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Gerald Laird traded to Tigers for Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo

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  • Gerald Laird traded to Tigers for Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo

    LAS VEGAS -- When the Tigers acquired two players on the same day of last year's winter meetings, they sent shockwaves through the baseball industry. Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, two former All-Stars, were sent from Florida to Detroit in a move that was proposed and agreed upon in less than 24 hours.

    Dave Dombrowski was at work again Monday. The two names he added -- catcher Gerald Laird and shortstop Adam Everett -- were not as flashy, but they may be able to do in 2009 what Cabrera and Willis could not in 2008: help the Tigers contend from start to finish.

    Dombrowski, the Tigers' president and general manager, identified Laird as one of the top catchers available when the off-season began and maintained a consistent dialogue with Texas GM Jon Daniels ever since. They finalized the deal Saturday but waited until Monday to make the official announcement.

    Texas received a pair of intriguing, hard-throwing right-handers who have yet to pitch in the majors: Guillermo Moscoso, 25, and Carlos Melo, 17.

    Almost concurrent to the announcement of Laird's arrival, news broke that the Tigers and Everett had reached a one-year agreement. The tentative deal, worth $1 million plus incentives, will become official if Everett passes a physical Wednesday.

    Dombrowski said Monday that team officials “liked what we saw” during Everett’s workout last Thursday in Lakeland, Fla. The club appears confident that Everett’s shoulder is sound after an injury limited him to 48 games this year with the Minnesota Twins.

    “He threw the ball well, with good arm strength,” Dombrowski said of the session.

    Laird seems likely to earn roughly $3 million next year through salary arbitration. So assuming Everett's physical does not generate new concerns about a shoulder injury that limited him to 48 games this past year, Dombrowski has filled the biggest needs in his everyday lineup for about $4 million. That should enable the team to make more meaningful bullpen upgrades.

    Detroit manager Jim Leyland made clear that Laird will be the team's No. 1 catcher, after being a part-time player for most of his tenure with Texas. Laird has played more than 100 games in only one of his six big-league seasons, but the Tigers will count on him to do that in 2009.

    "It was frustrating for me in Texas: I was the guy, then I wasn't the guy," Laird said in a teleconference with reporters. "Knowing that I'm not going to look over my shoulder, it's relaxing now. I'm just going to play baseball. I'm not going to worry about the small things I did over the last couple years.

    "I'm glad to be a Detroit Tiger."

    Leyland praised Laird's gap-to-gap hitting and skills behind the plate. Leyland noted that Laird "runs very well" compared with other catchers and envisions him as a good fit in the lower part of the Tigers' batting order.

    Laird batted .276 this season with six home runs and 41 RBIs. In 13 career games at Comerica Park, he has a .271 batting average, according to STATS LLC.

    "He is going to be a perfect fit for our ballpark," Leyland said. "We are not a club that has a lot of speed, and we think we have added a guy that can help us in that area, too. And he can catch. We've seen him for the last few years and have been very high on him. I think we are very fortunate.

    "I'm thrilled to death to get this behind us. A month or so ago we were pretty nervous about a couple of our situations, and all of a sudden we have one of them out of the way, basically prior to the meetings even starting."

    Dombrowski said he will continue looking for a backup catcher, although upgrading the bullpen is a far greater priority. The team has three internal candidates to play behind Laird: Dane Sardinha and Max St. Pierre, who have returned to the club on minor-league contracts, and prospect Dusty Ryan, whom Dombrowski said would ideally be the everyday catcher at Triple-A Toledo.

    Asked about his options for the backup catcher's job, Leyland said: "Do you feel like you have a safety valve? Yes. But do you still go out and (try) to improve it just a little bit? Sure. Whether that guy's out there for us or not, we don't know."

    Everett, a career .246 hitter, and Laird are considered very good defenders, and their acquisitions fit with a theme of the Tigers’ off-season. Team officials have consistently said that they want to improve their defense and pitching before Opening Day.

    So far, they have accomplished half of that goal.

    “I think it’s got the potential to end up a much better defensive team than we were,” Leyland said.

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