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Livan Hernandez: Dave Dombrowski's Latest Chess Pawn?

I've been trying not to push for the Detroit Tigers to pursue Livan Hernandez for their starting rotation, mostly for fear of being chastised and ridiculed. (I even admitted my foolishness while chatting with Billfer via IM last night.) The numbers say Livan could be a disaster in the American League. Dude gave up 247 hits and posted a 4.93 ERA this season - and that was in the National League! You know, where opposing pitchers really just face eight batters?

But he's a pitcher who immediately intrigued me when perusing the list of available free agents. And that's almost entirely because he's eats some serious innings. (I'm not saying that because Livan's physique looks as if he's literally consumed those innings, either.) For eight straight seasons, Hernandez has pitched over 200 innings. (That number's been dwindling over the past three years, however, which should probably be a concern.) And for a Tigers pitching staff that frequently saw its starters struggle to make it to the seventh inning, such a quality could be valuable.

As it turns out, my instinct may not have been so delusional, after all. The Freep's Jon Paul Morosi, who's been the man on the scene as far as Detroit hot stove baseball coverage is concerned, is reporting that the Tigers have indeed "expressed interest" in signing Hernandez. He's basically a .500 pitcher for his career (134-128), but might come in a bit cheaper ($7-8 million per season) and is also 11 years younger than the man who's forced the Tigers to look at other free agent pitchers, Kenny Rogers. (As a Cuban defector, however, Hernandez's age could be viewed with some scrutiny.)

Of course, the Tigers' alleged interest in Hernandez could just be another example (along with Dontrelle Willis) of Dave Dombrowski trying to expose Scott Boras's bluff with Rogers. However, I would make the argument that the Tigers should consider signing both Rogers and Hernandez. Even if Rogers re-signs with Detroit, the team could probably use another veteran starter to hold up the end of the rotation. And as an established innings eater, Hernandez could also help relieve a bullpen that might be trying to find itself early in the season without Joel Zumaya.

Another thing to consider is Dombrowski and Jim Leyland "putting the band back together again" by bringing in players from their 1997 Florida Marlins championship team. Hernandez was the post-season frontman of the group, winning the MVP award for both the NLCS and World Series. Might he want to join Game 7 hero Edgar Renteria in Detroit?