Like sands through the hourglass

I think it’s clear that the Tigers bullpen situation will be an on going saga. It’s been the lead story leading up to Tigerfest and will likely hold that distinction throughout spring training (unless of course someone gets injured in the World Baseball Classic). Without an established and healthy closer available, anyone that is brought in to help the pen wouldn’t be a lock to close games anyways.

Jon Paul Morosi (who’s blogging has been top notch of late) adds some back story to the Matt Joyce and Edwin Jackson trade. It turns out B.J. Upton’s bum shoulder may have been what prevented J.J. Putz from coming to Detroit and opening up the Jackson deal. The Rays knew about Upton’s shoulder problems and didn’t want to leave themselves without a centerfielder.

You may remember that the Tigers’ best chance to acquire Putz came during three-way conversations that included the Rays and Mariners.

Seattle officials wanted a centerfielder, and they did not believe that Detroit prospect Matt Joyce could play the position on an everyday basis. So, the centerfielder would have needed to come from Tampa Bay – and the Mariners wanted Perez.

If Tampa Bay had been willing to trade Perez, it’s likely that Putz would be a Tiger right now. But the Rays were reluctant to do so, for a reason that is now apparent.

So that is how J.J. Putz slipped away. As for the rest of the closer options, the Tigers couldn’t find a fit dollars and interest wise. That leaves the Tigers looking at a group that includes Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz, Jason Isringhausen, and Chad Cordero.

Of the three, Lyon is the only one that is healthy and is probably the safest bet. I don’t know whether he can close (he lost the job last year), but would still be a solid addition to the Tigers pen and wouldn’t cost a draft pick like Juan Cruz would. It sounds like the Tigers are still interested.

Isringhausen and Cordero are both injury reclamation projects. Cordero has the higher upside, and is attracting the attention of 10 teams. Isringhausen is probably easier to snag with 4 teams vying for his services. But Isringhausen is past his prime and really hasn’t been healthy since 2006. I do agree with Morosi that if he comes cheaply it is worth seeing what he can offer. Given the state of the bullpen, quantity is a good thing.

As each of the four players weigh their options, the Tigers do have one thing they can offer to them besides money, a very legitimate shot to be the closer.


  1. jason

    January 16, 2009 at 11:01 am

    A side note- Granderson was on 94.7 WCSX this morning. Good interview. One thing I found interesting is how he mentioned how he was really disappointed to see Joyce leave. If you missed it, I am sure they will have a copy of it on their website.

  2. hawk84

    January 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Isringhausen= Percival
    maybe he can give Tigers what Percival managed to give to Tampa
    took him a while to get healthy, but was pretty effective last year overall
    If Izzy can be had on the cheap . . . go get him.
    Like Bilfer, I do like Lyon and hope Tigers are giving him some serious consideration

  3. Chris Y.

    January 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Just on more reason to like Granderson. Maybe they should give him some say in front office decisions.

    I’d take a team full of Grandersons any day.

  4. Mark in Chicago

    January 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    can Granderson close?

  5. Greg in Tampa

    January 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Why isn’t Joe Biemel not concidered an option for the closers job? How many picks is he worth. He had a great era last season for the Dodgers with electric stuff. Just a thought.

  6. Scott

    January 16, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I love me some Tigers, but, I’m sorry, this off-season has been a huge disapointment. When your big trade is for Edwin Jackson, that’s a problem. To date, the Tigers have done nothing to fix the bullpen and next to nothing to add stability to the rotation. It seems like they’re pinning all of their hopes on guys having bounce back seasons (Verlander, Bondo, Robertson, Willis). I think it’s safe to assume that couple of those guys will be better, but it won’t enough for them to contend. I see them, optimistically, winning 83-87 games.

  7. Greg

    January 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I think we’re overstating the value of draft picks if it prevents signing proven players. Isn’t a proven player better than potential? (Something about a bird in the hand being better than two in the bush.) I would rather have Juan Cruz than all the college relievers we keep drafting.

  8. Chris in Dallas

    January 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Considering how well Dombrowski typically drafts, I’d rather they keep the picks. The value of a draft pick is more than just a potential contribution at the major league level. A talented young player will give a team cost certainty prior to their arbitration years, or they can help add value to the big club via trade. It’s much easier to trade a prospect and get something in return than it is to trade Brandon Inge’s contract.

  9. Coach Jim

    January 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    If you think Rodney’s walks were infuriating, wait until you get a load of Cruz. He walked 14.4% of the batters he faced in 2008, far more than the 9% league average. He’s in a class with Joel and Fernando.

    Scott, why would claim Verlander should bounce back? His ERA and W/L were off, but actually I think luck contributed to this. For example, in 2006, 24.1% of batters faced got hits, where as in 2008 only 22.2% got hits. His control was off by a small margin. In 2006 he walked 7.7%; in 2008 he walked 9.9%. However, combine those and you’ll find in 2006 31.8% of the batters he faced reached base, when in 2008 32.0% reached base. That makes a difference of less than 2 batters over an entire season. I think he was much the same. I guess it just matters which stats you like to guage performance. I hope it’s not a radar gun.

