The Detroit Tigers have designated veteran relief pitcher Jose Valverde for assignment, once again making everyone wonder if they have anyone in mind for their closer's spot.
Valverde, who struggled in the 2012 postseason, was brought back to the Tigers two months ago after failing to generate interest from other teams in free agency. Since rejoining Detroit, he failed to regain his form, converting just nine of 12 save opportunities and posting a 5.59 ERA.
The Tigers have 10 days to make a move with Valverde, and GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he hopes the veteran will accept an assignment to Triple-A.
"We have asked him if he would go to Triple-A for us, and try to work
with him there, try to get him straightened out," Dombrowski said. "He
did not give us an answer on that. It really doesn't make a difference
at this point, since we would still have to get waivers at some time. He
was open-minded to it. He didn't say no to it, but he needed some
It's possible Valverde will end up in Triple-A, just because I can't see any other team wanting him. The Tigers, however, are built to win now and can't screw around hoping Valverde will get his act together.
For now, Detroit says it will use Joaquin Benoit in the closer's role. Benoit has four saves this season, to go along with a 1.80 ERA. The long-time setup man has only 17 career saves, so it's unlikely the Tigers look at him as their solution for the rest of the season. Plus, even if Benoit fills the ninth-inning void for Detroit, they still need someone to replace him in the eighth inning.
Could that someone be White Sox right-hander Jesse Crain? The veteran setup man is the best relief pitcher in baseball right now. He earned the win in Saturday's 3-2 Sox victory over Kansas City. It was his 29th consecutive scoreless appearance, a franchise record. Crain's ERA is down to 0.53, and he has 44 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. His contract is up at the end of the season, and with the Sox sitting 10 games below .500, Crain is likely on the trading block.
He'd be a perfect fit for the Tigers, if they are willing to make a trade within their own division. The Sox need not have any reservations about moving Crain to an AL Central rival. If Crain comes back to haunt them in the second half of this season as a member of the Tigers, so what? The Sox aren't going anywhere anyway. The question is whether Detroit would be willing to give up a useful young player, like outfielder Avisail Garcia, or a young pitcher like Drew Smyly or Kaneland High School product Casey Crosby. Trading any of those guys to a division rival could come back to bite the Tigers over the next five years. But, if you're Dombrowski and you're looking to win right now, wouldn't you take the risk?
Another option that's out there for Detroit: Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon. The veteran closed out a World Series as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He's a proven postseason performer. But, he is making some bucks -- a guaranteed $13 million this year, next year and in 2015 as well. That's a big financial commitment, but the Tigers seem to have deep pockets -- a payroll soaring up near $150 million for this season.
Right now, Detroit has more than enough to win the lousy AL Central. The question is whether they have enough to get back to the World Series and win it. My answer is no, unless they fix that bullpen. Crain and Papelbon would be excellent solutions to their problem, if they are willing to take on even more payroll AND trade with a division foe.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (right) is tied for the National League lead in losses with four, even though he has posted a quality start in three of his first five outings and has a respectable ERA of 3.03. Samardzija has just one victory.
Teammate Travis Wood also has just one win. It isn't his fault. He's gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in each of his first four starts of the season. He has a 2.08 ERA. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs stink, so his record is just 1-1.
Carlos Villaneuva is in the same boat. His ERA is 1.53. He's gone seven innings or more in each of his first four starts, giving up two runs or less in each outing. His record? 1-0.
So, Samardzija, Wood and Villaneuva have a combined 2.25 ERA in 13 starts, 11 of which have been quality. Alas, their combined record is 3-5. None of them has more than one win.
You know who does lead the Cubs' pitching staff in wins? Well, that would be Carlos Marmol, the guy who is blowing all the games for these starting pitchers. Marmol has a bloated 4.82 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. But hey, he's 2-1!
Where's the justice in that?
Detroit goes back to Valverde
After his legendary playoff meltdown last year, Jose Valverde is back with the Tigers. He made his 2013 debut Wednesday and earned the save in Detroit's 7-5 win over Kansas City. Believe it or not, he retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth. Of course, two of the three outs were warning track fly balls, but an out is an out, right?
I still think the bullpen is the Achilles heel for the Tigers. They only resigned Valverde because they weren't happy with Phil Coke or any of their other options in the closer's role. Only time will tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if Valverde is washed up. He's fortunate Detroit is a pretty big ballpark. Some of those long flies he gives up will die on the warning track there.
Mr. Solo Home Run
White Sox fans love to complain about their team hitting nothing but solo home runs, but the South Siders have nothing on Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton.
Upton has been red-hot out of the gate this year, connecting for 11 home runs in his first 21 games. Thing is, he has only 16 RBIs.
Upton is just the second player since 1921 to hit 11 home runs and have fewer than 17 RBIs to show for it. The other is Gary Sheffield from the 1996 Florida Marlins.
Isn't anyone getting on base for Upton?