Dave Dombrowski: Tigers won't trade starting pitcher

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

General manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday the Tigers have no intention of trading an existing starting pitcher even as they prepare to make one of their own pitching prospects a potential replacement for free agent Max Scherzer.

Various national rumors, including a Thursday report by Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com, have suggested the Tigers are listening to offers for either of two starters who will be free agents in the autumn of 2015: David Price and Rick Porcello.

Dombrowski acknowledged Thursday that inquiries from other clubs are common and that Detroit's starting pitchers weren't excluded from other teams' interest. But with starting pitching being the foundation for a Detroit team that has won four consecutive division titles, he insisted Thursday his team isn't advertising pitchers.

"You just have to use common sense," Dombrowski said during a phone interview. "We're already talking about having young starters compete for a fifth spot, which we're prepared to do at this point.

"We feel comfortable with our other people (Detroit prospects), but we're not looking to move our starting pitchers. It doesn't mean anybody can't inquire about them — I imagine a lot of clubs would like one of our guys. But we're not in a position of going with two young starters."

Left unsaid is what Detroit might do in the event Scherzer signs a new contract with Detroit. The Tigers have said they would welcome back Scherzer, who a year ago won the Cy Young Award and who has been a top-of-the-rotation dynamo.

Scherzer, though, and his agent, Scott Boras, made clear last March they would work the free-agent market rigorously when they said no to Detroit's offer of $144 million.

Boras is known to wait deep into winter, and even into spring or the subsequent season, to get a palatable offer. And in Scherzer he has a market-loving client who has made plain he is willing to do the same.

Should the Tigers and Scherzer/Boras decide to renew their relationship, Dombrowski's intentions to use a Tigers prospect in next year's rotation would logically permit Detroit to more seriously discuss a trade of Price, Porcello, or even rotation heavyweight Anibal Sanchez.

But with the Tigers and Scherzer/Boras seemingly no closer to a new deal than when March's offer was rejected, Dombrowski is of no mind, at least publicly, to consider dealing Price or Porcello — unless another club's offer proved irresistible.

"This is the time of year when a lot of things are rumored, when a lot of things come out of the blue," Dombrowski said. "There are just so many rumors out there. We're preparing to go to the Winter Meetings (next week in San Diego) and have our usual conversations. And we'll always talk about any situation that's worthwhile. We've said that all along."

It has been speculated the Tigers would be involved in trade talks or free-agent conversations that might protect in 2015 against Scherzer's loss. Dombrowski, though, was adamant Thursday that the Tigers, should Scherzer move on, will head to spring camp and to auditions that will determine from their own stable a fifth starter.

The Tigers used a host of young pitchers late last summer when Sanchez was on the disabled list and replacements were brought in from Detroit's farm system.

Kyle Lobstein, Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer, and Drew VerHagen all made starts as manager Brad Ausmus shuffled his rotation after Sanchez was lost to a muscle strain in early August and never made another start in 2014

Those same pitchers could become part of spring camp's rotation sweepstakes, along, possibly, with left-hander Kevin Ziomek, and, although the longest of long-shots, Jonathon Crawford, who was the Tigers' first-round draft pick in 2013.

The group is wide enough and, in Dombrowski's view, talented enough to offer fifth-starter options that don't necessitate a trade or free-agent signing. At this point, Scherzer's departure would leave the Tigers believing any replacement is a pitcher they already possess.

"Yes, we do," Dombrowski repeated.

The Tigers front office, scouts, and key team personnel are scheduled to arrive in San Diego on Sunday. The Winter Meetings begin officially Monday and extend into Thursday. The Hilton Bayfront Inn will be the meetings' headquarters.