  10. sandy

    January 16, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    What about the Jays” B.J. Ryan. If the Jays are in a rebuilding phase, they have no need for a premiere closer. Probably looking for payroll relief, or a good shortstop or 3b prospect.

    Just off TJ surgery from the previous year, he saved 32 games.

  11. Chris Y.

    January 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Verlander was not the same. His 07 numbers were far superior to 08. Seriously. So a “bounce back” would be a return to pre-08 numbers. Even 06 was superior, given he was a rook and his base stats are far better (ERA, ERA+, WHIP)….even if the 06 team was a contender while the 08 team was a huge flop.

    08 was a “down” year for Verlander. Radar gun or no radar gun.

  12. Coach Jim

    January 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Chris Y, yes, compared to 07 his stats are down, especially the ones I offered. I was simply trying to show that on a batter-by-batter basis he almost mirrored his 06 performance – and we thought that was pretty darn good.

    Sandy, mention Toronto pitchers and I’m all ears. B.J. Ryan is just the biggest name. Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Brandon League, Brian Wolfe, Shawn Camp would all make terrific additions. Maybe the key member of that pitching staff is the coach!

  13. Mr X

    January 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Verlander can be one of the best pitchers in the game. When he’s got it, he’s unhittable. His no hitter was no fluke.

  14. Coach Jim

    January 18, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I wonder if we’ll ever see 100mph from him again. It was odd seeing a 92mph, very Jonesy-like fastball from him.

  15. Yu-Hsing Chen From Taiwan

    January 19, 2009 at 2:50 am

    Verlander’s 08 season probably had a ton to do with him being one of the most abused young pitcher in 06-07 .

    I think he’ll probably bounce back some, but wether it’s to his 06-07 ish level I’m not sure.

  16. Mr X

    January 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Hmm, so Nate Robertson is now in the best shape of his life? Let’s hope so.

  17. Vince in MN

    January 19, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Every year you hear about players coming to camp “in the best shape of their career”, after which many of them fall completely on their face. I don’t really care what kind of shape Mr. Robertson is in, it’s his pitching that I want to be “in shape”.

  18. Mr X

    January 19, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    For the $17 million that we are paying him, his health tells us how serious he is about pitching at higher level for Tigers. If you read the article, he worked on his flexibility more than anything else. Hopefully, Verlander and the rest are on a similar program. Nothing I hate more than out of shape players, like Renteria or Rodney from last season.

  19. Polancofan

    January 20, 2009 at 6:09 am

    The reality is that Verlanders 2006 and 2007 season were the lucky years and he actually was just a tad unlucky in 2008. His fielding independent ERA over the 3 years was about the same. 2006 4.35 FIP ERA, 2007 3.99 FIP ERA, 2008 4.18 FIP ERA. This shows that the Tigers good defense in 2006 and 2007 had alot to do with Verlanders good performace. Almost all his other peripheral stats are inline form year to year with the excetion of 1, his Walk Rate. in 2006 and 2007 his walk rates were 2.90 BB/9 and 2.99 BB/9 respectively. In 2008 that rate ballooned to 3.90 BB/9. he issused a full walk more per 9 innings in 2008. Some of this was jsut form loss of control in the early season.

    There is one more reason for Verlanders poor performance in 2008, and it is him losing speed on his fastball while at the same time throwing his offspeed pitches faster.

    There is a very good article on fangraphs talking about Verlander and his loss of velocity.

  20. Chris in Dallas

    January 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve got every reason to believe Verlander (provided health) bounces back and puts up 15 or so wins and an ERA below 4. In 2008 a couple of things stand out. The first being lack of command (as evidenced by his 3.90 BB/9, up from 2.99). If he gets back to throwing more strikes, he’ll be OK. He was kinda unlucky in that he posted a .305 BABiP. Otherwise, he gave up fewer line drives than he ever has (17.7%) while reducing the # of HR he’s given up for the third straight year. He lost some velo (injury?), but not a terribly alarming amount – an average of 93.6 vs. 94.8 the previous year. All signs point to a bounceback if he’s healthy.

  21. Vince in MN

    January 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Hopefully Mr X is correct and the entire staff, and not just Robertson, are working on flexibility this winter, and will show up to camp in the best condition of their careers.

  22. ryan

    January 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Apologies for being off topic, but Jon Heyman is reporting the following signings:

    Laird – $2.8 mil
    Edwin – $2.2 mil
    Seay – $1.3 mill
    Zumaya – $0.735 mil

    Everybody but Verlander is signed now, I believe. A sign that a multi-year contract is being worked out?