Tigers acquire reliever Veras from Astros
Veteran right-hander expected to fill setup role; prospect Vasquez sent to Houston
DETROIT -- The Tigers and Astros used to be regular trading partners when Randy Smith was the general manager and the Tigers were trying to build a team. With Detroit needing one more proven reliever, it turned back to Houston for what was a classic Dave Dombrowski type of deal.
The Tigers' president and general manager addressed his month-long relief search Monday by acquiring reliever Jose Veras from the Astros in exchange for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named. In the process, Detroit filled its most glaring need by going for the quietly effective deal over the glamour trade, much like it did with Doug Fister two years ago.
"Jose can pitch in a variety of roles, provides depth in the bullpen, and complements the roles of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly," Dombrowski said in a statement.
In other words, Benoit, who has thrived since replacing Jose Valverde in the closer's role a month ago, will remain the closer. Manager Jim Leyland confirmed as much in a phone conversation, saying Veras will primarily pitch in the seventh and eighth innings while closing on occasion when Benoit needs a day off or when a situation favors him.
"I like it. I like it a lot," Leyland said of the deal. "I think Dave did a great, great job. It doesn't surprise me. We think he's pretty good. We saw him earlier this year."
Tigers fans might remember Veras for the go-ahead home run Alex Avila hit off of him in the ninth inning May 3 in Houston. Veras has thrived since then, allowing 17 hits over 31 innings, with 10 walks, 30 strikeouts and a .162 opponents' batting average.
For the season, right-handed hitters are batting just .162 (12-for-75) against Veras, with two home runs, eight walks and 30 strikeouts. Left-handed batters are hitting him at a .224 clip (17-for-76).
Veras grew into a high-strikeout reliever in a career that began with the Yankees and took him to Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. In Houston, he struck big by winning the closer's job, lowering his walk rate and turning in some of the best numbers of his career.
At age 32, Veras filled the role of a good veteran closer on a young, rebuilding team. And on a trade market where bigger names have been drawing heavy interest and high demands, he became the logical way for Dombrowski to address a bullpen that has been short one veteran right-hander for most of the year.
"I'm a guy that's OK with everything. I live day by day," Veras told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "I'm OK with anything that happens in my life because that's the way it is. This is business and I understand that. It took me a long time to understand, but I understand the last four years this is business and I have to deal with it. There's nothing I can do."
Veras' latest move takes him to a club where he already knows several players from other stops as well as winter ball.
"I have some teammates there that I played with before, like Omar Infante. We worked together with the Marlins. We're friends," Veras said. "Ramon Santiago, Brayan Pena, I played with them in the Dominican Winter League.
"The bottom line is I'm not going to be in a stranger's house. I have some friends over there, too. I can say I'm happy, I can say I'm sad, but I feel Houston's my home and now I'm going to another place and it's going to be a little tough. I feel good because it's a team that has an opportunity to be in the playoffs."
Veras is under contract for $1.85 million this season with a $3.25 million club option for next year. A strong finish could put him in position to play a major role in Detroit's bullpen in 2014.
Vasquez, a big-money signing as a teenager out of Venezuela a few years ago, ranked fourth on MLB.com's midseason list of Top 20 Tigers prospects released last week, just behind the top trio of Nick Castellanos, Bruce Rondon and Avisail Garcia. The Tigers had no interest in giving up any of their top three, the latter two of whom have filled needs in Detroit at different points this season. Vasquez, though thriving at low Class A West Michigan this season at the tender age of 19, is still a few years away.
Vasquez hit .281 with 16 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 39 RBIs with the Whitecaps as their everyday left fielder and primary leadoff man.
The player to be named must be decided by Sept. 15.
The Tigers could still add another reliever by Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. By adding Veras, however, they won't have to go to the Deadline feeling like they must meet another team's asking price.
The trade is the first the Tigers and Astros have pulled off since 2001, when Randy Smith was the GM in Detroit and Tal Smith was an executive in Houston. They were seemingly annual trading partners in those days, including three deals involving catcher Brad Ausmus in a four-year stretch.
The Tigers were floundering in those days and trying to build a contender. They hope this trade adds one of the final pieces to get them back to the World Series.