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Tigers could be busy again this offseason

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Tigers could be busy again this offseason

DETROIT (AP) Built to win a World Series this year, the Detroit Tigers came close.

Now they head into what could be another busy offseason for one of baseball's most talked-about franchises.

Although Detroit won the American League pennant, a World Series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants leaves a disappointing taste for the Tigers. And it's important to remember that if not for a late-season swoon by the Chicago White Sox, Detroit might not have made the playoffs at all.

``We ended up just not being the main attraction. We got beat by the Giants,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ``They were the main attraction. We got to the heavyweight fight and we got beat.''

Leyland was managing on a one-year contract. He and general manager Dave Dombrowski tried to forgo any public discussion of the manager's future until after the season, so that's probably the most immediate issue that needs to be resolved.

If Leyland is back, he'll again preside over a core of talent that can match pretty much any in baseball. Justin Verlander may win his second straight Cy Young Award, and he's backed by right-handers Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, who have become imposing parts of the rotation.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is in his prime, and Prince Fielder made a smooth transition to Detroit after signing a $214 million contract in the offseason.

That was the move that signaled to everyone that the Tigers were serious about making a title run right away. It had actually been a quiet start to the offseason before designated hitter Victor Martinez went down with a serious knee injury that would sideline him for the whole 2012 campaign. Then the Tigers acted boldly, signing Fielder.

They didn't cruise to the AL Central title as many expected. Instead, Detroit went 88-74, barely good enough to outlast the White Sox by three games.

But Verlander threw a shutout at Oakland in Game 5 of the division series, and the Tigers swept the New York Yankees in the AL championship series, raising hopes that the team was peaking at exactly the right time.

``We've got to feel proud about what we did this year,'' Cabrera said. ``We went through a lot, down and up.''

After Detroit went quietly in the World Series, questions will surface again on what needs to be done to improve.

``We have more experience now. The same team is going to be here - that's a positive - with more,'' Fielder said. ``A lot of great things happened, but unfortunately it closed out with this. You win some and you lose some - and we lost four.''

Martinez's return could mean the end of Delmon Young's tenure in Detroit, and closer Jose Valverde may not be in the team's plans either after falling out of favor during the postseason.

The Tigers can exercise a team option on shortstop Jhonny Peralta - or perhaps they could go in a different direction and try to improve their infield defense. If Detroit can't bring back right-hander Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly may need to step back into the rotation after a promising rookie year.

Austin Jackson has solidified his hold on the center field spot, but left and right could be upgraded. Andy Dirks had a fine season in the outfield and Quintin Berry added some speed to the lineup, but are the Tigers willing to stick with them and Avisail Garcia in the corner outfield spots?

A lot may depend on owner Mike Ilitch, who is still chasing the franchise's first World Series title since 1984. Ilitch signed off on the huge expenditure for Fielder, and if he's willing to raise the payroll even more, the Tigers may be active from the start this offseason.

It was an uneven year at times for Detroit, but the window of opportunity is still very much open.

``We had a great run,'' left-hander Phil Coke said. ``We just got cold at the wrong time.''

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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