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Tigers trade rumors: Relief options are narrowing

Recent injuries and roster moves have somewhat narrowed the list of relief pitchers that might be available to help an ailing Tiger bullpen.

Closer?  We don't need no stinking closer!
Closer? We don't need no stinking closer!
Jonathan Daniel

With the non waiver trade deadline less than a week off, here is an update to the list of potential Tigers' trade targets.

Jesse Crain remains on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, and has canceled his latest bullpen session. Crain led all candidates in the BYB relief poll with 14 percent of the vote, and has the highest WAR among our candidates. The soon-to-be free agent needs to get healthy soon if he wants the White Sox to trade him to a contender before the deadline.

Francisco Rodriguez was second in the BYB poll, but K-Rod has been traded by the Brewers to Baltimore. Scratch him off your list. The Tigers were known to have interest in Rodriguez, but the Brewers have several other good relievers who might be had, including John Axford, Mike Gonzalez, and swing man Tom Gorzelanny.

Kevin Gregg is still the closer for the Chicago Cubs, but he is imploding right there on national television. Over the past 30 days, Gregg has an ERA of 6.23, an FIP of 6.96, and a WHIP of 1.92 with three blown saves in 13 innings of work. No thanks.

Brandon Lyon looked like an inexpensive option, but the Mets designated the former Tiger for assignment and he was signed by the Boston Red Sox. The Mets still have relievers to give, and the Red Sox are still looking for bullpen help.

Glen Perkins is not available, according to several reports from those who have spoken with rival GM’s. The Twins seem to be quite pleased with their closer and would like to keep him. Everyone has their price, but since the Tigers don’t necessarily need a closer, it makes little sense to pay a premium.

Steve Cishek, the Miami closer, has been one of the most effective relievers in the National League this season. Danny Knobler of CBS sports tweeted on Thursday that the Tigers are interested, but the Marlins aren't selling. This would be a surprise, since both pitchers are eligible for arbitration after this season, and Miami's owner doesn't like paying any player more than the major league minimum.

Jonathan Papelbon, likewise, is not likely to be on the move. The Phillies are 8 games behind Atlanta in the National League East, and are in fourth place, 8.5 games out in the wild card race, but reports are that they’re buying, rather than selling, as of this time. Also see previous comments re: paying for a closer.

Huston Street is believed to be available. The Padres closer has not allowed an earned run in six innings since returning from the DL, but he makes $ 7 million per season, is under contract for next year, and has struggled with a 3.90 ERA, 6.57 FIP for the season. Benoit is better, and the Tigers don't need a $7 million man in a set up role.

Luke Gregerson was yesterday's rumor du jour, as we reported here on BYB. He would make much more sense for the Tigers than Street, as he has a solid track record in a set up role, carries a reasonable salary, and has a year left on his contract after this season. Details on Gregerson are in the story linked above.

Scott Downs has not allowed a run in 29 consecutive outings. He makes $5 million and is due to hit free agency. The Angels are tied with Seattle, 11 games out in the AL west, but Buster Olney reports that they’re not likely to trade Downs. Pity.

Tim Lincecum made an appearance on the rumor mill. Before I finished laughing, Kurt’s story had racked up more page views than any piece in BYB history. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen.

Sergio Romo. Why not? The Giants are headed in the wrong direction, and if they can sell a closer..... why not get more page views take advantage of the market while they can?

Javier Lopez is one name on the Giants that has not been on any previous list, but the lefty reliever makes $4.25 million, has late inning experience, and is set to become a free agent after this season. Lopez sports a 1.48 ERA, a WHIP of 1.19, and an FIP of 2.01. He’d make a fine addition to the Tiger pen. He's been added to the custom chart.

Casey Fien, the former Tiger, has quietly become one of the best relief pitchers in the American League. Always known for his impeccable control, Fien has an ERA of 2.98 a stellar WHIP of 0.87, and strikes out 9.58 batters per nine innings while walking just one every 20 hitters. Casey still has another season before he will be eligible for arbitration, and three more seasons of club control after that. This is one that got away, and the Tigers I would love to have him back.

Tom Gorzelanny of the Brewers and Carlos Villanueva of the Cubs have been starting recently, which will throw off their stats for comparison purposes.

You have to take some of the "this guy is not available" stories with a grain of salt. Everyone is available at some price. Players who are more than just rentals cost a bit more. Sellers tend to hang on to their coveted players until the last minute to get the maximum return. But relief pitchers are plentiful enough this season that it would be easy for a seller to overplay their hand and wind up holding the bag with a contract that they'd like to unload.

Closers: There are still some closers who should be available, and would interest the Tigers if they don’t have to pay a premium. Steve Cishek (Marlins), Tom Wilhelmsen (Seattle), Jose Veras (Astros), and Bobby Parnell (Mets) would all be useful to the Tigers. Huston Street (Padres) and Kevin Gregg (Cubs) should be avoided.

Ten to Track

1. Jesse Crain, RHP, White Sox
2. James Russell, LHP, Cubs
3. John Axford, RHP, Brewers
4. Jose Veras, RHP, Astros
5. Oliver Perez, LHP, Mariners
6. Scott Downs, LHP, Angels
7. Matt Lindstrom, RHP, White Sox
8. Mike Gonzalez, LHP, Brewers
9. Luke Gregerson, RHP, Padres
10. Javier Lopez, LHP, Giants

Five to avoid

1. Kevin Gregg
2. Huston Street
3. Jose Valverde
4. Joba Chamberlain
5. Ryan Webb

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this custom chart that I’ve created at which includes 29 relief pitchers who might be trade candidates, plus the eleven relief pitchers that the Tigers have used thus far this season. The chart is sortable, with a default setting to sort by WAR, but you can sort by any statistical category you like. In case you have any doubt about the need for relief help, just have a look where the Tiger relief pitchers rank on this list in most important categories.

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