth starter. Ian Krol, Luke Putkonen and Kyle Ryan are other possibilities, but you get the point.

It's a long way from a finished product.

Yet, that's what Dombrowski keeps selling in public.

And that's what folks around baseball are starting to actually buy in private.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984