Two out of three usually isn't bad, and the Detroit Tigers checked two boxes off their shopping list at baseball's winter meetings. Dave Dombrowski tried to get that third box checked too, but Kerry Wood opted instead for Cleveland, and the Mets swooped in and nabbed J.J. Putz when trade negotiations with Seattle fell through.
And now that empty box is staring at the Tigers like a black hole. Where do they go next in their search for a closer?
According to former MLive.com beat writer Danny Knobler (whose blog has been sorely missed - no offense, Steve Kornacki, but you're really trailing), Detroit might not sign a closer at all. Brian Fuentes is still available, but with murmurs that he's looking for a three-year, $44 million-type of deal, he's probably out of the Tigers' price range. (And if you're wondering where the money went, this is surely a contributing factor.)
But as we posted a couple of days ago, maybe waiting it out is the best move right now. The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be the favorites to sign Fuentes, but even though they'd love to have him, his financial demands might be too high for them, as well. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com's Matthew Leach that he's not keen on giving a closer $10 million.
Sure, he's probably negotiating. But the market's been set with Francisco Rodriguez's three-year, $37 million deal (along with Wood's reported two-year, $20 million deal). Fuentes has no reason to think he should get less. Unless, of course, no one pays it. And other than the Tigers and Cardinals, who might shell out that kind of money for him?
How about the Milwaukee Brewers? They have some cash to spare after losing CC Sabathia to the money party the New York Yankees are throwing for him. The Angels could also have money burning in their pocket if they miss out on Mark Teixeira, and might decide they could use a closer to replace K-Rod, after all. So if a bidding war develops... well, we've seen how those work out for the Tigers this offseason. It's not looking so good here.
Various reporters have said Detroit isn't interested in Trevor Hoffman. And we mentioned John Smoltz yesterday, though he apparently prefers to be a starting pitcher. Could it be time to see what Houston wants for Jose Valverde? That looks to be a dead end, too. Astros GM Ed Wade says he's not going to trade him. And besides, after trading Guillermo Moscoso and Matt Joyce, do the Tigers really want to part with any more young talent?
If the Tigers want to take a chance on relievers recovering from injuries, two others to consider might be Takashi Saito, if the Dodgers decide to non-tender him today, and Derrick Turnbow, who Morosi says Detroit has contacted.
But Brandon Lyon is still a possibility, and if the Tigers are the one team that offers him a closer job, that could tip him in their favor. Combine him with the one guy I've been touting for months, Juan Cruz (who the Nationals are now looking at), and suddenly, the bullpen looks pretty good. You'd have a guy with experience pitching in the ninth inning, along with the strikeout man the Tigers sorely need.
So there's still hope. And Dombrowski told Lynn Henning that he's "closer to another move," which has to related to the bullpen. Doesn't it? (Or perhaps shedding an excess starting pitcher.) They were never going after a "top-tier" closer to begin with. Remember? But what appeared to be a loaded market for closers shrunk pretty fast. The next few weeks could show how well the Tigers can scramble and adapt to a volatile market.