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Jose Valverde Rumors
The Tigers are eight games above .500, feature a powerful lineup and dominant rotation, and seem as good or better than last year's World Series entrant. According to Fangraphs, Detroit projects to finish with the second-best record in baseball. But the team has one much-discussed weakness: the back of the bullpen. Long rumored to be exploring trade options to fill the closer role, the Tigers will generate even more discussion given the team's recent shedding of incumbent Jose Valverde and the approaching trade deadline. Here are a few notes on that and other topics:
- Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski insists that, in spite of designating Valverde for assignment, the team "still think[s] he can close games for us." As Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press reports, the team hopes Valverde will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A.
- In the same piece, Sharp offers that the true purpose of Dombrowski's supportive words is to position the club on the trade market. According to Sharp, Dombrowski is confident that the team can take the division even if it bides its time solving its 9th-inning dilemna. By playing it slow, then, the GM is trying to avoid being forced to overpay for a big-name arm well in advance of the trade deadline.
- While the closer role will always get more attention, the Tigers are also looking for better consistency amongst their setup men. The club recently recalled Al Alburquerque, who has dominating stuff but struggles to control it. In his first outing since returning to the big club, his control issues featured prominently. The performance of the club's middle relief/setup corps could also factor into its trade deadline plans.
- Meanwhile, the Tigers have enjoyed incredible production from starter Max Scherzer, who rates in the top five league-wide as measured by fWAR. (In fact, look at the rest of the list and you will notice that the club has four of the league's top twelve starters by that metric.) As FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi writes, Scherzer's breakout has set him up for a big payday. Agent Scott Boras says that Scherzer is "one of the top pitchers in the game," and will enter a "changed" pitching market "when [he] hits it" after 2014. With Scherzer posting remarkable strikeout totals and superior results, he will not only get a nice arbitration raise next year but has greatly raised the price of a hypothetical extension. Detroit may regret not taking up Ben Nicholson-Smith's suggestion before the 2012 season that a four-year, $30MM extension was a fair target. Now, the team will have to decide whether it can afford to lock down both Scherzer and fellow 29-year-old starter Doug Fister, with long-term deals already on the books for Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.
5:58pm: A National League source told Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that the Mets didn't make an offer to Valverde either.
4:31pm: WFAN's Sweeny Murti tweets that Yankees GM Brian Cashman denied the claims made by Valverde. Cashman said that not only did the Yankees not make an offer, they didn't even have discussions with Valverde and Boras.
3:55pm: Jose Valverde is back in a familiar role as the Tigers' closer, but he could've been in a very different situation had wanted to this offseason. The 35-year-old told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports today that the Yankees and Mets both offered him a Major League contract this offseason (Twitter link).
Neither the Mets or Yankees wound up adding much in the way of bullpen help on Major League deals. The Mets reportedly had interest in Brian Wilson at various points throughout the winter. Ultimately, they elected to sign Brandon Lyon and add Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins on minor league commitments. The Yankees, meanwhile, re-signed Mariano Rivera and swung a deal with the Mariners to land right-hander Shawn Kelley.
Valverde signed a minor league contract with the Tigers in early April which was re-worked into a Major League deal yesterday. The Scott Boras client clearly would not have been a candidate to close for the Yankees with Rivera in the fold, though it seems possible that he could've gotten some save opportunities for the Mets.
The Tigers have officially added Jose Valverde to their roster following the signing of a one-year, Major League contract. Valverde's deal reportedly contains a base salary of roughly $2MM with another $3MM available via incentives. The Scott Boras client will serve as the team's closer.
The 35-year-old Valverde initially signed a minor league contract with the club in early April that had a May 5 opt-out clause, but that contract didn't include a Major League portion, so the two sides have since worked out a Major League pact.
Valverde is the last of MLBTR's Top 50 Free Agents to sign. He rejoins the Tigers' organization after serving as their closer for the past three seasons. Valverde struggled mightily in the 2012 postseason, and the team did not attempt to re-sign him. Aside from picking up the club option on Octavio Dotel, Dombrowski did little with his bullpen over the offseason. Relief prospect Bruce Rondon was talked up as the team's potential closer, but he was demoted to the minors at the end of Spring Training (he's since been called up). The team entered the season with the dreaded closer-by-commitee but had seen Joaquin Benoit emerge as the primary ninth-inning option prior to the Valverde signing.
Valverde posted a 3.78 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 0.39 HR/9 in 69 innings last year. He saved 35 games in 40 tries, but saw his strikeout rate plummet from years past.
