Tigers decide Pudge worth $13 million for 2008 season

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers decided Ivan Rodriguez was
worth another $13 million.

The Tigers exercised an option Tuesday on the All-Star catcher's
contract, retaining him for a fifth season at a hefty price.

"This was a major decision and yet once the season ended, it
became an easy one because we still think he's one of the top
catchers overall in the game," Tigers president and general
manager Dave Dombrowski said in an interview with The Associated

The Tigers could have bought Rodriguez out of the last year of
his deal for $3 million, but they didn't like the prospect of not
having him behind the plate next year.

"People just throw around other options like you can get
anybody to catch, but there are not a lot of future Hall of Famers
available," Detroit manager Jim Leyland told the AP. "To me, this
was a no-brainer and I'm tickled to death to have him back.

"It eases our mind to know who our catcher is going to be next
year. That's one less headache for us right now."

The Tigers hope to bring back free agent starter Kenny Rogers
and closer Todd Jones. They also want to add a shortstop and
perhaps a left fielder, preferably a left-handed batter, via free
agency or trade.

"Last week, we met to talk about each of our players. Next
week, we'll talk about all the other clubs, free agents and trade
possibilities," Dombrowski said.

Detroit had up to 10 days after the World Series to decide
whether to retain Rodriguez, or let him go.

"I think it was a very easy decision," Rodriguez's agent,
Scott Boras said. "It's clear that if he was a free agent, he'd be
getting a multiyear contract."

In an interview with the AP last Wednesday, team owner Mike
Ilitch hinted he was leaning toward bringing Rodriguez back.

"Pudge did a big thing for us, putting a face on the
franchise," Ilitch said. "He's made a lot of contributions."

When nobody wanted to play for the Tigers -- at any price --
Rodriguez signed a $40 million, four-year deal with them after they
lost an AL-record 119 games in 2003. Rodriguez had helped Florida
win the World Series, earning the MVP award in the NL Championship

In 2006, Rodriguez and the Tigers reached the World Series. This
year, they slipped to 88-74.

Rodriguez has had two strong years statistically, and a pair of
lackluster ones -- including 2007, when he batted .281 with 31
doubles, 11 home runs and 63 RBIs in 129 games.

Dombrowski said there was no sense in dragging out the process
after the ballclub made its decision.

"He's done so much for the organization that there was no
reason to leave it up in the air," Dombrowski said. "Once we knew
what we were doing, we didn't wait and I called him this morning."

The player known as "Pudge" was an All-Star in each of his four
seasons with the Tigers, earning a spot in baseball's midsummer
classic this year for the 14th time. He also won two more Gold
Gloves -- giving him a record 12 as a catcher.

Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Rodriguez are the only three
players in baseball history with at least 12 Gold Gloves and a
career .300 average or better.

Rodriguez has caught 2,061 games, including at least 123 each
season in Detroit, to trail only Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone
(2,225) in terms of longevity behind the plate.

"We know he can still be an effective catcher next season,"
Leyland said. "After that, we can get an idea of where his career
is headed and he can, too. This is a great deal for both sides."