Tigers' interest in Cespedes was more than passing

Tigers' interest in Cespedes was more than passing

Tigers' interest in Cespedes was more than passing
DETROIT -- What if the Tigers' worry about Yoenis Cespedes was where to hit him, instead of how to pitch to him?

What if the offensive catalyst of the A's had become a Tiger?

A's vs. Tigers

It was closer to happening than many might have figured. And it would have had a big ripple effect on the offseason market.

In the end, though, the Tigers didn't run out of interest so much as they ran out of time.

After Cespedes defected from Cuba last summer and set up camp in the Dominican Republic, the Tigers not only scouted him heavily, but sent top decision-makers to the Dominican to watch him. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski saw him at one point, as did assistant GM Al Avila.

At that point, however, the Tigers couldn't sign the outfielder. Nobody could, until Cespedes got his paperwork in order.

A report out of the Dominican in January quoted Cespedes as saying the Tigers were one of six teams showing the most interest in him. The report, however, didn't cite the Athletics, who kept their interest quiet before swooping in late once he was declared a free agent.

By then, the Tigers had signed Prince Fielder, and they couldn't afford Cespedes' terms.

"Once we signed Prince," Dombrowski said Friday, "we weren't involved."

Until then, however, Detroit was quite involved, which raises the question of what would have happened had Cespedes received his visa and been declared a free agent sooner.

Had the Tigers been able to sign him, their hole in left field might well have been filled. But the hole left by Victor Martinez's season-ending knee injury in January might never have been filled, depending on how they would have handled their payroll.

As the Tigers prepare to face Cespedes -- who went 4-for-10 with two RBIs in three games against them last month at Comerica Park -- and the A's in the American League Division Series, it's fun to wonder.

Dombrowski said he has been impressed by how well Cespedes has performed in his first Major League season. The skills were evident, Dombrowski said, but the adjustment to the big leagues was expected to be a process.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.