Valverde's signing marks the conclusion of MLBTR's Free Agent Prediction Contest, and the winner is Josh Larabee with 20 of 50 correct. I don't think anyone has come close to batting .400 in the past, and Josh won $500 for his excellent prognosticating skills.
Patrick Reusse of 1500 ESPN was the first to break the news of the minor league signing (on Twitter). Following the team's announcement of the Major League contract, MLB.com's Jason Beck wrote that it would be an incentive-based deal, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports added the salary information (Twitter link).
Charlie Wilmoth and Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The latest out of baseball's Central divisions…
- Pirates closer Jason Grilli told ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider required) that he wouldn't trade his past trials and tribulations in his career because they've made his new role that much sweeter. Grilli relishes the chance to be "The Guy" at the end of games, and he was encouraged last season by then-teammate Joel Hanrahan telling him, "Grilli, you can definitely do this."
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum recently said he'd be lying if the team's early struggles didn't have him thinking about his job security, but GM Jed Hoyer told ESPN's Jesse Rogers that Sveum's job is secure. "[Job security] shouldn't be what he's thinking about in the least," Hoyer told Rogers in voicing his support.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed reporters regarding Jose Valverde yesterday (video link), noting that a 40-man roster move is on the horizon to get Valverde on the club. Dombrowski said he's pleased to have Valverde back in the fold and that no Triple-A time was necessary given his track record and how his stuff looked at Class A Lakeland. Valverde is throwing 93-95 mph and is throwing better than he was last season, per Dombrowski.
Jim Callis of Baseball America presented the assigned bonus pool values for each club's selections over the first ten rounds of the upcoming amateur draft. This breakdown provides additional detail on MLB's allocation of bonus pool money by pick. Here are some American League notes:
- One player off to a happier start to his season is Ervin Santana, who was acquired by the Royals from the Angels after a disappointing 2012. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star addressed the possibility of an extension for Santana, who will be a free agent after this season. Dutton downplayed that likelihood, reasoning that if Santana keeps throwing well, he will be set up for a large free-agent payday that the Royals probably cannot afford to buy out. If he falters, the Royals likely have more attractive in-house options for their 2014 rotation.
- Dutton also threw cold water on the idea of a deal sending Mike Moustakas and a prospect to the Padres for fellow third baseman Chase Headley. Headley's current and future salary levels are likely too high for the Royals, says Dutton, whereas Moustakas will likely not hit arbitration until 2015.
- The Mariners, like the Royals, hope to join the contending ranks in the immediate future. As Dave Cameron writes for U.S.S. Mariner, the team's efforts should be aided by an increased payroll supported by increased television revenues. The team had an opt out clause in its broadcast licensing deal with ROOT Sports. Instead of simply negotiating another licensing arrangement, the Mariners bought a majority stake in ROOT. The club's ownership of its own regional sports network will allow it effectively to shield TV dollars from MLB's revenue sharing arrangement.
- While next year's free agent market may not present as good a buying opportunity for the M's as in years past, Cameron explores how revenue imbalance will still make its mark. MLB may not permit large cash transfers in trades, but Cameron says that creative extend-and-trade scenarios could effectively allow large revenue clubs to flex their economic muscles.
- The Doug Fister trade may have brought controllable, younger players to Seattle at the time it was completed, but Larry Stone of the Seattle Times agrees with MLBTR's Steve Adams that the deal went sour for the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik. Ultimately, while there is still some potential upside to be realized by the M's, it seems likely that the Tigers will remain the winners of that swap.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who brought the now-29-year-old Fister to Detroit, commented today on the contract that brought former closer Jose Valverde back in the organization's fold. According to MLB.com's Jason Beck, Dombrowski said that the opt out clause in Valverde's deal can be exercised on May 8. The original date was May 5, as originally reported, but it was moved back due to delays in getting Valverde to extended spring training. The team appears to be in no rush to decide whether to elevate Valverde to the big league club.
Baseball America has released this useful chart showing where each of baseball's 100 best prospects is currently playing. Elsewhere around baseball:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says the club's deal with Jose Valverde does not include a Major League side, reports Jason Beck of MLB.com. Dombrowski acknowledged that he "talked extensively" with Valverde agent Scott Boras "throughout the last couple months" about the Tigers' former closer, in spite of reports that the Tigers were not interested. The team decided that the deal was beneficial because "if this makes us the best team, then, great, and if it doesn't, then we don't have any commitments."
