"We're not going to non-tender Delmon Young," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio. "I mean, that's just not going to happen."
Still, a report from FOXSports.com suggested the Tigers would be willing to trade Young if they could get the right solution at second base in return, though it's questionable whether such an enticement could net them Atlanta's Martin Prado.
Dombrowski did not address a trade specifically, but his comments Friday indicate he expects Young to be a Tiger next season.
"He's our left fielder," Dombrowski continued, "and look for his bat in the lineup on a daily basis."
Dombrowski said two weeks ago in his end-of-season remarks that "right now, we look at him being our left fielder," but that Detroit also didn't have to make a decision on Young until later in the offseason. Dombrowski didn't point to the non-tender date of Dec. 12, but considering Young is eligible for arbitration and likely set for a sizable raise -- a reason the Twins were willing to trade him to their division rival in August -- it loomed as a logical possibility.
Dombrowski all but erased it on Friday, when he talked with MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden. Moreover, he better explained the case for keeping him.
"You always put one-thousandth of a percent [open], if something falls on your lap that you don't anticipate. But we like Delmon Young," Dombrowski said. "Delmon Young did a fine job for us, and he's in a situation this year that he's going into the last year of his contract, as we're all aware, his free agency year.
"He did not play as well with Minnesota early [this past season]. He had some injuries coming back from the offseason. He got a little bit bigger, and I think he got bigger from all conversations, in his own mind thinking he needed to add more power. Well, to me, Delmon doesn't need to add more power. This guy's got tremendous power all over the ballpark. He's a guy that's going to hit 20, 25, 30 home runs and knock in 100 [runs] for us. And so, we're not going to non-tender Delmon. It would just be a situation where something just completely out of the blue took place."
Young made $5.375 million this season, when he hit .268 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs. He was coming off a career season in 2010 that included a .298 average, .826 OPS, 21 home runs, 112 RBIs and a smattering of votes for American League MVP. He won't get the same type of salary bump from this year's numbers, but as a third-year arbitration-eligible player, he'll still be in line for a raise.
Even so, his strong potential to get back to something resembling his 2010 numbers -- he drove in 26 runs with seven homers in just 26 games at Comerica Park in 2011 -- make him a potential bargain compared to the options in a notoriously thin outfield market. A chance to hit the free-agent market next winter at age 27 has the chance to be a major motivation for Young.
Dombrowski said earlier this month that the Tigers won't pursue a long-term contract with Young this offseason. If Young does have a big season in 2012, the Tigers' best chance at keeping him will be next offseason. Detroit has rarely undergone contract talks in midseason; Carlos Guillen in 2004 and Placido Polanco in '05 are the notable exceptions.
In the meantime, the Tigers' efforts to address their offensive needs -- namely a hitter to bat first or second in the order -- will be directed toward other positions. Their search for a second baseman now includes two fewer options, with Jamey Carroll and Aaron Hill having reportedly reached agreements with the Twins and D-backs, respectively.
FOXSports.com reported Monday that the Tigers have interest in Prado, who played second base for Atlanta in 2010 before spending much of this season as Atlanta's left fielder. Prado is reportedly available, but the Braves need to have specific needs addressed in any deal they make.
The top free agent at second base, Kelly Johnson, is a Type A free agent. Under the current rules, any team that signs him would have to give up a pick in the First-Year Player Draft. With talks continuing for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that may or may not include draft pick compensation, it's hard to envision Johnson signing before those rules are clear for this winter.
Whatever upgrades the Tigers make, it doesn't sound like they'll be mega-deals. Asked by Bowden whether the Tigers could pursue highly regarded free-agent shortstops Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, or third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Dombrowski essentially said it would take a special circumstance.
"I kind of doubt it," Dombrowski said. "I wouldn't discount anything. I think our approach this wintertime is, we're going to look to get better probably in smaller increments, but you never can tell what takes place in the wintertime. If something falls in your lap, and if it's something -- we have a tremendous owner in Mike Ilitch, he's very aggressive -- and if something falls in your lap ... but I can't see us being the leader in the front in those things.
"We have a very hefty payroll, but we're in a spot where you're talking about having a [Justin] Verlander and a [Miguel] Cabrera. You've got two $20 million guys, and in our market, you can only have so many of those type of guys. So I would doubt it, but again, you never know where dollars end up and what may fall through as the winter goes on."