I've been busy with other projects as of late but I wanted to check in on the latest rumors:
The Tigers sent a scout to meet with 22-year-old Japanese right-hander Junichi Tazawa. I don't know much about Tazawa but according to Japanball.com he throws his fastball 150 kilometers per hour (93 MPH) and has a fork ball and slider. The Tigers have not been as active in the Asian market as they should be so it's good to see them pursue a pitcher who is attracting interest from multiple teams.
The Tigers have talked to representatives of three left-handed relievers Joe Beimel, Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver. I would not mind if they acquired either one of these pitchers but I can't see them throwing a lot of money at them. Oliver looks like the best option to me. He is 38-years-old but is coming off three solid seasons, the last two in the American League with the Angels. He has good control and pitches a good number of innings: 81, 64 and 72 over the last three years. Joe Beimel has done OK the last three years but it's been in the National League in pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium and his strikeout rates are very low. Arthur Rhodes was outstanding last year (2.04 ERA in 35 1/3 innings) but is not very durable - no more than 45 innings in any of the last five years.
The same article said they were looking for a closer but it didn't give any names. Two names that have been mentioned as possible targets have already been traded. Kevin Gregg went from the Marlins to the Cubs and Huston Street was traded from the Athletics to the Rockies. Street may still be available but I have not seen any legitimate stories that would indicate that the Tigers are pursuing him. They are said to be interested in free agent Brandon Lyon. Lyon profiles like Todd Jones of a couple years ago - a closer who doesn't walk a lot of batters but also doesn't strikeout many. He struggled last year and lost his closer role to Chad Qualls down the stretch but his high BABIP (.355) indicates he may have been unlucky. He's another guy I wouldn't mind them picking up but again he's not worth a big contract.
There have been numerous stories about the Tigers talking to the Red Sox about a swap of bad contracts: Julio Lugo for Dontrelle Willis or Nate Robertson. I don't like this one at all. Lugo has already been in a decline, is 33 and is coming off a significant quadriceps injury. He has had a .656 OPS over the past two years and has been average at best defensively. As bad as Willis and Robertson were last year, I really think they have more upside in 2009 than Lugo.
Rafael Furcal and Orlando Cabrera seem to be out of the question so I think the best shortstop option would be for the Tigers to pursue a good field no hit type such as Cesar Izturis. There has been some talk about the Tigers being interested in Khalil Greene of the Padres He would be preferable to Lugo depending obviously on the cost.
The other persistent rumor has been about Jason Varitek but that sounds like it is mostly his agent Scott Boras trying to promote him. He is another player on the decline offensively and defensively. Since he will probably command a multi-year deal, I would hope they stay away from him. Josh Bard and Gregg Zaun (if he has not lost too much) are a couple of options I would like to see them pursue.