LAS VEGAS (AP)—Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski wasted little time on the opening day of baseball’s winter meetings in taking care of one of the Tigers’ biggest needs.
The Tigers acquired catcher Gerald Laird from the Rangers on Monday in a trade that sent right-handed pitching prospects Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo to Texas, shoring up a position Dombrowski considered a key this winter.
“He is a proven big league catcher and someone at the top of our list as far as trying to acquire. There was no doubt we had a need there,” Dombrowski said. “We have talked to him already and we will give him the opportunity to catch a lot of ballgames. I think that makes us better.”
Dombrowski had been pursuing Laird “all winter, really” but reached an agreement with Texas on Saturday.
Laird, who batted .276 with six home runs and 41 RBIs in 95 games for the Rangers in 2008, is expected to become the Tigers’ starter in spring training. Detroit dealt starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez to the New York Yankees in July.
Detroit likes Laird’s versatility, experience, speed and production at the plate.
“He is a bona fide major league catcher and we are thrilled to get this out of the way,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who envisions Laird batting in the bottom half of the order. “Obviously, it was one of our biggest needs. This is behind us and we will continue to move forward. … He is going to be a guy who’s really a perfect fit for our ballpark. He’s not a big power hitter, and we know that. Our ballpark is suited for guys who hit the ball in the gaps.”
The 29-year-old Laird was one of four catchers on Texas’ 40-man roster, and the oldest and most expensive of the group. He is expected to make about $3 million next season—Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez combined will make about half that.
Laird became a rookie starter in 2004 before being sidelined by a torn ligament in his thumb sustained in a collision at home plate. He had split time with Saltalamacchia since the Rangers got him from Atlanta in a package for Mark Teixeira at the 2007 trade deadline.
Moscoso and Melo fit into the Rangers’ plan of acquiring young players for the future.
Moscoso was 5-4 with one save and a 2.70 ERA overall in 21 games with Double-A Erie and Class-A Lakeland. The 17-year-old Melo went 3-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) in the Dominican Summer League.
“They’re young and they’ve definitely got a lot of upside,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “They’ve got potential to do something. The 17-year-old obviously is going to take some time. We were full of catchers. Now we’ve got three and we’ll see what they can do. There was most interest in Gerald.”
Dombrowski can now turn his attention to finding a shortstop and upgrading the Tigers’ bullpen and perhaps the closer spot, though the club already has Fernando Rodney as an option. The Tigers were working on a deal for free agent shortstop Adam Everett.
“We would like to add an arm in the bullpen,” the GM said.