The Tigers had three positions of need identified coming into the Winter Meetings, and just hours into the day, the Tigers made a deal to address one of those spots. Acquiring Gerald Laird, the Tigers will now pencil him in as the team's starting catcher heading into 2009.
Laird, a career .255 hitter, hit .276 last year working mostly in a platoon role, appearing in 95 games, including 88 behind the plate. Laird is regarded as solid defensively, throwing out 38% of runners that attempt to steal on him.
Laird made $1.6 million in 2008, and is arbitration eligible, likely meaning he'll be line for a raise to around $2.5 million to $3 million.
In exchange for solving the concerns at catcher, the Tigers gave up two minor league hurlers; the centerpiece of the deal being right-hander Guillermo Moscoso.
Moscoso, 25, had a combined 2.70 ERA between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie in 2008. He also struck out 122 while walking just 21. For his efforts, Moscoso was ranked 17th in the organization by TigsTown.com. The Tigers were at first hesitant to part with Moscoso, due to the fact that he appears to be very close to being big-league ready. Moscoso possesses a low-90's fastball, with a solid breaking ball and change-up.
Carlos Melo, a 17-year old Dominican prospect, is the other member of the deal. Pitching for the DSL Tigers, Melo went 3-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 14 appearances, 13 starts. Melo has a fastball that can get up into the mid-90s, as well as surprisingly solid command given his age and makeup.
The deal leaves the Tigers one-third of the way toward accomplishing everything they were hoping to at the Winter Meetings - with Laird now in the fold, the Tigers won't be in a position to force Dusty Ryan into a starting role that he may not be ready for.