Tigers 'rebooting,' taking offers for Price, Cespedes

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
David Price pitches for the Tigers Tuesday night in what likely was his last start for Detroit.

St. Petersburg, Fla. – After apparently getting clearance from owner Mike Ilitch, the Tigers alerted big-league clubs Wednesday they will discuss trades for David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and other marketable players ahead of Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, said the Tigers will be “rebooting” and that long-term restocking of their big-league team and farm system is now their focus, as opposed to any narrow concentration on a 2015 playoff run.

“We decided we were willing to listen to offers for some of our free-agent players,” Dombrowski said as he left the Tigers clubhouse following Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

“We’re not giving up, in the sense you try to win every day. But in our position, we look at us as rebooting going into next year.”

Dombrowski and his front-office associates met Monday during long meetings in St. Petersburg. At that time it was believed Tigers brass decided the team would be wise to offer players who are headed for autumn free agency, including blue-chippers Price and Cespedes. Their availability could have dramatic effects on the playoff race ahead of Friday's market close..

But the Tigers needed approval from the Ilitches. Deciding to deal premium players means the Tigers have all but agreed a sub-.500 team had little chance to salvage a 2015 playoff spot and that more competitive future teams would be the focus.

“It’s a process you go through with my supervisors,” said Dombrowski, clearly referring to Ilitch, who has owned the Tigers since 1992. It’s not easy for us to do that because we have really been trying to win on a yearly basis.

“We’re only going to make a trade if it makes sense for us. But we think it gives us a chance to restock our club.”

Asked if the Tigers might have waited too deeply into July to make players available, Dombrowski half-laughed, understanding Price, Cespedes, and perhaps others will be heavily hunted ahead of Friday afternoon’s close.

“Oh, no,” he said with a shake of his head. “It’s not too late.”

Yoenis Cespedes scores on a single by Nick Castellanos during the Tigers' win Wednesday.

The Tigers would consider Price, a former Cy Young Award winner, to fetch on the open market at least as much as the Reds obtained Sunday from Kansas City for ace right-hander Johnny Cueto.
Cincinnati got three starting pitching prospects from the Reds, an attractive notion for a Tigers team that needs an infusion of pitching at all organization levels.

Cespedes, likewise, probably looms as the most valuable position player available because of his blend of power, batting average, speed, defense, and arm.

Offers are expected to include other free agents-to-be, such as Joakim Soria, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, and perhaps Alfredo Simon.

It is also possible the Tigers will talk about players under contract, which might include second baseman Ian Kinsler.

The Tigers might have been tempted Wednesday to gamble on a wild-card ticket, which, given the Royals’ distant lead in the American League Central, was their only marginally realistic chance for a fifth consecutive playoff run.

Justin Verlander pitched a brilliant, eight-inning, 10-strikeout game against the Rays. With the anticipated return of superstar slugger Miguel Cabrera by mid-August, the Tigers had a reasonable mathematical chance to become a wild-card contender.

But the team needed two unearned runs Wednesday to scrape out a 2-1 victory, which ended a four-game losing streak. The Tigers are 49-52 on the season and face a nasty schedule over the ensuing weeks.

For a team all but squeezed out by Kansas City, especially after its acquisition of Cueto, the odds were heavily against the Tigers and their idyllic hopes for 2015. The chance to forge more competitive teams in subsequent years, from all appearances, convinced ownership and the front office that it was time to play for Detroit’s baseball future.