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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Detroit Tigers stories of 2013

It was a season of big stories for the Detroit Tigers in 2013.

Many of them came during another run to another American League Central championship.

Many more came during an offseason of rapid change.

Here is a look back my personal top stories (in descending order) of 2013, ranked by number of clicks on links only — not by import to the Tigers.

Of note, seven of the 10 most-clicked on stories have come since the end of the postseason. One story (the Prince Fielder divorce story) was one of the top stories on our website this year.

10. Trickle-down effect from Tigers trading Fielder may have Castellanos on the move again [LINK]

9. Jeff Jones returns as Tigers’ pitching coach, Dave Clark added to coaching staff [LINK]

8. Tigers trying to keep it classy, putting on the suit and tie after big hits [LINK]

7. Tigers trade Doug Fister to Washington Nationals for package of players. [LINK]

6. Chad Fairchild has another run-in with Tigers, ejecting Miguel Cabrera mid at-bat  [LINK]

5. Tigers shut out of Gold Glove Awards for fourth straight season [LINK]

4. Tons of viable candidates for Detroit Tigers’ managerial search, but no standouts. [LINK]

3. REPORTS: Tigers have a deal to send Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler [LINK]

2. Tigers have other pressing, pricey questions this offseason, aside from just finding a new manager [LINK]

1. Tigers star Prince Fielder’s off-the-field distraction is an impending divorce, court records show [LINK]

Or, if you'd prefer a more traditional look at the season, here's the '2013 year in review' story.

Matthew B. Mowery covers the Tigers for Digital First Media. Read his “Out of Left Field” blog at

Thursday, December 12, 2013

REPORTS: Tigers sign reliever Joba Chamberlain to one-year, incentive-laden deal

Signing a closer alone was not going to “fix” the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen woes.

They still needed more depth in the relief corps, after signing Joe Nathan last week, and to that end, they took a flyer on a reclamation project in former New York Yankee fireballer Joba Chamberlain.

After a number of reports that the Tigers were in negotiations with the burly right-hander, sources for Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal made it more definitive, saying the Tigers were going to sign the 28-year-old.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported it was a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, plus performance bonuses.

Used both as a starter (2008-09) and a back-end reliever in his seven seasons with the Yankees, Chamberlain has a 4.50 ERA and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.470 since 2009. He posted an ERA of 4.93 and a WHIP of 1.738 — both career highs — in 45 games last season.

It’s likely that Chamberlain slots into the seventh-inning role with the Tigers, but if pitching coach Jeff Jones can tap into what’s always been assumed to be a vast potential, he could be more than that.

Bruce Rondon will be the team’s primary set-up man, while Ian Krol — acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Doug Fister trade — is expected to be the top bullpen lefty.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

REPORT: Tigers have signed free-agent outfielder Rajai Davis

If there was a “next No. 1” need for the Detroit Tigers after they got themselves a closer, it was bolstering left field.

They may have gotten a lower-end fix to the problem than some were expecting, though, with’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reporting Tuesday morning that the team had agreed a two-year deal with 33-year-old Rajai Davis.

Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi had reported earlier from Winter Meetings that the deal was imminent.

That’s a clear departure from where some expected them to go, not exactly chasing the big-money free agents. Compared to bidding for the top tier of free-agent outfielders — including Jacoby Ellsbury (who signed with the Yankees for seven years, $153 million) and the as-of-yet unsigned Shin-Soo Choo — a guy like Davis is shopping at a thrift store. The 33-year-old Davis made $2.5 million last season.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski had indicated, however, that the Tigers’ spending spree might be over after signing closer Joe Nathan.

“I would think that we would not be involved in the big free-agent market,” Dombrowski said at the news conference to introduce Nathan.

“Again, we’re on Dec. 5, but I don’t anticipate any of the major names that our out there, that our name’s attached with, I don’t anticipate those be our signings.”

Davis would be ideal for a platoon with current left field incumbent Andy Dirks, who played all of last season with a lingering injury to his knee. Davis is a career .294 hitter against left-handed pitching (with a .779 OPS) and a .255 hitter (.650 OPS) vs. right-handers.

