If Billy Wagner’s new deal with the Atlanta Braves paints a picture of the upcoming reliever market, the artwork for Tigers in the 8th and 9th next season could be very Picaso-esque. For a team that is looking to cut payroll, a one year seven million dollar deal is a swim up the river. The current of two relievers looking for multi-year contracts after solid seasons seems like it will be tough to swim through. Retaining Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon for less than Billy Wagner was signed for, like the Tigers did in 2009 will be almost impossible.
Inevitably neither are going to accept arbitration.
The prospect of Joel Zumaya becoming a late inning stopper has been debunked. Ryan Perry is the quintessential “one year away” from evolving from the prospect of the future to the go-to-guy in the ninth. For a city that has “enjoyed” a roller coaster ride in the ninth the last few seasons, the thought of having an established reliever like Billy Wagner close out games is endearing. No, Wagner isn’t a reliever that is going to be perfect. Only time will tell if he is worth the seven million. But Tigers fans are not looking for someone to be perfect. They are smart enough to know there is no such thing. They just want someone that can come into a ballgame and throw strikes. Someone that is going to be dependable beyond the stats. Is Lyon or Rodney either one of those? Not even close. Both are veteran relievers looking for possibly the last break of their careers. Both want that elusive closers job. Rumors are showing that Brandon Lyon is going to have many different options. Rodney might be a different story. After last year he believes that he deserves a closers role. The Phillies and Astros and Braves have expressed interest. The Braves now have their closer. The Phillies have a mess of former closers in the pen and the Astros might have to create salary if they want to get into the Rodney sweepstakes. The relief market isn’t extremely huge. Beyond Lyon and Rodney, there is not many options with proven closer ability. Jose Valverde, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano are the only true options on the market with experience that didn’t wear a Tiger uniform last year.
Which begs the question: Who in the name of Tigers baseball is going to close out games in 2010?
For some reason, I get a feeling the pitcher shutting down opponents in the ninth isn’t on the forty man roster. Who knows what you get from Zumaya. Freddy Dolsi, Zach Miner, Fu-Te-Ni and Bobby Seay are not exactly closer material. If fans thought that watching Fernando Rodney whip fastballs into the stands was painful last season, imagine a young and inconsistent Ryan Perry manning the final frame. Yeesh! I’m not saying that he isn’t capable at doing it at some point, but I rather go for a roller coaster ride some nights, instead of feeling the rush much similar to riding The Power Tower at Cedar Point.
While Type A free agent relievers are really out of question, it could be possible the Tigers bring in Type B free agents with past closing experience. If Brandon Lyon or Fernando Rodney are not brought back, then type B free agents will cancel out any Type B signing. Names in this group include Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, Brian Shouse, Joel Piniero and Justin Duchscherer. It seems highly unlikely a reliever from this group will emerge, considering so many names were not offered arbitration earlier this week.
The Tigers could afford a couple of these arms. Names like J.J. Putz, Octavio Dotel, LaTroy Hawkins, Bob Howry, Guillermo Mota, Matt Herges, Tom Gordon, Takashi Saito, and David Weathers (among many others). Relievers are one of the fastest positions off the board, so if the Tigers want to create competition in spring training, then it would seem bringing in two or more of these names would be possible. The goal being sticking under the 6.95 million spent on Rodney and Lyon last season.
Billy Wagner seemed to be a perfect fit for the Tigers. For once, it seemed that Tigers fans were going to witness a season with a closer that brings it. A lefty that has been feared for years. Sure, he is now on his second elbow. That’s not the point. Will the Tigers be able to pay a true closer? It seems doubtful at this point. The end of ballgames might be rough in 2010.