Jose Valverde Rumors


Quick Hits: Valverde, Wang, Cubs

Links for Thursday afternoon, before what may be the final baseball game of the 2011 season...

  • The Tigers are expected to pick up Jose Valverde’s $9MM option for 2012 soon, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link).
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears from Alan Nero, the agent for Chien-Ming Wang, that a new deal between the right-hander and the Nationals is likely. The Nationals are Wang's first choice and negotiations are "routine," according to Nero. Washington GM Mike Rizzo confirmed yesterday that the sides are working toward a new contract.
  • Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush will stay on under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter).
  • Melissa Segura of SI.com hears that baseball’s upcoming collective bargaining agreement could include a cap in the $2-2.5MM range for international signings (Twitter link). It’s not clear whether the cap would apply to all countries or just the Dominican Republic.



Free Agent Closers' Usage

The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.

Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.

Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.

During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.

The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.

  • Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
  • Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
  • Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times. 
  • Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
  • Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.



Stark On Madson, Astros, Beane, Nationals

MLB is building momentum toward two 15-team leagues with three five-team divisions per league, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. It doesn't appear that the players’ association will agree to expand the postseason unless owners agree to more balanced schedules and divisions, Stark reports. Here are the rest of his rumors...

  • It appears that the Tigers and Rays will pick up their options for Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, respectively, this offseason.
  • Two MLB executives predicted to Stark that Ryan Madson will sign a deal like the one Valverde obtained two winters ago: $14MM over two years plus an option.
  • Multiple teams have expressed concerns about Francisco Rodriguez’s off-field “baggage,” though K-Rod stands out as one of the best free agent relievers of the winter.
  • Stark hears that MLB has been slow to approve incoming Astros owner Jim Crane in order to apply leverage on Crane so that he’ll agree to move the Astros to the American League. Earlier today, Bob Nightengale of USA Today had a report that conflicts with Stark’s article.
  • Friends of Billy Beane say the A’s GM has legitimate interest in the Cubs GM job, though he has an ownership stake and lots of freedom in Oakland.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will interview managerial candidates this offseason before deciding whether Davey Johnson will return as manager in 2012.
  • First base doesn’t appear to be a priority for Washington, but Rizzo says "you never want to say never” when it comes to possible offseason moves.



Heyman On Cubs, Valverde, Bell, Hernandez

Jon Heyman of SI.com runs through the Cubs’ options for their open GM position and concludes that White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn is “perhaps the most logical choice” for chairman Tom Ricketts. Click here for more rumblings about the Cubs and keep reading for Heyman’s other notes from around MLB... 



Jose Valverde Hires Proformance

Jose Valverde has switched agencies and is now a Proformance client, MLBTR has learned. The closer, who could find himself on the open market this offseason, had previously been a Praver/Shapiro client. 

Valverde has a 2.92 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a league-leading 32 saves in 49 1/3 innings this year. The Tigers can exercise a $9MM option for the 33-year-old's services in 2012. Alternatively, they could decline the option and offer arbitration to the projected Type A free agent with the intention of obtaining extra picks in the 2012 draft.

Be sure to check out MLBTR's Agency Database for information about each MLB player's representatives.



Jose Valverde’s 2012 Option

Just about anything could happen between Memorial Day and the beginning of November, when the Tigers have to decide whether to exercise their $9MM option for Jose Valverde. Injuries, trades and the performance of other Detroit relievers could affect the Tigers’ willingness to commit to another year of Valverde, so consider this an early and imprecise look at the closer’s option. 

Valverde

What’s unlikely to change for the 33-year-old is his profile as a hard-throwing right-hander who strikes lots of people out, allows more than his share of walks and works in and out of jams for saves. Since becoming Arizona’s full-time closer in 2007, that’s essentially what Valverde has offered and it doesn’t figure to change in the next five months.

So far in 2011, Valverde has a 3.52 ERA (3.53 xFIP) with 12 saves, 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.  His fastball has averaged 94 mph and he has a 41.3 % ground ball rate through 23 frames.

Those are respectable numbers, but they’re not enough to command $30MM-plus on the open market, as Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera did last offseason. Valverde compares better with the likes of Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz, who signed two-year deals in the $10-12MM range last year.

Those contracts are worth $5-6MM per season, which makes $9MM seem like a lot for one year of Valverde (unlike most club options this one has no buyout). Plus, there will be even more selection than usual for teams seeking relief this winter, because there’s a deep class of free agent relievers.

Yet it seems unlikely that the Tigers will shy away from Valverde’s option if they believe he’s the best option for them. GM Dave Dombrowski, who’s in a contract year of his own, has shown that he’s willing to move quickly to secure the players he wants, even if it means spending aggressively. 

Last offseason, for example, he signed Joaquin Benoit in mid-November instead of waiting for bargains. That particular deal hasn’t worked out to this point, but it shows that Dombrowski tends to pursue the players he wants, instead of waiting the market out for bargains (Dombrowski also locked Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez by Thanksgiving). 

