Michiganders, we have a HUGE problem on our hands. A grande problem, if you will. Jose Valverde is the current closer for your Detroit Tigers (it’s still surreal for me to even type that) and he’s picking up right where he left off last October, train wreck wise.
Since rejoining the Tigers on April 24, Valverde has saved nine games and blown three. Multiply those numbers by five, which would more or less equate to a full MLB season for a closer on a playoff team, and that would be 45 saves and 15 blown. I don’t know if that cuts it for you guys, but I can’t have a guy on my squad single-handedly costing my team 15 games.
Not to pile on (or to pile on on purpose, whatever), but Valverde has also given up five home runs since May 31. A closer who gives up home runs is like a cleanup hitter that has no power. It’s not a good baseball formula. By comparison, the closers that lead the American League in saves this season, Mariano Rivera (23), Jim Johnson (23) and Joe Nathan (20) have given up six home runs, all season, combined.
My point is, it’s time to hand Valverde his walking papers and designate him for assignment once and for all. His splitter doesn’t split anymore and his 93-mph fastball is batting practice material for major league hitters. If Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski doesn’t have the cojones to bring up Bruce Rondon (0.74 ERA, 11 saves through 24 Triple-A games this season) and hand him the closer gig, then it’s time to make a deal, NOW.
On this day and this moment in time, there is a perfect storm brewing from Detroit to Philadelphia. The Phillies currently sit 7.5 games back of the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves and are fresh off of a five-game losing streak. Jonathan Papelbon, of course, closes for them. Papelbon still has two years remaining on his four-year, $50 million deal that he signed back in November of 2011. Surely we could take that off of Philadelphia’s hands.
But I’m going to take it a step further.
They also have a starting pitcher named Cliff Lee. He’s dominating this season, as usual, and is on the hook to make $50 million over the course of the next two seasons, with a $26 million player option in 2016. The Phillies ain’t trying to hear that!
Meanwhile, Mike Illitch has that Little Caesar’s money that he seems to be hell-bound on trading in for a Pennant. Enter Rick Porcello and Nick Castellanos.
Porcello is enjoying the best stretch of his career thus far, boasting a 3.07 ERA to go along with a 1.00 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 43.2 innings since May 2. He still holds substantial value in the National League, considering his ability to play off of his infield defense and get hitters out via the ground out, and now is as good a time as ever to sell him high. Castellanos, meanwhile, is hitting .302 with 10 homers and 38 RBI through 68 Triple-A games. Those are solid, albeit, modest numbers for the number one hitting prospect in the Tigers farm system. But after winning the All-Star Futures Game MVP last season, his name also still holds some weight with MLB GM’s. Plus, the Phillies are already paying Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay a kajillion dollars a piece and are trotting 36-year-old Michael Young out to third base every day. Castellanos could be their long-term answer at the hot corner.
Winning a championship(s) in the Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera era needs to happen at all costs, so package Ricky and Nicky and ship them off to Philly. Some reports say Cliff Lee wants to win now and might be open for a trade anyway, while ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Motor City is a possible landing spot for Papelbon.
And don’t tell me that spending obscene amounts of money to fill a void is something Illitch is against. When Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending injury two winters ago he threw over $200 million at Prince Fielder instead of taking the journeymen/minor league route to solve the problem.
By taking on Lee and Papelbon’s contracts you are basically conceding Max Scherzer and Doug Fister when their respective deals end, which a lot of Detroiters might not be too keen on. But there’s no guarantee you’re going to re-sign both, or even one of those guys, especially with Cabrera’s extension talks looming. So why not lock up two pitchers with massive amounts of postseason success on their resumes?
Besides, a rotation of Verlander, Lee, Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly and Jose Alvarez (three lefties), with Papelbon at the back-end of the bullpen doesn’t look too too bad going into 2014, does it?