He does also bring some speed to the base paths, stealing more than 40 bases in five of the last six seasons.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joe Nathan signs with the Tigers for 2 years, fixing biggest hole in roster

The Detroit Tigers got the fix they have so sorely needed — for more than a year.

Joe Nathan was announced as the team's new closer at a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park, signed to a two-year deal.

Nathan, 39, is currently tied for 10th on Major League Baseball's all-time saves list (341), and the active leader now that Mariano Rivera has retired.

The Tigers went through several options at closer last season, before settling on Joaquin Benoit near midseason. He is a free agent, and currently unsigned.

More to come later in the afternoon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

REPORTS: Tigers sign closer Joe Nathan

The Detroit Tigers have had a No. 1 priority all offseason long: finding a closer.

Mission accomplished, apparently.

According to sources for Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, the Tigers were close on Tuesday to signing former Texas and Minnesota closer Joe Nathan. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman later reported it was a done deal, for two years.

“Well, we hope to get a closer. That’s one thing we want to do. That’s our No. 1 need at this point,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said after completing a deal to send Doug Fister to Washington for three players. “First and foremost, we’re looking for a closer, then we’ll go from there.”

It’s been the same thing all offseason long.

“You want to bring a closer back. We’re going to have a closer, so we’ll want to pursue somebody to pitch at the back end of the bullpen,” Dombrowski said at the press conference to announce the hiring of new manager Brad Ausmus. “Joaquin (Benoit, last year’s closer, now a free agent) is in that group, but there are a lot of closers out there. It’s the one area where there are a lot of guys. That’s the one area I think we need to address, with him or someone else. And then we’ll look at the rest of the club.”

Nathan, who maintains a good friendship with former Minnesota teammate Torii Hunter, expressed his interest in the Tigers earlier in the offseason, urged along by a few texts from Hunter.

Contrary to reports that former Giants closer and Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson was higher on their list, it appears the Tigers returned the interest in Nathan. Reports from several sources said the talks with Wilson had stalled out.

Despite the fact that he turned 39 a little over a week ago, and he’s lost a few ticks off the fastball, it does not appear Nathan’s skills are greatly diminishing.

The six-time All-Star recorded 80 saves in his two years in Texas, posting an ERA of 2.09 over that span. Last year, he had 43 saves, and an ERA of 1.39.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tigers trade Doug Fister to Washington Nationals for package of players

You trade from a position of strength.

Even before last season, when they couldn’t find a trade matchup, the Detroit Tigers have had a surplus of starting pitchers.

It was assumed that Rick Porcello would be the odd man out, although Max Scherzer was a popular choice, given the finances of a Scott Boras client entering his walk year.

Doug Fister was the one to get moved, though, as the Tigers traded the lanky right-hander to the Washington Nationals on Monday. [UPDATED STORY HERE.]

In return, the Tigers got Steve Lombardozzi — a utility infielder/outfielder — left-handed reliever Ian Kroll, and Robbie Ray, the No. 5 prospect in the Nationals system.

“We are excited to be adding three solid players to the organization,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a news release. “Robbie is a premium pitching prospect, Ian adds a quality left-handed young arm for the bullpen and Steve provides our ballclub with versatility in several roles as a switch-hitting utility-man. This affords us the opportunity to move the left-handed arm of Drew Smyly into the starting rotation where we are confident he will do well. We would like to thank Doug for everything he has done for the Tigers organization. He is an exceptional player and individual and we wish him all the best going forward.”

Chris Cotillo of SB Nation was first with the story.

But it’s been clear the Tigers have been trying to move one or another of their pitchers, to add needed pieces in other areas.

“I don’t know if all the decisions we’ll make are final, because we have some pieces we need to fit together,” Dombrowski said at new manager Brad Ausmus’ introductory press conference. “We do have six starters at this point — and people are aware of that.”

There had been hints that the Tigers might have bidders for Porcello or Scherzer, but Fister, who won’t reach free agency until after the 2015 season, might have been the one with the most tradability.

Fister won a career-high 14 games (14-9) in 2013, with a career-high 159 strikeouts, but his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched, 1.308) and ERA (3.67) were either the highest or second-highest of his career.