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Detroit Tigers Close To Signing Reliever Octavio Dotel

Fans who hoped the Detroit Tigers would pull off a big trade or free agent signing during baseball’s winter meetings might be disappointed with the team’s lack of sizzle. But late Wednesday night, the Tigers were close to improving their bullpen.

As the day developed, Detroit emerged as a front-runner to signing reliever Octavio Dotel. Most reports had the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals — the team Dotel ended the season and won the World Series with — competing for his services.

But by the end of the day, according to CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, the two sides are on the verge of agreeing to a contract. Reports have the Tigers signing Dotel to a one-year deal with an option for 2013. That’s the compromise between Dotel wanting a two-year contract and Detroit not wanting to commit to more than one year.

The financial terms of the deal have not yet been revealed.

Dotel, 38, posted a 3.50 ERA for the Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays last season. In the postseason, Dotel compiled a 2.61 ERA, helping the Cardinals to their championship.

The Tigers will be the 13th team he has pitched with during his career. He has also played for the Mets, Astros, Athletics, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies in 13 major league seasons.

Dotel will be important for the Tigers in middle innings primarily because of his ability to get right-handed hitters out. Opposing righties hit .154/.198/.211 in 133 plate appearances against him. He struck out 45 and walked only seven.

Even better, Dotel gives Jim Leyland another strikeout option about of the bullpen. He averaged 10.33 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011. Only Al Alburquerque had a better rate among Tigers relievers. And unlike Alburquerque, Dotel isn’t wild. He walked 2.83 batters per nine.

Middle relief was frequently a problem for the Tigers last season, and even more so in the postseason. Relievers like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth have yet to pitch consistently well. And Alburquerque has to prove his elbow can withstand a full season. Dotel should take care of those questions and effectively bridge the gap between Detroit’s starting pitchers and late-inning relievers.