Due to disappointing performances there were a handful of players with considerable big league experience whom were thought to have slim odds (at best) of returning to the Tigers in 2013. Ultimately, one Tiger was non-tendered and five others were allowed to leave as free agents.
The only one of the six to return to the organization was Don Kelly, who recently agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
So what happened to the other five? With one exception, they are either twisting in the free agent wind or were forced to accept minor league deals.
Jose Valverde: After finally finding a
sucker team willing to give a multi-year deal to Rafael Soriano in the Nationals, agent Scott Boras is now trying in vain to find a landing spot for the 34 year old Valverde. Trying to explain off Valverde serving up batting practice in the playoffs, Boras is currently playing the "Tigers overused my client" card, claiming Papa Grande was overly fatigued after making 156 appearances combined in 2011-12. Going by the lack interest in Valverde, no one is buying what Boras is selling. Being the Big Potato has six consecutive seasons of 25 or more saves under his belt, Valverde will get a contract offer from some bullpen deficient team as spring training nears. But it will be a one-year contract worth millions less than he made in his final season with the Tigers.
Delmon Young: Knowing Victor Martinez would be fully recovered from his knee injury in 2013, the Tigers allowed the regular season pariah and post season hero to walk in free agency. Turns out the market for a platoon DH who doesn't get on base (.296 OBP in 2012) is smaller than Young's range as an outfielder. There are rumors the Rays and Yankees have looked into signing Young as a part-time DH, but nothing has come to fruition. Like Valverde, Young will have to wait until the eve of spring training in hopes a desperate team will bite on a cheap one-year deal. (UPDATE: Taking a $6 million cut in pay, Young signed a one year contract worth $750K with the Phillies Tuesday afternoon.)
Ryan Raburn: Hitting like an All-Star in the second half of 2011 earned Raburn the Tigers' starting 2nd baseman job in 2012. But Raburn swung the bat like he was playing in the dead ball era, hitting (if you can call it "hitting") .171/.226/.254 in 205 at bats. He would end a miserable year on the disabled list. The Tigers released Raburn in November, forcing the BYB community to retire the Raburn montage of defensive ineptitude. But in dire need of right-hand hitting bench depth, the Indians have signed the much-reviled Raburn to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
Daniel Schlereth: Schlereth entered 2012 as the 2nd lefty on in the bullpen, behind Phil Coke. He would spend the majority of 2012 on the disabled list after not informing the Tigers about the severe shoulder pain he was pitching through until he had been shelled for a 10.29 ERA in six appearances. The Tigers had seen enough and non-tendered Schlereth after the season. Luckily for the 26 year old reliever, one of baseball's unwritten rules says a left-handed pitcher with a decent pedigree always gets another contract. Schlereth was inked to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training by the Orioles in December.
Gerald Laird: G-Money was the only player the Tigers allowed to walk who entered free agency with teams eager to bid for his services. Laird agreed to a two-year, $3.3 million contract with the Braves in mid-November. The career backup catcher left the Tigers in search of more playing time. He'll get it in Atlanta, at least in the first half of 2013. Laird is expected to start the season as the Braves' number one catcher while six-time All-Star Brian McCann recovers from off season shoulder surgery.