Tigers decide Pudge worth $13 million for 2008 season
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 Press.
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 Series.
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."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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