Tigers, Lyon agree on 1 year, $4.25M

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers compiled a list of candidates to bolster their bullpen this offseason.

"It's been in my pocket all winter," team president Dave Dombrowski said Saturday.

The list is now filed away because the Tigers and right-handed pitcher Brandon Lyon agreed to a $4.25 million, one-year contract.

The Tigers desperately needed a closer to replace the retired Todd Jones and compete with Fernando Rodney. But Detroit wasn't going to bid for free agent Francisco Rodriguez, who signed a $37 million deal with the New York Mets, or give Kerry Wood the $20-plus million he got from the Cleveland Indians.

"[Lyon] was next on our list after those guys were gone," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

Along with his salary, Lyon can earn $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Lyon saved 26 games in 31 chances with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then was replaced by Chad Qualls as their closer late last season.

He had a 2.43 ERA before the All-Star break and an 8.46 ERA after, ballooning with a 12.27 ERA in August.

"Stats can be misleading, especially when you talk about a guy in the bullpen," Dombrowski said. "We saw a lot of him because we have a lot of scouts who live in Arizona. His stuff was still good. He was used a lot and it caught up with him sometimes.

"I don't look at him as a dominant-type closer, but our people think he can pitch at the back end of the pen."

Dombrowski said Lyon had multiyear offers from other teams to be a setup man, but chose to pitch in Detroit because he likes his chances to end games on the mound.

"He was not promised the closer's job," Dombrowski said. "He think he's going to win the job and that's why he wanted to come here.

"He think he can step forward and be that guy. Time will tell."

Lyon began his major league career in 2001 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had nine saves for the Boston Red Sox in 2003 and 14 for the Diamondbacks in 2005, his first of four years with them.

The Tigers also agreed to a minor league deal with right-hander Scott Williamson. He will have a shot at the bullpen if he can approach the form he had in 1999, when he was an All-Star and won the NL Rookie of the Year award while pitching for Cincinnati.

"He said for the first time in years, he's healthy," Dombrowski said.

Williamson had Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery in 2005 and was limited the next season. San Francisco released him early in spring training last year and he went on to pitch in 15 minor league games. He spent his first four-plus seasons with the Reds and pitched for Boston, the Chicago Cubs, San Diego and Baltimore.

Leyland is hoping Williamson can rejuvenate his career with the Tigers.

"Stranger things have happened," he said.