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Jose Valverde Rumors
Righty Jose Valverde has been suspended for eighty games, the league announced today. He was punished for testing positive for stanozolol, a banned performance-enhancing substance.
Valverde played most recently at the Triple-A level in the Nationals organization, throwing 26 1/3 innings of 2.39 ERA ball. He struck out 7.2 and walked 1.0 batters per nine in that span, but ultimately exercised an opt-out clause and took his release. Valverde spent the spring with the Padres but elected free agency when he wasn’t added to the active roster to start the season.
Once the Tigers’ closer, Valverde lost the gig during a rough 2013 season. He opened 2014 with the Mets, but was again cut loose after struggling. All told, Valverde has only thrown forty innings, putting up a 5.63 ERA, since the end of the 2012 campaign.
It already seemed that the 12-year big league veteran could be near the end of the line, particularly given that he had yet to sign since being released nearly a month ago. Certainly, the suspension will make it much more difficult for him to find another opportunity.
While Valverde never got the call to the big league club, he did put up some solid numbers over his time at Triple-A. Over 26 1/3 innings, he owns a 2.39 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against just 1.0 BB/9. The latter number is particularly notable, given that Valverde has walked nearly four batters for every nine innings pitched over his lengthy MLB career.
It has been a few years since Valverde has been a productive pen arm at the game’s highest level. He’s been hit hard since a three-year run as a quality late-inning arm for the Tigers, during which he tossed 204 1/3 innings of 3.00 ERA ball. Nevertheless, given his results in the minors, it would not be surprising to see the 37-year-old pop up onto an active roster late in the season.
The Nationals have reached agreement on a minor league deal with righty Jose Valverde, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported (Twitter links) that an arrangement was in the works.
The veteran reliever spent the spring with the Padres, working to a 4.15 ERA over 8 2/3 innings while striking out eight and walking only one batter. But with San Diego carrying a loaded pen that was not due to include him, Valverde opted out of his deal.
Valverde enjoyed a long run of success as a closer earlier in his career, but has struggled to get outs over the past two seasons. Between his time with the Tigers in 2013 and his run with the Mets last year, Valverde has tossed 40 frames of 5.63 ERA ball. He has posted 9.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 in that stretch, but has been victimized by the long ball.
Metrics suggest he has been a bit unlucky as well, though only SIERA sees his work as being above average across 2013-14. All said, the Nats will presumably look to get what they can out of the 37-year-old as they seek to deal with performance issues and injuries to Craig Stammen and Casey Janssen.
12:28pm: Valverde tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune (Twitter link) that his agent has informed him that a new deal may come quickly. Given the fact that Valverde opted out of his deal (as opposed to being released) and has pitched reasonably well this spring, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s drawing interest from other clubs.
Valverde enjoyed a long stretch as a quality reliever who racked up a lot of saves. But his struggles over the past two years have been rather pronounced: over 40 innings, he owns a 5.63 ERA. Though the veteran still has a useful K:BB ratio in that stretch (9.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9), he has been exceedingly home run prone. Among the major ERA estimators, only SIERA values Valverde as an average or better reliever since 2013.
It seemed at one point that Valverde could be headed toward a job with the Pads. He has maintained quite a bit of fastball velocity into his later years, but reportedly was working into and above the mid-90s at times this spring. He allowed four earned runs in 8 2/3 spring innings, but fanned eight while walking only one batter.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.
- MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
- One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.
Valverde made the Mets’ Opening Day roster last season, but after a combustive two months in their bullpen, the Mets released him in late May. He has struggled in each of the past two seasons, posting ERAs over five in both and giving up ten home runs in 40 total innings. Valverde’s last full season came in 2012, when he posted a 3.78 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 for the Tigers. The 36-year-old has 288 career saves with the Diamondbacks and Astros in addition to the Tigers and Mets.
The 29-year-old Elbert was a first-round pick of the Dodgers all the way back in 2004. He had two effective seasons of relief for them in 2011 and 2012, but had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and missed most of the next two years. The Dodgers outrighted him in early November, and he became a free agent.
The 30-year-old Mateo pitched for Triple-A Iowa in 2014, posting a 3.86 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of relief. He last appeared in the big leagues with the Cubs in 2011.
The Mets have released Jose Valverde and fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports (Twitter links). Vic Black is expected to replace Valverde on the Mets’ active roster, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. Hudgens will be replaced by minor-league hitting coordinator Lamar Johnson.
Valverde allowed four runs while blowing a save in the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Pirates Monday. He had a 5.66 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks in 20 2/3 innings this season after the Mets signed him to a minor-league deal in February. The 36-year-old has also pitched for the Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers in his 12-year big-league career, racking up 288 saves. His career began heading downhill with the Tigers in 2012, and he posted a 5.59 ERA in 19 1/3 innings before being released by Detroit last season. His fastball has lost velocity over the years, falling from 95.8 MPH in 2009 to 92.8 MPH in 2013 and 2014.
