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Sheffield draws interest from Rangers

Sheffield drawing interest

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LAS VEGAS -- The Tigers are starting to receive trade inquiries on Gary Sheffield, but Detroit is expected to hold onto its recovering slugger.

The Rangers asked Detroit during the current Winter Meetings about Sheffield, whom the Tigers briefly made available over the summer when he was placed on waivers. However, an industry source indicated the Rangers' interest was primarily in a low-cost scenario, in which Detroit would pick up a good portion of Sheffield's remaining salary.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski acknowledged Wednesday, "I've got a call on him from a club or two."

However, Dombrowski added, he's had nothing close to being a trade.

The 40-year-old Sheffield is set to make $14 million in 2009, the final season of the contract extension he signed when the Tigers acquired him after the '06 season. Though the Tigers would have interest in shedding that kind of salary from a payroll they're trying to keep at the same level for next season, they're unlikely to pay Sheffield a good sum of money to perform somewhere else simply to move him. The Rangers, meanwhile, are not believed to be looking to add significantly to their payroll.

The Tigers have expressed optimism about Sheffield's chance at a rebound in 2009, based primarily on his performance down the stretch this past season. After repeated shoulder injuries and an oblique strain hobbled Sheffield for most of the campaign, he went on a relative tear down the stretch, with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs over the final two months.

"He can still hit," Dombrowski said. "You've seen him 95 mph fastballs and turn them around. When he settles in, and I think when he gets his 500th home run and that's off his mind, I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on and has a quality year.

"He can still hit. He's a tough guy at the plate, and he's very well respected. He knows the strike zone. And I think he'll go out and put up some good numbers for us."

Sheffield said near season's end that he was looking forward to resuming his normal offseason workout routine for the first time in about five years. His shoulder injuries and offseason surgeries have kept him from doing that.

"I know how hard he works in the offseasons," manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday morning. "He's always been one of those guys. He's got a personal trainer down in Tampa, and he's always worked hard. This is really going to be the first time in a while he hasn't spent an offseason rehabbing because of surgery. He didn't have to get anything cut this offseason, and our trainers think he's going to be really good."

"Should he be a totally healthy DH? Yes, he should be," Leyland said. "You know, he hit some home runs the second half. You don't really know what to expect. You don't know when the time comes, when somebody has lost it a little bit. Obviously, you lose it a little bit at that age, but he hit balls awful hard the second half there and hit quite a few home runs."

If the Tigers were to trade Sheffield, they would likely promote from within to fill his spot in the lineup, probably with Jeff Larish to be the designated hitter. Wednesday's trade of outfielder Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay took away one potential option.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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