In baseball, BP could mean Bullpen or Batting Practice. Going into the 2018 Tiger season, there may not be much of a distinction between the two terms.
The 2018 Tiger offense looks to be light on slugging or even getting on base, heavy on unpredictability, and somewhat ominous on defense. The pitching does not look to be much better, But right now, the worst part is arguably the bullpen.
The BP is traditionally where a failed starter goes for resurrection, where a young hopeful can first show his stuff, and where a GM can spend his WTF red tag dollars. Choose your word, ironic or contradictory, it may behoove the Tigers to use some additional petty cash to shore up what has often been considered to be the last item on the roster list.
Barring any more estate sale acquisitions, below is a list of Tiger relievers going into the 2018 season. For humanitarian reasons I’ll start with just the TOP 10, a very negotiable list. For the more masochistic, I have included an appendix at the end of this post to include the other relief pitching candidates.
Grab your scroll bar and hang on.
Shane Greene: Emerged as Tiger closer in 2017. Probably gone by August.
Alex Wilson: Has given Tigers the best years of his life, except maybe 2017.
Daniel Stumpf: Rooting for Lefty, not just his name.
Blaine Hardy: Folk hero for survivability in these turbulent times.
Joe Jimenez: High ceiling, which also means too much overhead.
Ricky Vaughn: Blazing fastball, all about winning. A little erratic at times.
Warwick Saupold: More than a token Aussie, less than a sure thing.
Buck Farmer: If he makes the roster this will be his 5th year in the majors. I looked it up.
Johnny Barbato: Pittsburgh’s loss will be Detroit’s maybe.
(NOTE: The list does not include high rated Tiger prospects, which is a whole other category of maybes.)
We can debate the merits and possibilities for any of these relievers. But the list gets dicey after Shane Greene, unless you are more optimistic and want to draw the line after Hardy. Some may rise to the top, but the chances are wafer thin that even a mediocre bullpen will materialize from this group.
This leads us to the old ponderable: If you’re rebuilding, and you are prioritizing the development of young players on a low budget, why spend any extra money? As far as your priorities are concerned, does it even matter if your reliever is Victor Alcantara or Bud Norris? The answer is yes, it matters, I think maybe.
Even if / when the Tigers lose an exceptional amount of games this year, it’s still important to be competitive in individual games. It’s also important, and I can't stress this enough, to have some suspense after the 4th inning. An average bullpen can protect a lead whenever that opportunity may pop up, keep a game within striking distance after a bad Jordan Zimmermann start, and most importantly, actually get to the end of a game in a sport where there is no running out the clock.
A bad bullpen will suck the energy out of a team faster than a Nick Castellanos three-base error. It would also carry the potential of wasting what may be a mediocre to slightly above average starting rotation. Mike Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Mike Fiers and just maybe Jordan Zimmermann comprise a stronger staff than anything the Tigers had in their last go-rounds with disaster in 1996 and 2003.
Who Can They Get?
Spending just a little more on a relief staff is an inexpensive way to stay competitive. We’re not looking for Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman. 2018 free agents like Brandon Morrow and Bryan Shaw are also too expensive. All that is needed are a couple of guys who can duct tape the pen a couple of innings at a time as needed. Plug a leak. Mike Fiers, a # 4-5 starter, is a good example of plugging a leak in the rotation.
The Tigers need two pitchers who can provide reliably mediocre innings, and who can be had for $4 -6 million. Guys like
Hector Rondon, Boone Logan, Luke Gregorson, and Craig Stammen, all who have that kind of experience and would fit the price range. Well , OK they’ve all been signed. These kind of pitchers are going fast. But there are still some out there. Matt Belisle, Bud Norris, and a few others.
This list of relievers compiled by Rob Rogacki all have more sustained experience of success than what the Tigers have available after Wilson.
Every pitcher on the list is still available. Considering how many of these types are now off the board, that is truly amazing. Some of them would cost more money than the Tigers want to spend, and the return on investment in terms of filling the seats is far from guaranteed. But they are more likely to shut down an inning than most current Tiger relievers, and their acquisition would be a way for Tiger ownership to show some compassion for the plucky, devoted fans that actually bought tickets and came to the game.
The Tigers will still lose a lot of games, but showing a semblance of being competitive just may help mute the echo of empty seats, keep the beer cold and the hot dogs fresh... and blog posters will have a little more fun doing what we love to do best - conjecture.
AS PROMISED: APPENDIX - OTHER TIGER RELIEVERS
Jairo Laubort: 6 innings of wild excitement in 2017. Handy if you need a strikeout, or a walk.
Drew VerHagen: Many setbacks, but still in the mix.
Victor Alcantara: So far, Double-A is his level, kinda.
Zac Reininger: Another hopeful.
Eduardo Jimenez: Yet another hopeful
Philippe Aumont: No stranger to rebuilding projects. Phillies liked him for four years
Liarvis Breto: We’re lucky to get him. The Winnipeg Goldeyes were in the mix.
Chad Bell: Hoping for that second cup of coffee.
Enrique Burgos: Maybe
AND THESE GUYS