Hudgens had served as the Mets’ hitting coach since 2011. The Mets’ offense currently ranks 10th in the National League in runs scored and has endured poor seasons from Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, as well as disappointing performances from newcomers Curtis Granderson and Chris Young.
THURSDAY: Parnell tells Rubin that team doctors have told him there's a 50-50 chance that he will require Tommy John surgery. Parnell adds that he might not wait the full six weeks described by Alderson yesterday and could have an answer within two weeks. He would like to have the surgery sooner rather than later, if necessary, in order to be ready as early as possible in 2015.
WEDNESDAY: Because the tear occurred in a thicker part of the ligament, Parnell may be able to avoid a Tommy John procedure, GM Sandy Alderson told reporters, including ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin (links to Twitter). Parnell will go through a program to see if he can stay free of surgery, with a final determination in six weeks time.
In the meantime, Alderson said the club will "continue to monitor" free agent relievers but will wait to see how "things shake out" with his current options before making any moves.
TUESDAY: One day into the season, the Mets are already facing the prospect of an extended absence for their closer, as the team announced that Bobby Parnell has an incomplete tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow (All links to Twitter). Parnell will be shut down completely for two weeks and has already received a platelet-rich plasma injection in the elbow, but surgery is a possible outcome. In the wake of the injury, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the Mets "will consider all options," including veteran free agent relievers.
The free agent market contains three names that come with significant experience as a Major League closer; Ryan Madson, Joel Hanrahan and Kevin Gregg are all unsigned, though Madson and Hanrahan are each working their way back from arm injuries (Frank Francisco is also available, but for the time being, I'll assume that ill-fated matchup won't be revisited). As Martino notes in the aforementioned tweet, New York watched Hanrahan throw this winter but didn't elect to send scouts to Madson's showcase.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that D'Backs right-hander J.J. Putz is "very available" in trades, but he points out that the Mets have already tried that avenue as well in the past (the results were less than spectacular). Sherman hears from scouts that Putz isn't throwing well, and beyond that is the fact that he's set to earn $7MM this season. In a second tweet, he speculates that the Mets won't react by making a big move; the team didn't prioritize the position in the offseason and overvaluing the closer's role isn't GM Sandy Alderson's way, Sherman opines.
For the time being, Jose Valverde will step into the ninth inning for the Mets. After signing a minor league deal this offseason, Valverde had a solid Spring Training and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his first game with the Mets yesterday, including the escape of an inherited bases-loaded jam. The Parnell injury has potentially lucrative ramifications for Valverde, who can reportedly earn up to $1.5MM on top of his $1MM salary based on appearances and games finished (full breakdown here).
Alderson tells Marc Carig of Newsday that a move to the bullpen for Jenrry Mejia isn't an option (Twitter link). Other internal options for the Mets could include Jeurys Familia, Vic Black (though he struggled mightily in Spring Training) and Kyle Farnsworth. For further updates on Parnell and other closer-related news throughout the season, you can follow @closernews on Twitter.
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- Reliever Jose Valverde will make the Mets Opening Day roster, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. The 36-year-old will occupy a 40-man slot. Last year, in 19 1/3 innings with the Tigers, Valverde threw to a 5.59 ERA. But he allowed only three earned runs in nine innings this spring, and more importantly struck out seven against just one walk.
- The Indians have informed reliever Scott Atchison that he will be on the Opening Day roster, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports on Twitter. Accordingly, Atchison will need to be placed on the club's 40-man. The soon-to-be 38-year-old was non-tendered by the Mets before hooking on with Cleveland on a minor league deal. He had a strong spring, allowing just two runs and one walk in eight innings while striking out eight batters.
SUNDAY: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the breakdown of Valverde's performance bonuses: $75K for appearing in 40, 45, and 50 games; $100K for appearing in 55, 60, and 65 games; $100K for finishing 30 and 35 games; $250K for finishing 40 and 45 games; and $300K for finishing 50 games. Valverde also has a March 26 opt-out, tweets Sherman.
WEDNESDAY, 10:51am: Valverde can also earn up to $1.5MM in performance bonuses, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
9:11am: The Mets have signed right-hander Jose Valverde to a minor league deal that contains an invitation to Major League Spring Training, the team announced on Twitter. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (also via Twitter) that the Praver/Shapiro client will earn $1MM if he makes the club.
This marks the second former closer that the Mets have signed to a minor league deal in the past week, as the club has also invited Kyle Farnsworth to camp. Valverde is the more accomplished closer of the two, but his recent struggled are well-documented. "Papa Grande" posted a 3.00 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and 110 saves for the Tigers from 2010-12. However, he began to unravel late in the 2012 season and in the 2012 playoffs. He would eventually return to Detroit in May 2013, briefly solidifying the closer role before allowing six home runs in eight appearances. The end result was a 5.59 ERA that caused the Tigers to designate Valverde for assignment.
Valverde adds another experienced arm to the Mets' bullpen depth, and he'll try to break camp with the team in order to join a bullpen that figures to be headlined by Bobby Parnell and young flamethrower Vic Black.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.