clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tigers don't need a proven closer to fix the bullpen

With a thin free agent market for proven closers, here are some good relief pitchers who could help the Tigers in 2016.

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers are looking for a few good men for their bullpen. Well, at least a couple of good relief pitchers. Their bullpen was among the worst in baseball last season, ranking 27th in ERA, 28th in WAR, and 28th in FIP. What's worse is the Tigers have few internal candidates that look primed to step into key roles, including the ninth inning.

The market for "proven closers" on the free agent market is quite bare, though. In fact, not one free agent reliever was a closer for the entire 2015 season. Only one, Brad Ziegler of Arizona, even finished the season in a ninth inning role, and he has a reasonable team option that is likely to be picked up. Now, we’ll look at some other relief alternatives.

General manager Al Avila confirmed that the team would be looking to add a couple of relievers, while at the same time acknowledging that the free agent market is very thin for closers.

"These are areas we’re going to be experimenting and exploring with the use of analytics and scouts," Avila said. "Can we come up with a couple names that have the potential to be closers? That’s really one area where it’s going to be very important because sitting here today, I don’t know that there’s an absolute closer right there that we’re locked in on. So we really have to explore every avenue."

Let’s look at some free agent bullpen options who are not "proven closers," or even former closers, and see if we can find any solutions. For that, we turn to this custom chart on FanGraphs of all the potential free agent relief pitchers. There are 40 in all, including closers, former closers, and non closers [Ed.: And a bunch of dudes with club options, check here for contract status to be sure]. If you sort the group of free agents by WAR or by FIP, three names float to the top of the charts who are not closers on their current teams. If they can be signed for non-closer money, as the Tigers once did with Joaquin Benoit, they may even find a bargain.

Right-handed relievers
Pitcher Age IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP fWAR
Darren O'Day 32 65.1 1.52 0.93 11.30 1.93 0.69 2.49 1.8
Mark Lowe 32 55.0 1.96 1.05 9.98 1.96 0.65 2.57 1.2
Shawn Kelley 31 51.1 2.45 1.09 11.05 2.63 0.70 2.57 0.9
Matt Albers 32 37.1 1.21 1.07 6.75 2.17 0.72 3.48 0.4
Carlos Villanueva 31 61.0 2.95 1.16 8.11 3.10 0.89 3.74 0.2
Ryan Webb 29 50.2 3.20 1.14 5.51 2.13 0.71 3.77 0.1
Matt Belisle 35 33.2 2.67 1.46 6.68 4.01 0.27 3.64 0.1
Jason Frasor 37 28.0 1.29 1.61 7.07 5.79 0.32 3.96 0.0
David Hernandez 30 33.2 4.28 1.31 8.82 2.94 1.60 4.74 -0.2

Editor's Note: Chart only contains relievers not profiled yesterday.

Darren O’Day is the new Andrew Miller. Working in a set up role for the Baltimore Orioles behind Zack Britton, O'Day tops the charts with 1.8 fWAR, a 2.49 FIP, and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The Orioles are known to want him back, but there will be demand for his services. Despite not being a closer, he will not be cheap.

Shawn Kelley of the Padres is behind O’Day with 0.9 WAR, 11.05 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.57 FIP. Mark Lowe registered 1.2 WAR between Seattle and Toronto, striking out 10 batters per nine innings and posting the same 2.57 FIP as Kelley. Lowe signed for a bargain minor league deal in 2015 with the Mariners and was traded to Toronto. He will get a better deal this time around.

Left-handed relievers
Pitcher Age IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP fWAR
Tony Sipp 31 54.1 1.99 1.03 10.27 2.48 0.83 3.34 1.0
Antonio Bastardo 29 57.1 2.93 1.13 10.05 4.08 0.63 3.33 0.6
Oliver Perez 33 41.0 4.17 1.32 11.20 3.29 0.88 3.30 0.5
Manny Parra 32 32.1 3.90 1.18 6.40 1.67 0.56 3.07 0.4
Matt Thornton 38 41.1 2.18 1.06 5.01 2.40 0.44 3.52 0.4
Jerry Blevins (2014) 31 57.1 4.87 1.24 10.36 3.61 0.47 2.77 0.8
James Russell 29 34.0 5.29 1.50 5.29 2.38 0.79 3.90 0.1
Randy Choate 39 27.1 3.95 1.24 7.24 1.65 0.66 3.68 0.1

Editor's Note: Chart only contains relievers not profiled yesterday and stops at Randy Choate because do we really want to sign Randy Choate? No. No, we do not.

Among the lefthanders, Antonio Bastardo of the Pirates had the highest WAR total in 2015. Tony Sipp and Oliver Perez of the Astros are both free agents, and J.P. Howell of the Dodgers has a team option that might actually get bought out. None in this group is a closer, but each could be a serviceable bullpen option if the price is right.

BYB will be breaking down the free agent class of 2016 as the offseason progresses, so stay tuned for profiles of individual free agent players that might be Tigers by the time pitchers and catchers report next February.