Yesterday’s (6/12/13) blown save to the Royals was Valverde’s 3rd of the season against 9 saves and a 4.15 ERA. Not desirable numbers for a closer on a championship-caliber team. What makes Valverde more concerning is his inability to throw anything but fastballs, which is not good enough to rely on. Mid-90’s with no movement – any big leaguer will hit that hard – and they have.
The best in-house option is Joaquin Benoit. Tiger manager Jim Leyland seems to feel he’s old and fragile. When the Tigers signed Benoit to a 3-year deal in 2010, it was with the intention of him taking over the closer role when Valverde was done as a Tiger. His propensity to give up home runs last year may have scared them away from that idea, but he’s been pitching very well this year. (1-0, 1.93 ERA, 33Ks/28IP, 8 holds, 1 sv) He certainly has the “stuff” to do it. It’s puzzling why he doesn’t get a chance. Benoit may not be the long term option, but he deserves a shot and they can keep their prospects.
It appears that the Tigers are more likely to look elsewhere. Some of the potential targets are in the AL Central, but I don’t see the Royals, Indians or White Sox helping the Tigers out. Especially the Royals, who have the best chance of challenging the Tigers. With their apparent need to have a closer with a track record, here is my list of potential trade targets:
Francisco Rodriguez – Milwaukee If the Brewers fall officially out of contention, they’ll be ready to make moves. K-Rod is a legendary closer who’s nearing the end of his career, but is pitching great, despite rejoining the team only about a month ago. (4 Saves, 1-0, 0.87 ERA with 9 Ks/10.1 IP)
Kevin Gregg – Cubs Gregg is much maligned over his career, but is having a great season. The Cubs are going nowhere, so they’d probably move him, but he could revert to his normal serviceable-minus self at any moment. (7 Svs, 2-0, 0.96 ERA, 21 Ks/18.2 IP)
Carlos Marmol – Cubs Despite his previous success, he’s done nothing but struggle over the last year and a half. The Tigers would be better off going with Al Alburquerque, who is a Marmol clone without the baggage of flaming out. (5.18 ERA, 2 Svs, 2-3, 27 Ks/24.1 IP)
Steve Cishek – Miami The Marlins have stated that they won’t trade Cishek, but as bad as the Marlins are, they might reconsider. He’s not a lights out closer, but he’s performed pretty well. Even though he’s young, he’s not the type of guy you rebuild a bullpen around. But he would be a great addition to an established team like the Tigers. (7 Svs, 4.00, 1-4, 24 Ks/27 IP)
Drew Storen – Washington The Nationals are not having the year they expected, especially after a great 2012. Floating around .500, they may be inclined to move some players as sellers or an effort to plug some holes. Storen is a former closer (43 saves in 2011). He could be expendable. (1 Sv, 4.85, 0-1, 24 Ks/26 IP)
Rafael Betancourt – Colorado Betancourt is currently on the DL with a groin injury. In the meantime, top prospect Rex Brothers has taken over as closer. The time may be now for Brothers, as he’s been lights out this year. Betancourt, who is a reliable, if not spectacular closer, could be available. (11 Svs, 3.20, 1-3, 22 Ks/19.2 IP)
Part of what will determine who the Tigers go after depends on which prospects they’re willing to let go of. Outside of Nick Castellanos, I don’t think anyone is untouchable. But it’s becoming clear that if the Tigers have a chance for a world championship, they need to fix their closer situation.