Jose Valverde Rumors
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.
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.
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.
Links for Sunday....
- ESPN's Adam Rubin tweets that the Mets have optioned Jenrry Mejia to Double-A Binghamton, where he will start their game on Wednesday.
- Jeff Zrebiec tells us that Buck Showalter will interview for the Baltimore managerial job this week, and Eric Wedge will likely receive a second interview. The club has yet to ask the Mets for permission to interview Bob Melvin.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian quotes Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos saying that despite first-round pick Deck McGuire's lack of participation in a media conference call, he's excited to have been drafted by Toronto. Anthopoulos says that negotiations, however, could go down to the wire as they did in 2009 with Chad Jenkins.
- Rangers manager Ron Washington feels that his team could use another front-line starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. Texas has recently seen both Derek Holland and Rich Harden land on the disabled list.
- Nick Piecoro tweets that the D'Backs offered Jose Valverde a two-year deal worth about $10MM before he signed for two years and $14MM with Detroit. The story spawns from some heated comments that were exchanged between Valverde and former teammate Miguel Montero.
- Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times thinks Dan Haren would be a "perfect fit" for the Angels.
- The Cubs will soon face a decision on whether to become buyers or sellers, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
- Within a mailbag for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes says that a little salary relief is the best the Indians could hope for in a Kerry Wood trade.
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details how the Cardinals will handle their starting rotation for the time being. Even after signing Jeff Suppan, the club will be short-handed while they wait for Brad Penny to get healthy.
- The Tigers should exercise patience when it comes to acquiring a shortstop, according to Lynn Hennig of the Detroit News.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Tigers will have to think about trading for a starting pitcher, with Rick Porcello heading to Triple-A.
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).
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.
You'd think it would be a good thing to be identified as a premium player at your position, but Type A status is more of a curse than a blessing for some free agents. Teams have to give up a top pick to sign Type A free agents who turn down arbitration, and that scares some clubs away. GMs covet high draft picks since they can become cheap, young contributors within a couple years, so there's a league-wide reluctance to hand over top picks for Type A free agents who aren't elite players.
- Matt Holliday signed a seven-year $120MM deal.
- John Lackey signed a five-year $82.5MM deal.
- Jason Bay signed a four-year $66MM deal.
- Chone Figgins signed a four-year $36MM deal.
- Jose Valverde signed a two-year $14MM deal.
- Marco Scutaro signed a two-year $12.5MM deal.
- Mike Gonzalez signed a two-year $12MM deal.
- Billy Wagner signed a one-year $7MM deal.
On this date in 1990, the Tigers signed free agent Cecil Fielder after he hit 38 homers as a member of the Hanshin Tigers the year before. Fielder went on to lead the league with 130 HR and 389 RBI over the next three years, landing a five-year, $36MM contract that made him the then-second-highest paid player in baseball history behind Barry Bonds. Believe it or not, Prince is already more than halfway to his father's career total of 319 homers despite having fewer than half as many plate appearances.
Let's see what's being written around the baseball blogosphere...
- The Phrontiersman goes back in time to see how things would have played out for the Phillies if Scott Rolen signed a contract extension and was never traded away.
- DRays Bay wonders if Matt Sweeney could take over first base for the Rays if Carlos Pena leaves as a free agent after 2010. Sweeney was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade.
- Fack Youk compares Vladimir Guerrero to Hideki Matsui to Nick Johnson, the three biggest DH signings of the offseason.
- Lookout Landing says the Mariners did just fine to acquire Casey Kotchman, even though Adam LaRoche agreed to a relatively cheap deal yesterday.
- Meanwhile, Jorge Says No! thinks the Mets may have made a mistake by not signing LaRoche.
- Nick's Twins Blog wonders if Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan could be expendable as Minnesota's estimated payroll will approach nine-figures in 2011.
- AdamAdkins.net thinks the Tigers will regret signing Jose Valverde.
- Pinstripes Published takes a look at the market for Johnny Damon, or lack thereof.
- TurnTwo looks at all the movement going on with the Giants' defensive alignment.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.
4:21pm: In a chat today, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he's been told the Cardinals are "not actively involved" on Valverde.
12:53pm: The Tigers are believed to have the biggest offer out to free agent reliever Jose Valverde, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The sides are not close to a deal, however. Morosi adds that the Cubs are not interested, but the Cardinals "could emerge as a suitor." Just depends on if they want to put most of their $6-7MM in one basket, I'd say. Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets that Valverde has offers from the Tigers, Cardinals, and one other team.
Last night on Twitter, Jim Bowden had this to say:
[Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski told me tonight they are focusing on the back end of the bullpen and did not deny an offer to Valverde and a willingness to lose their #1 pick.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith ran through the draft picks that would be at stake in a post Sunday. The Tigers would surrender the #19 overall pick to the Astros, while the Cardinals would have to part with #25. Ben noted that the Red Sox have not been connected to Valverde but they'd only have to give up the #107 overall pick.
Rounding up some news from around the majors on this Tuesday night....
- MLB.com's Jason Beck cites a report from an unnamed radio station which states the Tigers' offer to Jose Valverde is for two years. In another piece, Beck calls Detroit "the most logical destination" for Valverde.
- Brett Gardner has two backers (sort of) in Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News and ESPN's Keith Law. McCarron would like to see the Yankees acquire a "get-the-uniform-dirty type" but thinks Gardner should get "a real chance" to play every day. Law would let Gardner start the season because he feels that potential signings Reed Johnson or Xavier Nady are "marginal improvements that may not justify the cost."
- Jordan Bastian of MLB.com says the Blue Jays aren't thinking of moving Vernon Wells to a corner outfield spot in spite of Wells' declining UZR numbers in center. One factor might be that the Jays don't really have any other solid CF options, especially with Alex Rios no longer on the roster.
- C.J. Wilson is not a candidate to be traded despite the Rangers' signing of Darren Oliver, reports Ben Rogers of ESPNDallas.com.
- MLB.com's Jim Street says Miguel Tejada's asking price is too high for the Mariners to make a play for the free-agent infielder.
- Brian McTaggart of MLB.com passes along a report from Houston's KRIV-TV that Great Court Capital is the investment company negotiating to buy the Astros from Drayton McLane.
- Eric Hinske tells David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Atlanta "really seemed like the best situation" out of the clubs who made him offers.
- Doug Miller of MLB.com provides a quick round-up of some of the remaining free agents on the market.
What's that you say? You want more news? You're just in time:
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane has entered into negotiations to sell the team. McLane says he's in no hurry to sell the team, but has entered into an exclusive 30-day negiotiating window with an unnamed New York investment banking company.
- According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the 2010 Pirates should use this as their motto: "Pirates baseball: Where unwanted relief pitchers seek employment."
- MLB.com's Chris Haft says that with the signing of Aubrey Huff, the Giants are likely finished making improvements to their roster.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck addresses the idea of Joel Zumaya as closer. The questions around Zumaya in that role are a big reason why Detroit is linked to free agent Jose Valverde, of course.