Shortly after making a somewhat surprising (though it had been rumored over the weekend) deal for one Jones, the Detroit Tigers completed a very much expected transaction for another Jones.
Todd Jones re-signed with the Tigers today, agreeing on a one-year contract worth $7 million. The signing comes hours before teams could begin bidding on free agents, as of midnight November 13. We don't know who else may have been interested in signing Jones as a closer, but the Tigers got a deal done before it even came to that.
Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland made it known even before the season ended that they wanted Jones back as the team's closer, while Jones also made it clear that he'd like to remain in Detroit. The only possible obstacle would have been interest from the Atlanta Braves, the closest major league team to Jones' Alabama home. But once Braves GM Frank Wren made it clear that he wasn't planning on pursuing a free agent closer, it was likely just a matter of time before the Tigers and Jones reached an agreement on a new contract. Joel Zumaya's shoulder injury made signing Jones even more of a priority.
The ninth inning never seems like a sure thing when Jones comes in to close out the game, but despite his tendency to make things interesting, he actually finished the season with quite an impressive streak. In his last 20 appearances, Jones racked up 13 saves, blowing only one opportunity. For the season, he posted 38 saves in 44 chances, along with a 1-4 record and 4.26 ERA.
Of course, when Jones blows a save, he really blows a save. Such as his five-run implosion on June 1 at Cleveland (though Leyland made him take one for the team that night). Those are the meltdowns that Tigers fans remember. And it'd be nice if Jonesy struck out more batters (only 33 in 61 1/3 innings).
But with top-shelf closers like Francisco Cordero and Mariano Rivera likely to earn multi-year contracts worth at least $40 million, Jones represented the best value for the Tigers - especially considering that he'll only be keeping the closer's seat warm until Zumaya is (hopefully) ready to take on that responsibility. The Tigers wanted a one-year deal, and that's all Jones wanted, too. A perfect match.
The hope now, going into the free agency signing period, is that the Tigers can bolster the corps of relievers setting up Jones in the late innings. Fernando Rodney has pitched well in the eighth, but someone will need to replace Zumaya for the key outs before that. According to Dombrowski, however, signing a starting pitcher is more of a priority right now, even more so if Scott Boras insists on shopping Kenny Rogers around to other teams. My fingers are still crossed for a killer set-up guy, though.