All of Tigertown is abuzz about what to do about Jose Valverde and the closer position in Detroit. Everyone has their own plan (many involving a blowtorch), but I think we can all agree now that Papa Grande just isn’t the answer anymore in Detroit. It was worth a shot.
I tip my cap to the staff at Bless You Boys for their stuff so far today. At this link, you can read Rob’s piece on internal options that might work for the team. Here, Patrick does likewise. Phil Coke’s Brain has come up with a handy flowchart to help us decide what the best option is. Some of these plans could work, and some may not. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.
What about help outside the organization, though? While the trade market isn’t as clear now as it likely will be in a month’s time, I thought I’d take a look at the relief options that could be had…for a price.
To do this, we’ll have to identify the teams that are struggling and will be more likely to be selling pieces by the trade deadline. Keep in mind that ideally, we need to acquire more than just a closer. I’d like to see the team get at least two relievers to help stabilize the shaky pen situation. Therefore, I’ve included a couple guys that I wouldn’t necessarily want as closer, but as an additional part of the pen.
Philadelphia Phillies: 31-35 (8 games back)
Philadelphia has two proven, veteran arms in the pen that could provide some help. But they would both come carrying a hefty price tag.
Jonathan Papelbon (32 years old)
0-0, 11 SV, 1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 3 BB, 20 K, 0.71 WHIP
Salary: $13M per year for 2013, 2014, 2015, and a vesting option for 2016
Again, Kurt at BYB has covered Papelbon here. They don't ever sleep at BYB due to the steady diet of cocaine and hookers, I believe. I think the future salary is way too high for a guy that’s due to start regressing as he enters his mid-30’s. If Philly is willing to eat money on the deal, maybe. In addition, I’ve read that he can block trades to a handful of teams, Detroit being one of them. There may be better options to be had out there when considering everything, even if Paps is probably the closest thing to a “sure thing” available in the closers market.
Mike Adams (34 years old)
1-4, 0 SV, 4.22 ERA, 21.1 IP, 11 BB, 22 K, 1.41 WHIP
Salary: $5M in 2013, $7M in 2014, $6M option for 2016
From 2008-2011, Adams was one of the best relievers in the game. But last year and so far this season has shown his skills to apparently be diminishing…especially at that cost. Let’s keep looking.
New York Mets: 24-36 (12 games back)
The Mets have a couple interesting names in their pen and both are quite cheap. That sounds nice, but why would NY be willing to trade cheap, talented players? Depends what the Tigers would offer in return, I guess.
Bobby Parnell (28 years old)
4-3, 9 SV, 2.93 ERA, 27.2 IP, 8 BB, 26 K, 1.08 WHIP
Salary: $1.7M (arb eligible, free agent in 2016)
He’s been a solid reliever for a couple years, but the Mets have little reason to trade him due to his low salary. Jim Leyland would probably prefer a more proven closer, as well, as this is really Parnell’s first shot at being the man.
Brandon Lyon (33 years old)
2-2, 0 SV, 3.12 ERA, 26 IP, 6 BB, 19 K, 1.23 WHIP
Lyon should be familiar to you all since he was a steady reliever for the 2009 Tigers. With the exception of a rough 2011, he’s been his solid ever since. I wouldn’t mind the Tigers going after Lyon for some bullpen depth in exchange for lower level prospects…if the Mets are willing to listen.
Miami Marlins: 19-46 (19.5 games back)
Closer Steve Cishek isn’t worth looking at. But there may be some bullpen help here in the form of ex-MLB closer returning to form.
Chad Qualls (34 years old)
2-0, 0 SV, 2.52 ERA, 25 IP, 5 BB, 18 K, 1.04 WHIP
Qualls saved 24 games for the Diamondbacks in 2009. Since then, he has struggled mightily in the big leagues until 2013. If you think he has discovered the fountain of youth, he may be a cheap gamble to add a veteran arm to the bullpen staff.
Milwaukee Brewers: 27-38 (15 games back)
John Axford went to hell, but the Brew Crew has some interesting options in their pen to pick up the slack. Jim Henderson has come out of nowhere to save 9 games with a 1.66 ERA for Milwaukee. He’s dirt cheap, so I don’t expect them to want to part with him. But a couple other veterans are on the roster that could solve problems in Detroit.
