Tigers seal deal with Texas, get Laird

Tigers seal deal with Texas, get Laird

LAS VEGAS -- The first of what will likely be many deals at baseball's Winter Meetings fills the first of several needs for the Tigers, who formally announced their trade with the Rangers for catcher Gerald Laird on Monday morning.

The Tigers acquired Laird in exchange for Minor League pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. Laird immediately becomes the everyday catcher and, given the Tigers' opinion of him, could become a useful piece in their lineup.

"We had a glaring need for a catcher," manager Jim Leyland said, "and we feel like we acquired a very solid Major League catcher, and he's a very versatile guy for a catcher. He's got pretty good leg speed for a catcher in particular. He can do some things offensively as well as catch and throw. It's going to be nice to work with him, get him acclimated to our pitching staff. He is a bona fide Major League catcher."

The Tigers had engaged the Rangers in talks for much of the offseason, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. But while much of the speculation on Texas' trade options centered on their younger catchers, Dombrowski said their preference was to keep those options and deal Laird, who is eligible for arbitration this winter and free agency after the 2010 season.

That might have ended up working to the benefit of the Tigers, who didn't have the prospects to compete with teams interested in the other catchers -- Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- but found a package could land Laird once they sold the Rangers on Moscoso.

"We're excited to get Laird," Dombrowski said. "He's a proven big league catcher. He's somebody that was at the top of our list as far as trying to acquire someone from an organization this wintertime. There's no doubt that we had a need there."

Laird batted .276 for the Rangers last year with 24 doubles in 344 at-bats to go with six home runs and 41 RBIs. He hit .299 with a .759 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) away from Texas.

It's the doubles potential on which Leyland focused when he discussed Laird's offense and how he could fit in Detroit.

"I think he's a very usable bat, and I think we need a little bit more of that," Leyland said. "We normally have to hit it over the fence to produce runs. We're not a club that has a lot of speed. I think we added not only a good catcher, but a guy who can help us in that area as well. I think it's great ballpark for Laird. He didn't hit a lot of home runs in Texas, but he's a gap hitter, and a gap hitter in our ballpark is a good thing to have. And he can catch and throw."

Laird, too, sees the potential in the move.

"Comerica [Park] is a great big park," Laird said in a conference call Monday afternoon. "It's a big park, so I wouldn't go in there and try to do too much."

For Laird, the deal was a mix of excitement and relief -- one for his team's situation, the other for his own.

"More excitement, knowing how good this team is capable of being," Laird said, "but also a sense of relief to know that I'm going to be able to play every day."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.