LAS VEGAS – Even as the Detroit Tigers were conducting the first news conference of the winter meetings Monday to announce their trade for catcher Gerald Laird, they were already pushing to sign a closer by making overtures to free agent Kerry Wood.
Wood, who had 34 saves for the Chicago Cubs last season, would come cheaper than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes because of his history of injuries. The Tigers need a closer after they went through several in-house options in 2008.
However, the next move for the Tigers appears to be signing free agent Adam Everett, a good-field, no-hit shortstop who spent six seven seasons with the Houston Astros before playing 48 games last season with the Minnesota Twins. A source said Everett has accepted a one-year deal worth about $1 million.
Trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates regarding Jack Wilson died long ago, according to a source, as did the Tigers' interest in Julio Lugo of the Red Sox. Teams still talking to the Pirates regarding Wilson include the Twins and Dodgers.
The Red Sox could emerge as competition for Wood, who they like as a potential setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon.
At least the Tigers can put their catching concerns behind them. Laird, 29, was acquired for minor league pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo from the Texas Rangers, who have a surplus of catching and a dearth of young pitching. Laird will enter his second arbitration season after making $1.6 million last season. He batted .276 with six homers and 41 RBIs in 95 games.
"We've worked on this for a long, long time,'' said Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski, who added that the deal was struck Saturday after a potential three-way deal fell apart a day earlier.
The Tigers needed a catcher after they traded Ivan Rodriguez to the New York Yankees at midseason. The versatile Brandon Inge caught 60 games, but the Tigers want him to return to his natural position of third base and have Miguel Cabrera move to first base full time.
Laird is a defensive standout whose offensive production has fluctuated during his six-year career. He batted .296 in 2006, yet hit only .224 in 2007 and .225 in 2005.
"He's a gap hitter, and a gap hitter in our ballpark is a good thing to have," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He can catch and throw, everybody knows that. I think we're very fortunate. Johnny Benches aren't out there. That's the way it is.
"We think we got a guy that's really going to fit into our club and change our club a little bit. I'm thrilled to death we got him. A month or so ago, we were really nervous about a couple of our situations, and all of a sudden we have one of them, a major one out of the way even before the meetings even started."
It doesn't appear the Tigers gave up much for Laird. Moscoso, 25, throws in the low 90s but chronic shoulder problems slowed his progress through the Tigers' minor league system. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2003. Melo was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007 at age 16. He hasn't pitched yet in the U.S., but he did strike out 61 in 49 innings last summer in the Dominican Summer League.