The Detroit Tigers' signing of closer Jose Valverde has caused a schism in the fanbase
There are those who believe a closer was needed, no matter the cost. They are adamant GM Dave Dombrowski made the correct move. Then you have others, the editorial team at BYB amongst them, who think Dombrowski is off his nut for spending so much money on a closer when there are several in house candidates already under team control.
Depending on your point of view, either the Tigers have a plan for contention this year and into the future, or have made several disjointed moves, trying to get younger and cheaper, while getting older and more expensive.
Let's take a quick tour of the Tigers' off season, and go over what has transpired. Let's see of there was a "plan."
1. Second baseman Placido Polanco is not offered arbitration, and allowed to walk in free agency.
The Tigers spin: They did not want to risk going to arbitration with Polanco, expecting he would receive a hefty one year deal, much more than the Tigers were willing to pay. The Tigers are apparently more than happy to play Scott Sizemore, who is younger, cheaper and major league ready.
My spin: Other than not offering arbitration, letting Polanco go made sense. Middle infielders in their mid-30s rarely age gracefully. But I wouldn't have been upset if Polanco returned for one more year if he had been offered, and accepted, arbitration.
The plan: Looks good..
2. Closer Fernando Rodney and setup man Brandon Lyon are offered arbitration, but are signed away as free agents. The Tigers lose the entire back end of their bullpen, and get a pair of sandwich picks between the first and second round of the upcoming draft as compensation.
The Tigers' spin: They did not want to give Rodney a multi-year deal, period. As for Lyon, the Tigers would have gone two years, but did not want to overpay.
My spin: Again, I don't really have an issue with the Tigers' handling of Rodney and Lyon. They wanted too much money for far too long, and the Tigers had been stockpiling bullpen arms in the amateur draft. The Tigers are already hamstrung by multi-year deals given to players in their 30s. Getting the sandwich picks was about all you could expect.
The plan: Looks OK to this point.
See if the plan remains on track...after the jump.
3. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson is traded to the Diamondbacks for pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth.
The Tigers' spin: The original reasoning behind this blockbuster trade was the Tigers wanted to get younger, cheaper players with big-time potential, who were as far from being arbitration eligible as possible.
My spin: The true Edwin Jackson is somewhere between the ace-like stud we saw in the season's first half, and the batting practice pitcher we saw in the second. Unloading Jackson for a younger, cheaper, just as good, if not better, arm in Scherzer is a trade any MLB team would make. The Tigers were selling high, and received a considerable bounty, especially when Schlereth is factored in.
The Plan: It started to look shaky with the trade of Jackson, but put stabilized when Max Scherzer arrived.
4. As part of the same deal, CF Curtis Granderson is traded to the Yankees for CF Austin Jackson and swingman Phil Coke.
The Tigers spin: Granderson had plateaued as a player, and just couldn't hit lefties. They received his replacement in Jackson and reliable bullpen arm who is a possible end of the rotation guy in Coke.
My spin: When it comes to Granderson is where the Tigers' plan, if there was one, runs off the rails.
So why was Granderson traded? To save money? That doesn't fly, because the Tigers just gave Valverde a metric crapton of cash. To get better? The Yankees gave the Tigers a bullpen arm and a top prospect for an All-Star CF still on the good side of 30. 999 times out of 1000, the team getting the established major league player "wins" this kind of trade. To get the Yankees' top outfield prospect? Austin Jackson's upside is as poor man's...Curtis Granderson.
The plan: If the Tigers' "plan" included the trade of Granderson, then it was flawed from the start.
5. Relief pitcher Jose Valverde is signed to a two-year, $14 million (with an option for a third year, pushing the contract to the $23 million range) deal to be the Tigers' closer.
The Tigers' spin: We needed to replace Rodney, and signed an established closer in Valverde.
My spin: Now the plan is shot to Hell. What happened to getting younger and cheaper? Valverde is 31 and the Tigers made him a very rich man. Why insist on young bullpen arms in the trade (and drafting them early and often) if you were going outside the system for an expensive relief pitcher? Unless there are more trades in the works, the Tigers' 40-man roster is going to have 35 relievers. (I exaggerate....but not by all that much)
Here's the most likely candidates for the Tigers' bullpen currently on the 40 man :
I could throw Nate Robertson, or a long shot like Jay Sborz, on the list as well, and I know there are more major league caliber arms in the Tigers' system capable of pitching their way onto the team (Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt, to name just two). I'm sure at least one pitcher in the Tigers' system could have stepped up as a closer...for about $6 million less a season.
I agree Valverde is a good pitcher, and the Tigers are a better team with him. But how much better and at what price? From all accounts, the Tigers were pretty much bidding against themselves. They overpaid. Let's not forget relief pitchers tend to be mercurial, what you see one season is not necessarily what you'll see the next.
$7 million a season was too much money to spend on a closer...when you don't know who is going to supply the offense.
The plan: Unless the plan is to win every game 1-0....What plan?
They are in desperate need of offense, yet traded one of their biggest offensive threats in Granderson. Despite having an almost endless supply of young, big armed relievers in the system, the Tigers spent huge money on a 31-year old closer. They need more defense from their corner outfielders, yet (reportedly) show interest in 36-year-old Johnny Damon, who, if signed, would give the Tigers three corner outfielders who would be better served as full-time designated hitters. The left side of the infield was a black hole on defense, sucking in all ground balls. Unfortunately, it was an even bigger black hole at the bottom of the batting order. Despite being desperate for offense, the Tigers brought back the left side of the infield, Brandon Inge and Adam Everett, intact..
I realize the off season is far from over, and considering the Tigers overstuffed with relief pitching roster, more moves should be in the offing.
But after the signing of Valverde, I'm not sure what exactly is the thought process in building the Tigers. If there is some sort of grand plan, going by the team's actions in this past off season, it's written in pencil on the back of a wet cocktail napkin.