We reported yesterday that Al Alburquerque is going to have elbow surgery, putting him out until at least the middle of the 2012 season. MCB writer Jordan Gorosh basically called this one months ago, discussing his high injury risk, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to us here. However, any loss of a player, especially one that performed well, requires a closer look as to how this affects the roster of the Tigers. Or if it really affects it all?
Softening the blow to the Alburquerque surgery is the recent signing of Octavio Dotel. Dotel though was going to be signed regardless as a veteran piece to help out the back end of the bullpen. The Tigers also traded Ryan Perry for Colin Balester from the Nationals as well, adding yet another young power arm. A quick look at the Tigers bullpen, even without Al Al, still reveals plenty of depth. I don’t know about quality depth, but at least there is bodies for competition. Dotel, Balester, and David Pauley will more than likely join closer Jose Valverde and set-up man Joaquin Benoit as the righties coming out of the pen. The left-handed duties look like they will be taken care of by Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke.
Every spring though, there is probably more competition for bullpen spots than anything. At least for that last spot or two. The Alburquerque news opens up what should be a little more competition in the spring. David Pauley, after his performance with the Tigers after coming over in the Doug Fister trade, shouldn’t be automatically afforded a roster spot. That leaves the door open for a guy like Bryan Villareal, or perhaps even Tyler Stohr.
Or even Joel Zumaya?
Zumaya just recently held a bullpen session for some teams around major league baseball. Given his injury history, I am sure teams wanted to get a good look at Zumaya before being convinced he would be worth taking a flyer on. I’ve already been on record on this site as being in favor of signing Zumaya to a minor league deal. But could the vast interest in him (almost all of baseball watched his throwing session), and the Alburquerque injury trigger a little more urgency in the Tigers to sign him to a big league deal?
The Tigers were one of the teams absent from Zumaya’s bullpen session. Obviously, they know Joel better than anybody, so that wasn’t that big of a shock. It also could just be a sign that the Tigers are flat out not interested and wish to move on. Reports were that Zumaya threw in the 93-95 mph range, and was pretty impressive. If there is genuine interest in Zumaya, it is likely that he is going to be able to secure a big league contract with someone.
Despite my interest in bringing Zumaya back at one point, I have lost that interest now. Zumaya’s great arm isn’t reason enough for the Tigers to sign him to a major league deal. They have showed a lot of patience with Joel, and frankly spent a lot of money on the care of his multiple injuries. Sometimes things just don’t work out.
I still wish Joel Zumaya the best unless he ends up pitching against the Tigers. Hopefully he gets what he is looking for in the free agent market. But the Tigers don’t have a need for him despite Alburquerque’s injury. They have plenty of competition for bullpen spots, and besides, what is the point of replacing one inevitable injured player with another?
Because, don’t we know that’s what is really going to happen? Joel Zumaya going to the disabled list is as inevitable as Al Al’s elbow acting up from so many sliders. You can nearly set your watch to it.