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MLB Rumors: Tigers 'Outside Late Threat' For Jose Reyes?

Shortstop Jose Reyes would be the dream free agent acquisition for many Detroit Tigers fans. The general sentiment — which has been encouraged by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski — is that Reyes would be too pricey for a payroll that is already carrying two $20 million per year players in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.

But if Reyes’ price were somehow to come down from a lack of bidders in the free agent market, perhaps the Tigers could make a surprise push for the shortstop.

That’s the scuttlebutt SI.com’s Jon Heyman posted on Twitter, calling the Tigers an “outside late threat” for Reyes. Heyman also quoted someone from another team (presumably an executive) who called the Tigers “good poker players.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Detroit has sat back to see how the market played out, only to then swoop in when the terms worked in their favor. The Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez under such circumstances. Jose Valverde and Johnny Damon could also be considered players who Detroit wasn’t in on early, but pursued once it became clear not many teams were competing for their services.

All it takes is one team to blow up the market for a player, as we saw with Carl Crawford and the Boston Red Sox last year, along with Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals. But as of right now, it doesn’t appear that general managers consider Reyes a $20 million per year player. The one offer that he’s known to have received is a six-year, $90 million package from the Florida Marlins.

Could a six-year, $100 million offer (with an option for a seventh year) win the Reyes sweepstakes, as MLive.com’s James Schmehl speculates? Perhaps, but the Marlins and New York Mets might be willing to go that high, as well.

Giving a multi-year contract to Reyes would come with some risk, as calf and hamstring injuries have limited him to an average of 130 games during the past two seasons. In 2009, Reyes played in only 36 games because of injuries.

But the Tigers need a top-of-the-order hitter with speed and who can get on base, and Reyes fits both of those criteria wonderfully. He led the National League this past season with a .337 average and compiled an OBP of .384. Reyes also stole 39 bases, which would easily lead the Tigers. But there has to be some concern of how far down that is from his days of stealing 60-70 bases.

Signing Reyes would also cause the Tigers to shuffle around their infield and possibly alienate some current players. For instance, what happens to Jhonny Peralta, who had an excellent All-Star season for the Tigers? Would he be moved to another position? Would he become trade bait?

However, that’s a problem the Tigers have shown a willingness to take on before. Detroit already had Brandon Inge entrenched at third base when they acquired Cabrera before the 2008 season. That didn’t stop Dombrowski from pouncing on a chance to get one of the best hitters in baseball.

Is Reyes worth causing the same sort of upheaval? He very well may be.