Talking about things like the “DETROIT TIGERS CLOSER OPTIONS” drives traffic so I’ll jump on the bandwagon. But, instead of just complaining about Valverde and bringing up a Todd Jones reference or two, I want to look at the most likely scenarios that will play out for the Tigers.
First, Jose Valverde will not be the closer by the end of June. Valverde is due $500,000 bonuses starting after the 25th game closed and every 5 games he ends after that. It does not have to be a successful save, just the last pitcher pitching for the Tigers. He is at 18 right now.
Mr. Illitch is not cheap with his money when it comes to the Tigers, allowing Dave Dombrowski to spend to win, but when it comes to spending to lose, he will put a stop to this quickly.
The benefit of cutting ties with Valverde today is that there is not an obvious internal option available to Jim Leyland. Despite Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly both pitching very well out of the bull pen, he doesn’t think either can be a regular closer. So he will not use them. Yes, this is an issue with a stubborn manager, but it is where we are right now.
However, the benefit being, if Valverde is DFA’d and Leyland has no option but to go to Benoit, Smyly and Coke (no one wants that but its Leyland, he will try Coke agian) for a few weeks. During this time Dombrowski will try to find a new closer on the trade market but, one of the three may just prove Leyland wrong and provide that internal option and no trade would be needed for a “closer” maybe just bullpen help, like Kevin Gregg or Jesse Crain to add an extra, veteran arm.
But, during that time, if the same shakiness continues, Dombrowski will have had time to evaluate the bullpen and the relief pitcher market, identifying the candidates that provide the most value for the fairest price.
The most likely available closers to the Tigers, in their price range:
- Houston Street, who is not pitching very well in San Diego
- Rafael Betancourt, pitching decently well in Colorado, with out many save opportunities
- Kevin Gregg, who is available and useful either as a closer or extra arm in the bullpen
- Ernesto Frieri, the Angels closer, despite their reluctance to put him in that role, think younger Jose Valverde
- Steve Cishek, the Marlins closer, has pitched better than expected once put into the role but has a lack of experience
Those are the only real external options the Tigers are looking at. Jonathon Papelbom has two years left on an expensive contract and the Phillies still believe they can compete the next few years, so he won’t likely be moved.
Casey Janssen from Toronto may not be moved at all due to the Blue Jays 8 game winning streak and “all in” mentality at the beginning of the year and Jose Reyes coming off the DL.
And despite the fantastic abilities of Glen Perkins, he is a Minnesota native, pitching well for the Twins, a fan favorite, a division foe and he is still arbitration eligible so, he won’t be cheap in terms of prospects needed. Same goes for Jesse Crain, the White Sox may charge a premium to a division rival.
If the Tigers were to make a move for both Betancourt and Gregg in the coming weeks, this would provide them an extra option and an additional set up man with experience. The Tigers would then turn the bullpen form a weakness into a strength with Benoit and Smyly pitching well in the 7th and 8th innings, Coke and Downs as “lefties only” match ups.
Come August 1st, the Tigers will have some new faces in the bullpen and Jose Valverde will not be one of them. Dombrowski will not be moving Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia in these deals and none of the pitchers he will go after will even just top pitching prospect Jake Thompson.
Dombrowski will add a veteran arm or two and based on Smyly and Benoit’s unofficial tryout at closer, hopefully he will only need to add one arm.