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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tigers acquire a pair from Rule 5 draft swaps

[Erie catcher James McCann (middle) tags out Harrisburg's Jeff Kobernus (bottom) in a Double-A game last season. Acquired from the Red Sox after Thursday's Rule 5 draft, Kobernus may make it onto the Tigers' big-league roster before McCann does.]

While they did not select any players themselves in the big-league portion of Major League Baseball's Rule 5 Draft, the organization was active in the process anyway, swooping in and trading for a pair of players picked by other teams Thursday.

Detroit traded minor-league utility man Justin Henry to the Boston Red Sox for the rights to second baseman Jeff Kobernus, and sent cash to the Mets for the rights to left-hander Kyle Lobstein. Under the  stipulations of the Rule 5 draft, the Tigers must keep the players on the 25-man big-league roster for the entire season, or offer him back to his original team for $25,000.

While in principle that seems a bit constricting for an organization trying to assemble a World Series-caliber roster, the moves themselves make sense, considering the Tigers' needs at the back end of the roster.

Drafted by the Sox out of the Nationals organization, the oft-injured Kobernus could give the Tigers a boost in athleticism at the utility spot. A .279 hitter in four minor-league seasons, the former third-round pick has compiled 120 stolen bases in 290 games, 95 in the last two years with the Nats' high-A and Double-A affiliates. With the ability and athleticism to play infield or outfield, Kobernus could replace the departed Don Kelly, or challenge Ramon Santiago or Danny Worth for a reserve infield spot.

"My agent Steve (Cantor) had called me and let me know it was a possibility (of getting picked), but I was trying not to think too much about it," Kobernus told Baseball America's John Manuel. "When he called this morning, I was excited. I was lucky and happy to be part of the Nationals organization, but going to the Tigers, a team that's been waiting for years to win a World Series and that expects to win every year, I'm just excited to be a part of that."

A ninth-round pick of the Tigers in the 2007 draft, the light-hitting Henry hit .300 for Triple-A Toledo last year, but had just four career home runs.

The Mets drafted Lobstein out of the pitching-rich Tampa Bay organization, where he was almost exclusively a starter, compiling a 30-30 record and a 3.85 ERA in nearly 500 innings over 91 starts, none of them above Double-A. If he sticks with the big-league team, he could be rotation protection or slot into a long relief spot, like Duane Below from a year ago. He'd give the Tigers a third lefty out of the bullpen, behind Phil Coke and Darin Downs.

In the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, the Tigers selected outfielder Eliezer Mesa from the Oakland A's system, but lost left-handed pitchers Jay Voss (St. Louis) and Efrain Nieves (Toronto).

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