This might qualify as a news flash: a couple of writers in the traditional baseball media aren't suggesting the Tigers trade off players to reduce payroll (or subsidize the Yankees and Red Sox). Instead, they think Detroit should stay in contention by adding a key piece to their bullpen.
First, FOXSports.com's Dayn Perry lists 10 moves that teams should make this offseason to improve themselves. His suggestion for the Tigers? Sign Billy Wagner:
Detroit is in contending mode, so the wise play would be to resist the temptation to sell off and instead take calculated risks. Since the AL Central is so winnable (and since the Tigers came within a hairsbreadth of a division title this past season), tweaks at the margins might be enough. One tweak could be adding Wagner.
(Thanks to SabreRoseTiger for posting this in the comments yesterday.)
Wagner missed most of the season with an elbow injury, pitching in only 17 games. But after he recovered (and was traded by the Mets), he posted a 1.58 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 13.4 innings for the Red Sox.
Given his injury history and age (Wagner will turn 39 next season), perhaps he'd be looking for a lower-cost, one-or-two-year deal on the free agent market.
The other suggestion is made by USA Today's Paul White, who lists the top 10 free agents and predicts where they'll end up. White's destination for Jose Valverde? Your Detroit Tigers.
More closers are on the market than teams willing to commit significant money for one. That gives the Houston Astros a shot at keeping him. In the end, a contender takes the plunge.
(Hat tip to Bill Ferris for passing this along.)
I don't think we have a match here. Yes, the Tigers want a veteran closer. And Valverde is the top one available. However, he's also a free agent for the first time, and will surely be looking to cash in. (He made $8 million last season to avoid arbitration.) That doesn't fit how the Tigers apparently want to do business this winter (nor was it their approach last year).
But if, as White believes, there aren't that many teams looking for a top-tier ninth-inning reliever, maybe Valverde would be willing to take a shorter, cheaper contract and try free agency again when the market improves. That didn't happen last year, however, and it probably won't this time around.
Valverde pitched in 52 games for the Astros this season, racking up 25 saves in 29 opportunities, along with a 4-2 record and 2.33 ERA. He struck out 56 batters and walked 21 in 54 innings, his lowest totals in three years. Ankle and calf injuries kept him out early in the season.
So while it might be refreshing to get a break from the fire sale scenarios that so much of the baseball media seems to be envisioning for Detroit, are these realistic options for the Tigers? Can they make these moves without dealing off some of the players that have been discussed?