There’s no question that $9MM is on the steep side for one season of relief pitching. Plus, the Tigers could potentially obtain draft picks by turning down the option, offering arbitration and allowing Valverde to sign elsewhere. For a team that has given up its share of high draft picks in recent years, collecting an extra pick or two would likely have appeal. 

As a result, the Tigers don’t figure to keep Valverde around for $9MM unless they’re convinced in his ability to perform at an elite level in 2012. But if the Tigers decide he’s the person they want in high-leverage situations next year, it's hard to imagine that an inflated salary would prevent them from keeping their closer for another season.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.



Olney On The Bullpen Market

Teams like the Yankees and White Sox are already encountering bullpen problems and it won’t be long before other clubs are looking for relief help as well. The Yankees aren’t optimistic about the current relief market, while Chicago’s search for an effective closer has manager Ozzie Guillen dreaming of Bobby Thigpen. As one GM points out to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, lots of teams will be looking for bullpen help this summer and lots of effective pitchers should eventually become available.

Unless Heath Bell takes a massive discount to stay in San Diego, Olney suggests the Padres will deal him. The White Sox should be considered the early favorites to land Bell, Olney says.

Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez and the Blue Jays and Rays relievers could also become available this summer. Jose Valverde will probably stay in Detroit unless the Tigers fall far out of the race, but Michael Wuertz (now on the disabled list) could be on the block even if Oakland contends.



Odds & Ends: Mejia, O's, McGuire, Rangers, Valverde

Links for Sunday....



Tigers Sign Jose Valverde To Two-Year Contract

The Tigers officially signed Jose Valverde to a two-year contract worth $14MM today. The deal also includes a club option for 2012 worth $9MM.

The 30-year-old Valverde has enjoyed a tremendous run as the closer for the Diamondbacks and Astros over the last three years. In 190.1 innings during that time, he posted a 2.84 ERA with a 10.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Valverde battled leg injuries in 2009, though he held opponents to a .202/.286/.294 batting line after coming off the disabled list in June.

The Tigers were left with a gaping hole in the back of their bullpen this offseason after losing setup man Brandon Lyon and closer Fernando Rodney to the Astros and Angels, respectively. Because Valverde was a Type-A free agent, Detroit sent their first round pick (#19 overall) to Houston as compensation. The Astros will also receive a supplemental first round pick (#33 overall).

The agreement was first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports last Thursday, with Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com adding the value of the option year later in the day.



Odds & Ends: Lincecum, Reds, Red Sox, Uggla, Molina

Some Tuesday links...

  • After talking to someone familiar with the process, FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi guesses (via Twitter) that Tim Lincecum will file for somewhere between $12-13MM in arbitration.
  • John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer has the Reds' 2010 payroll at just about $70MM at the moment.
  • In a mailbag, Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe says that the Red Sox aren't likely to go out and spend on a high-risk, high-reward pitcher like Ben Sheets after signing John Lackey
  • Joe Frisaro of MLB.com doesn't think the Marlins will look to trade Dan Uggla, even after he agreed to a deal yesterday that makes him the team's highest paid player in 2010.
  • Meanwhile, Frisaro says that Cody Ross is likely headed to an arbitration hearing after negotiations hit an impasse.
  • Tony Massarotti of The Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox are doing the right thing by going year-to-year with Jonathan Papelbon through his arbitration years.
  • After turning down the Mets' latest offer, ESPN's Buster Olney thinks (via Twitter) that the Mariners might be a good fit for Bengie Molina.
  • MLB.com's Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers will continue negotiating with their six remaining arbitration eligible players today, though GM Doug Melvin said that no multi-year deals are in the mix.
  • John Lowe of The Detroit Free Press says it wouldn't be a shock if Justin Verlander sought at least $6MM through arbitration this year after seeking $4.15MM last year. Joe Blanton received just under $5.5MM in his second year of arbitration, so I wouldn't be surprised if Verlander submitted a figure closer to $8-9MM.
  • Meanwhile, Lynn Henning of The Detroit News spoke to some scouts who think Austin Jackson might not be ready for the big leagues, at least at the plate. Jackson is slated to start the year as the Tigers' everyday center fielder.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets that the Jose Valverde deal is official.
  • The Rays aren't close to deals with any of their four arbitration eligible players, reports Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times. Tampa has a self-imposed deadline of noon ET today to get deals done, which is when the two sides must submit their salary figures.
  • In a chat with readers, Tom Boswell of The Washington Post said he heard the Nationals were close to a "trade for a major-league ready pitcher of Jordan Zimmermann quality but it fell through when the other team backed out." He thinks Josh Willingham may have been involved.
  • The Giants haven't confirmed if they're still interested in Miguel Tejada according to Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, however he spoke to someone who says Tejada remains on the Twins' radar.









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