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Morning lede: Is Nate Robertson the odd man out of the Tigers rotation?

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There's a little more than a week left in spring training. Time is running short. The regular season starts in 10 days, and there is a large decision looming. One that is not going to be easy to make.

There's 3 pitchers vying for 2 rotation openings, and the Tigers have yet to announce who will be the 4th and 5th starters. Someone has to be the odd man out.

If certain writer is to be believed, we know who it may be.

Nate Robertson

Former Tigers beat writer and current Fox Sports MLB pundit, Jon Paul Morosi, had lots to say about the Tigers rotation via Twitter Friday night:, and status of Robertson was a big part of the discussion.

Morosi tweet 1:

Amazing how little conversation there has been about Eddie Bonine. He was the Tigers' third-best starter at end of last year.

Obviously, the Tigers don't feel the same way, as Bonine's being used as a reliever. If he goes north with the team, it'll be as a long/middle relief man (Odds are good Bonine takes Zach Miner's bullpen slot if Miner's arm injury lingers). Not that it matters where Bonine starts the season, he's the first option if one of the starters is injured or throws the equivalent of batting practice.

Why is Bonine the first option? You'd think the pitcher who doesn't make the rotation would get the first shot at any openings. Not according to Morosi, as he says in his next tweet...

Morosi tweet 2:

Three people have told me today that the Tigers are shopping Nate Robertson. Would have to eat money in order to move him.

So much for the old baseball bromide, "You can never have enough pitching."

Even though Robertson has pitched the best of all the rotation contenders (between himself, Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis), he's being shopped? So what gives?

The D-Train is trade kryptonite, and I don't need to explain why. Bonderman has a bigger contract than Robertson ($12.5M compared to $10M), and has had injury issues for 3 seasons.

Robertson may be hard to trade, and the Tigers will have to eat much of his contract, but the former Mr. Gum Time is still the most tradeable of the starting pitchers.

2 seasons of highly paid, injury filled ineffectiveness hasn't made Robertson a hot property. But of the 3 pitchers mentioned, Robertson should be the easiest to unload.

After the jump...you guessed it. Another tweet!

Morosi tweet 3:

And if the Tigers are willing to trade Robertson, you wonder if they are convinced that Dontrelle Willis belongs in the majors.

I'm not sure if the Tigers are convinced, or it's the $12M ($29M overall) the D-Train is owed making the decision for them.

Admittedly, this spring Willis has pitched better than he has in over 3 years, putting up a 1.20 ERA in Grapefruit League action. But the sample size is a whole 15 innings. Not nearly enough to wipe the slate clean of 2 seasons of epic wildness. It's not as Willis has recovered full command of his pitches, as 8 BBs and 2 HBP attest.

But the Tigers would love to get something out of their investment (in both time and money), and the D-Train, despite his bouts of wildness, is getting batters out. It's not as if he can be traded.

It's unrealistic to think the Tigers will carry one of the aforementioned pitchers as a long reliever. At anywhere between $10M and $12.5M, he would be the highest paid mop-up man in baseball history. It's not the best use of resources, to say the very least.

Which is why I'm guessing, starting with Nate Robertson, the Tigers will explore any and all trade options in hope of receiving a remotely useful player in return.

The first thing which comes to mind is Dave Dombrowski's own words back in 2002.

(paraphrasing) "Nate Robertson, who's a solid player, is going to make $10 million next year. You try to trade him!"

Dombrowski really has his work cut out for himself in cleaning up this roster mess. Then again, it is his own mess in the first place...