The Tigers today announced their decision to pick up the club option on closer Jose Valverde's contract. It will cost the team $9 million, which is really quite a lot of money for a reliever. However, he is a popular player and finished 2011 a perfect 49 for 49 in his save opportunities during the regular season and 4 for 4 in his postseason opportunities.
Of course, I expect some will look at this reluctantly. Jose Valverde is not exactly Mariano Rivera. I wouldn't classify him as a lock-down closer, despite the perfect status in 2011. The 33-year-old right hander has a career ERA of 3.02. His 2011 season ERA of 2.24 was nice, but the xFIP of 4.01 shows room for possible regression. (I do not want to make too much of this and do not necessarily think you should make a lot of it either. Valverde's career ERA is half a run better than his career xFIP. His ERA has ranged from about a third of a run to a run and a half better than his xFIP since 2007.)
Still, the Tigers' bullpen wasn't exactly impressive in 2011. The most reliable relievers were Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. The Tigers couldn't exactly afford to just let one walk and hope for the best when they expect to be a contender in 2012.
So I approve. It's a costly move, but I do love the dancing potato.