LAKELAND, Fla. -- Three years after Brennan Boesch surged into the Tigers' outfield mix with an incredible half-season in Detroit, his departure was just as sudden. The Tigers unconditionally released Boesch on Wednesday, parting ways with 2 1/2 weeks to go in Spring Training.
It was already clear to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski that Boesch wasn't going to win the job in left field, and the club wasn't going to be able to work out a trade.
"As we've gone through this, Andy Dirks, we feel, has won the job to be our left fielder," Dombrowski said. "And in Brennan's case, we were really looking more for a right-handed-hitting outfielder out there [to mix] in left field."
By releasing Boesch now, the Tigers will owe him one-sixth of his $2.3 million salary, or $383,333. Had they waited until the end of camp, they would've owed him one-fourth of his salary, or $575,000.
Boesch's future with the team had been in question ever since the Tigers signed Torii Hunter in November. Detroit tendered the arbitration-eligible Boesch a contract during the offseason with the idea of letting him compete with Dirks for the job in left field or trading him.
The chance of beating out Dirks was always a long shot, but it became longer once Boesch missed the first couple weeks of camp with an oblique strain. He returned last week and went 3-for-16 with a double and four strikeouts in seven Grapefruit League games.
Boesch has Minor League options remaining, but Dombrowski said from the start of camp that the Minors weren't an option.
"You just reach a certain point with players from a development perspective that you don't think there's much to be gained," Dombrowski said. "The realistic aspect of it is that you're in a spot where I think if he goes to Triple-A, he tears the cover off the ball at Triple-A. But when you're in our spot, it really translates to how he will do at the big league level.
"He has three years of service at the big league level. When you make the type of dollars that he makes, you're not sending guys to Triple-A with those type of salaries unless it's a very, very unusual set of circumstances."
Dombrowski said that "half a dozen clubs" had asked about Boesch, but no one stepped forward with serious interest.
"It hasn't been what we've been asking for as far as the talent is concerned," Dombrowski said. "More [often], people look at his salary and say, 'Are we prepared to make that move with what he's making now?' Nobody was willing to do that."
One baseball source said teams were willing to call the Tigers' bluff and wait for an expected release. At some point, it makes more financial sense to eat one-sixth of Boesch's salary and get nothing in return than to absorb more salary and get a middling prospect in a trade.
Now, assuming no team claims his full contract on release waivers, Boesch will become a free agent. Any team can sign him for the Major League minimum, with the Tigers on the hook for their end.
Neither Dombrowski nor manager Jim Leyland believes Boesch be a free agent for long.
"I don't believe in that stuff all the time about a change of scenery, but I do believe this is one case where it's absolutely for the better. I truly believe that," Leyland said. "You've got 29 clubs out there that can make a decision whether they have interest, and I'm sure that some of them do. I would be shocked if he's not signing in a very short period of time."
Said Dombrowski: "I still think he has tremendous upside."
Boesch's agent, Scott Boras, told the Detroit Free Press that seven clubs had called to express interest as of Wednesday afternoon. The Houston Astros are expected to look at him, MLB.com's Paul Casella reports, and the New York Yankees reportedly will do the same.
By releasing Boesch now, the Tigers also free up playing time in the outfield down the stretch this spring for regulars who need the work as well as viable candidates to make the club. In addition to Dirks and Hunter in the corners, the Tigers have Quintin Berry, late-season hero Avisail Garcia and Rule 5 Draft pick Jeff Kobernus battling for the aforementioned reserve spot as a right-handed-hitting outfielder.
In addition, utility man Don Kelly is also expected to get some time in the outfield over the final couple weeks of spring as the Tigers try to evaluate him. Top prospect Nick Castellanos has had a strong spring in the outfield as he continues his conversion from third base.
Boesch will turn 28 years old in April. He batted .259 with 42 home runs and 175 RBIs in 380 games over three seasons. His numbers last year were his lowest in most of the major categories, including a .240 batting average, .659 OPS, 12 homers and 54 RBIs.