DETROIT -- The Tigers received the answer they hoped to hear from Kenny Rogers, at least in terms of whether he wants to pitch again. Now, they're worried about where he'll pitch again, and they could be left looking for a starting pitcher anyway.
While agent Scott Boras told The Associated Press that Rogers plans on pitching next year and that he is in talks with the Tigers about a new contract, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told The AP and the Detroit Free Press that Boras plans to explore interest from other teams. That doesn't leave the Tigers out of the running for Rogers' services, but it leaves them in a potentially different position than they expected.
Rogers, whose 43rd birthday is Saturday, pitched the last two seasons for Detroit after signing with the Tigers as a free agent. His 17 wins in 2006 tied for the team lead during the regular season before he tossed 23 scoreless innings in the postseason, ranking among the best collective October performances by a pitcher in recent memory. He battled through an injury-shortened 2007 season to make 11 starts, going 3-4 over 63 innings with a 4.43 ERA.
When asked about his contract status in September, the pending free agent said he wasn't sure yet whether he wanted to play in 2008. If he did play, however, he indicated that he would like to pitch for the Tigers again. The interest was mutual.
"If it comes to pass, there's not one place that I'd rather be than here," Rogers said of the Tigers on Sept. 29. "That would be the easy part, I think."
That could still be the case, but the process of possibly getting there is going to be a little more complicated. It could simply be a matter of Boras trying to negotiate the best deal for his client to return to Detroit. The two-year, $16 million deal negotiated in December 2005 ended up being among the best moves in baseball out of an offseason full of free-agent pitchers. This winter, Rogers ranks among the best remaining starters in a relatively thin free-agent crop.
If Rogers were to sign elsewhere, however, it would leave a huge void on a Detroit roster that went from the high of acquiring All-Star shortstop Edgar Renteria on Oct. 29 to the low a few days later of losing reliever Joel Zumaya for at least half a season to major shoulder surgery.
To acquire Renteria, the Tigers gave up a package of prospects that included Jair Jurrjens, whose late-season success briefly helped bolster Detroit's postseason hopes. Jurrjens was originally slated to compete with Andrew Miller and others for the final spot in the Tigers rotation next spring. With Jurrjens now in Atlanta, however, Detroit's deep corps of young pitchers is relatively thin in terms of potential contestants for spots next season.
If the Tigers don't re-sign Rogers, they're expected to add another starter from the free-agent ranks. They retain exclusive rights to finalize a contract with Rogers through next Monday. After that, free agents are open to talk financial terms and sign with the other clubs, and clubs can do the same with free agents from other teams.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.