DETROIT -- Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has spent part of his offseason explaining what the team saw in Robbie Ray, the left-handed pitcher who was the prospect acquired in the Doug Fister trade. Ray's inclusion on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list furthered the explanation, but Dombrowski offered up Saturday at TigerFest that Ray initially wasn't part of the early trade talks.
When the Tigers first brought up Ray, Dombrowski suggested, the Nationals initially declined.
"I wanted to get beat up quite a bit before," Dombrowski said sarcastically, noting the second-guessing he has taken on the deal. "But yes, they initially turned it down."
That fits with an opinion just after the trade from an American League talent evaluator, who suggested the Nationals would not have traded Ray for fellow Tigers starter Rick Porcello.
Tigers unlikely to go after free agent such as Cruz
DETROIT -- Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski won't comment on specific free agents for risk of tampering accusations. Thus, he won't discuss the offensive value of Nelson Cruz, or the defense risk, or any potential fit for another outfield bat.
Nonetheless, the way Dombrowski described the Tigers' situation, without mentioning Cruz by name, strongly suggested Detroit won't be pursuing the free-agent slugger.
"The way I would say it is that, the way our club shapes up right now, we're happy with our club," Dombrowski said Saturday at TigerFest. "So without getting into specific players, the way we shape up, I would be surprised if we made any major moves."
Even on a short-term contract, which looks like an increasing possibility, Cruz would count as a major move. Regardless of the contract, Cruz's free-agent status would require the Tigers to give up their first-round Draft pick to sign him, something they showed last winter that they were more reluctant to do than in years past.
Adding Cruz would also partly reduce Rajai Davis' role after Detroit signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract last month.
That doesn't mean the roster is set. Dombrowski left open the possibility of smaller signings to add reinforcements, including in the bullpen.
"Perhaps for depth purposes, you might pick somebody up," Dombrowski said.
Most likely, Dombrowski added, such a signing would be a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite. The Tigers would rather not shuffle their 40-man roster at this point.
They were linked to Luis Ayala in one report earlier this week. The Tigers had some interest in him two years ago as well, before they signed Octavio Dotel. Dombrowski said Saturday they'd be open to signing Dotel if he pitches again, but he hasn't resumed pitching yet.
Nathan ready to hear entrance music at Comerica
DETROIT -- Tigers fans used to dread the sight of Joe Nathan at Comerica Park and the sound of his entrance music when they heard it on television on road games. Nathan not only acknowledged that, he respected it.
So it was an adjustment for both sides on Saturday as Tigers fans welcomed the former Twins and Rangers closer to Detroit as his new home. Asked if he has heard from a lot of fans about how they used to hate him at the height of the Tigers-Twins rivalry, Nathan nodded.
"I got it a lot this whole week," Nathan said. "That's definitely been the most popular thing I've heard from everybody. And I knew it, because I was down in the bullpen and I'd hear it from the fans when I was in the bullpen.
"They're good fans. They're knowledgeable. They come up with very creative things down there to get on you, and I'm always happy when the inning ends and I get to get out of there and just go pitch."
The veteran has kept the same entrance music -- "Stand Up," from the 2001 movie Rock Star -- since he began closing in Minnesota a decade ago. Hearing that at Comerica Park will make it new, but he's looking forward to it.
"The crowd gets into it," Nathan said. "It's always fun when you get to hear it in a new stadium and see what it sounds like. I know this place, they like to play some loud music. I know every time we'd come here, I'm like, 'Man, that's a good sound system. I'd like to hear my song on that.'"
Suh recommended Detroit to Joba
DETROIT -- Give new Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain credit: He checks his sources, and he has a few of them.
When Chamberlain was looking into signing with the Tigers as a free agent this winter, he checked about new manager Brad Ausmus with two of his former teammates. One was Darin Erstad, who currently coaches at the University of Nebraska, where Chamberlain played. The other was Andy Pettitte, Chamberlain's teammate with the New York Yankees for six seasons.
When Chamberlain wanted to know about Detroit, however, he went right to one of the city's most famous athletes -- on the gridiron.
"One of my friends plays for the Lions, and he just talks about how it's unbelievable," Chamberlain said.
Who was that?
"Ndamukong Suh," Chamberlain said, noting the Lions' former top draft pick and University of Nebraska star.
Chamberlain said Detroit was already his first choice, but that Suh's insight further convinced him.
"It was the first place on my plate for so many reasons," Chamberlain said. "Close to home, great team, great organization, great sports town."