Francisco Rodriguez (31 years old)
1-0, 4 SV, 0.87 ERA, 10.1 IP, 3 BB, 9 K, 0.68 WHIP
Salary: Up to $2M depending on performance
He may not be the K-Rod of old, but he’s off to a decent start in 2013. One of the best relievers in baseball from 2003-2011, Rodriguez and his 298 career saves might still have enough in the tank to bail out the Tiger bullpen this year. It’s worth a shot, I think, as I wanted the Tigers to go after him in the offseason. As a bonus, he’s Venezuelan, so you know he’d be happy with the group currently playing in the D. If Corey Hart comes back from injury, get him to play left field, too, and we can start celebrating the World Series early.
Burke Badenhop (30 years old)
0-2, 1 SV, 3.38 ERA, 29.1 IP, 7 BB, 23 K, 1.06 WHIP
Salary: $1.55M in 2013, (arb eligible, free agent in 2015)
Badenhop was dealt to the Marlins from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera deal. He had his finest MLB season in Tampa last year and has been solid for the Brewers this season. He could be the 7th inning guy we’ve lacked since Octavio Dotel went down.
Chicago Cubs: 25-39 (16 games back)
The Cubs have no one in the pen I would want within a hundred yards of Comerica Park with the exception of lefty James Russell, who doesn’t really fit any needs we have right now.
The NL West is still pretty tightly grouped up and the last place Dodgers have money to burn and are doubtful to be sellers at any point. If the Padres start to fall out of it, the Huston Street rumors will pick up again. But he’s been awful this year and I’d be happier courting the Brewers relievers.
Toronto Blue Jays: 28-36 (11.5 games back)
The Jays have probably been MLB’s most disappointing team this season. Unfortunately, if they’re going to dump salary, it would probably come from the position players instead of the bullpen. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Casey Janssen (31 years old)
1-0, 13 SV, 2.61 ERA, 20.2 IP, 3 BB, 21 K, 0.77 WHIP
Salary: $3.9M in 2013, $4M team option for 2014
Janssen has quietly been one of the AL’s better relievers since 2010 and saved 22 games last season for the Jays. He doesn’t walk anyone and has K’d over a batter an inning for a couple years now. I think he may overall be the most attractive option out there if the Jays are willing to listen.
The Central is the most bunched up division in baseball with even the last place White Sox only 7.5 games back. Even if this weren’t the case, I highly doubt the Tigers would find their ideal closer in their own divison. That is, unless you really have a thing for Glen Perkins, I guess.
Seattle Mariners: 29-38 (11 games back)
The Tigers have a lot of recent trade history with Seattle and this looked to be a great option until about two weeks ago. What happened?
Tom Wilhemsen (29 years old)
0-2, 16 SV, 3.77 ERA, 28.2 IP, 15 BB, 21 K, 1.12 WHIP
Salary: $509K in 2013 (arb eligible, free agent in 2018)
Last year, Tom saved 29 games with a 2.50 ERA and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. This season, he was having another good season finishing May with an ERA of 0.75. Then, of all teams, the Twins and Astros got to him. He’s given up 6 runs in his last two appearances, has blown 4 saves this year, and is only striking out 6.6 per 9. However, he is likely to rebound and has yet to give up a home run this year. The M’s would probably listen, but the guy is dirt cheap and they would have to be impressed with a deal to let him go.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 28-38 (11.5 games back)
If Toronto is baseball’s #1 disappointment, the Halos are #1A. I just can’t see the Angels becoming sellers since payroll doesn’t seem to be a concern of theirs. They’re the Dodgers of the AL, except not really in LA.
Houston Astros: 23-44 (17 games back)
So, as you can see, the market isn’t really great for closers right now. In another month, who knows? With a limited pool to pick from, and everyone in the league knowing the Tigers are desperate for a closer, they team will probably have to give up more than they want for whomever they think is the guy. Maybe they really are better off going with an internal option like Benoit, Rondon, or Smyly as the closer, even if Leyland would hate it. If not, my personal choices in order would be:
1. Casey Janssen, Toronto
2. Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee
3. Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia (Hey, it’s not my money.)
4. Tom Wilhemsen, Seattle
5. Burke Badenhop, Milwaukee
Long shot: Grant Balfour, Oakland. You never know with Billy Beane, even with the A’s in first place.
Get me K-Rod, Badenhop, and Corey Hart all in one swoop and I’ll be a happy camper.
That is, until the next thing goes wrong…