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Should the Tigers Pursue Akinori Otsuka?

To paraphrase Martin Landau's Bob Ryan character from Entourage (not to be confused with the Boston Globe sportswriter), what if I was to tell you that a reliever with a 2-1 record and 2.51 ERA was just non-tendered by his team and is now a free agent? Oh, and it's a reliever that the Detroit Tigers may have looked into acquiring. Is that something you'd be interested in?

The pitcher in question is Akinori Otsuka, to whom the Texas Rangers did not tender a contract on Wednesday. Why would the Rangers non-tender Otsuka after making some high demands for him back in July? The easy answer is that the two sides just couldn't come to an agreement. Otsuka wanted the security of a longer-term deal, while the Rangers preferred to protect themselves against a growing history of injuries.

As Lone Star Ball points out, it doesn't make sense for the Rangers to let Otsuka go when they could use him in their bullpen. He was the early favorite to be their closer, so why not offer salary arbitration? Instead, the Rangers have moved on, signing Japanese reliever Kazuo Fukumori and saying that C.J. Wilson will be their closer.

The likely explanation is that Texas isn't sure he'll be fully healthy next season. Otsuka wasn't able to pitch after July 1 due to elbow tendinitis, which killed any chances of the Rangers trading him.

The elbow problems are still enough of a concern that the White Sox passed on making a deal for Otsuka once they saw his medical records.

Or maybe Otsuka was playing some hardball because he wants to rejoin the San Diego Padres, with whom he pitched his first two major league seasons. (The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back.) Otsuka raised some tempers among Rangers fans last week when he recommended playing in San Diego to countryman Kosuke Fukudome before the outfielder signed with the Chicago Cubs. Maybe that was a tip-off to his intentions, as well.

Did I mention Otsuka saved 32 games in 2006?

UPDATE (10:00 p.m.): As Barry mentioned in the comments, the Philadelphia Phillies are looking into signing Otsuka.