- The Rays organization is fully stocked with major league ready talent after its offseason moves, writes Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Manager Joe Maddon says that the club "sent some Major League players back to Triple-A this time," which is "not so good for them and good for us." In particular, Chastain cites players such as pitchers Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Colome, along with hitters Wil Myers and Tim Beckham, as ready to step in on the MLB level. According to Maddon, "if anything were to happen, we have the guys in tow."
- White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo, another Boras client, appears content to sit back and let his agent decide whether or not to seek an extension, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Viciedo says he has already been "very privileged" to have signed a four-year, $10MM deal as an international free agent from Cuba. The 24-year-old will reach arbitration eligibility in 2015, unless he qualifies for Super Two status.
- Both the Mariners and Yankees made bad decisions relating to a player named Wells, writes ESPN.com's Dave Szymborski (insider sub. req'd). Szymborski opines that Seattle's decision to go with Jason Bay over Casper Wells and New York's acquisition of Vernon Wells are among the worst moves of the spring.
In 2008, Jose Valverde and Francisco Rodriguez combined for 106 saves. Even last year, Valverde saved 35 and K-Rod whiffed a batter per inning. Both relievers are represented by Scott Boras, who tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports he expects to find new teams for the pair soon.
Valverde has lost 18 pounds and is throwing 93 to 95 miles per hour in bullpen sessions, Boras tells Rosenthal. Valverde, 35, averaged 93.4 miles per hour on his fastball last year, but posted a career-worst 6.3 K/9. He's the lone remaining unsigned player among our Top 50 Free Agents. Rodriguez, pitching for the Brewers, received fewer than 20 save opportunities for the first time since 2004. Still just 31, he too could be a useful component in someone's bullpen. I know the Boras Corporation has training facilities and such, but it seems it would have been helpful for both relievers to participate in Spring Training with a team. Rodriguez, at least, recorded seven outs in the World Baseball Classic.
MLB relievers combined to post a 3.66 ERA with nearly one strikeout per inning pitched (8.4 K/9) in 2012. Here are the latest relief rumors as teams consider reinforcements for the 2013 season…
- Free agent right-hander Jose Valverde won’t pitch for the Dominican Republic at the beginning of the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but he could pitch for the team later on, agent Scott Boras told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Valverde, who’s missing the early part of the tournament due to the illness of a family member, is “ready to throw,” according to Boras.
- Meanwhile, Valverde’s former team seems intent on younger solutions. Tigers management wants Bruce Rondon to take on a significant role in 2013, but the rookie reliever has encountered control issues early on, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. "We're not looking to add anyone," GM Dave Dombrowski said.
- Detroit manager Jim Leyland said bringing Valverde back has not been discussed, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports (on Twitter).
- David Price recently said he’d be hesitant to sign a long-term deal with the Yankees because of their facial hair policy. However, the left-hander said today that he wouldn’t rule out playing for New York at some point, Newsday’s David Lennon reports (Twitter links). No doubt realizing his leverage will increase if the Yankees are interested, Price said he might not even have a beard by the time he hits free agency.
- The Tigers haven’t considered re-signing Jose Valverde for a moment, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports (on Twitter). The reliever will have the chance to boost his free agent stock in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
- Edwin Jackson, one of the top free agent pitchers of the 2012-13 offseason, said his choice came down to the Cubs and Indians, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. The Indians were aggressive in free agency this winter, signing Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn while pursuing others such as Jackson. The right-hander pitched on a one-year deal in 2012 and is pleased to have signed a multiyear deal this time. “It’s always a good feeling to have security," he said.
2:10pm: A source tells Newsday's Marc Carig Valverde is only on the Mets' radar if there's an injury in camp and a need arises.
1:25pm: The Mets expect Valverde to receive a big league deal somewhere else, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. If that doesn't happen, however, they may consider him later, but not so much now.
12:54pm: A team insider characterized the chances of the Mets signing Valverde as "really, really unlikely," according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
9:27am: The Mets are leaving the door "slightly ajar" for free agent Jose Valverde to join the club as their closer, an industry source told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The source says that the Mets view Valverde, who turns 35 next month, as “a 5 out of 10.” However, as Davidoff notes, the Mets current bullpen isn't exactly filled with 8s and 9s.
Mets officials will assess the performances of their relievers in live action while continuing to collect information on Valverde. As it stands, Bobby Parnell is slotted in as the closer, with Brandon Lyon and Josh Edgin as the primary setup options.
It appeared that Valverde found a home earlier this month with the Marlins, but those reports proved to be untrue. Shortly thereafter, agent Scott Boras denied planting the story in order to drum up interest in his client. Valverde and Kyle Lohse are the two remaining members of MLBTR's Top 50 Free Agents list to be without a team.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.