As has been said now numerous times on this blog, the Tigers are moving on from Jose Valverde, and it’s been speculated that they’ll pursue bullpen help in the free agency period. I argued earlier today that the Tigers should shy away from guys that carry the “proven closer” tag because they typically cost much more money and instead look at relievers who had previously filled set-up roles with their former team(s). One such player, who’s due to become a free agent, is Joel Peralta of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Peralta earned just over $2 million last season as a third year arbitration eligible player, so he likely wouldn’t break the bank as a free agent addition to the Tigers.
Peralta doesn’t have typical closer stuff – his fastball only averages 90-91 mph – but he mixes in a fair number of splitters and curve balls, and has enjoyed a nice three year run with Washington (in 2010) and Tampa Bay (the last two seasons). Over the last three years, he’s made 186 appearances and posted a 2.94 ERA with a WHIP of 0.91 and a strikeout rate just north of one per inning.
His ERA took a bit of a hit last season – jumping to 3.68 – but his peripherals were much better than that, and his FIP (3.14), xFIP (3.21), SIERA (2.36), and tERA (2.95) all predicted better things. So, unlike Valverde, it appears that Peralta suffered more from a lack of luck, and not a lack of stuff.
Age is a concern for Peralta – he will be 37 next season – so Detroit wouldn’t want to commit a large number of years his way, but his numbers don’t show an indication of a big decline, so a one or two year deal (for a reasonable sum of money) seems prudent enough.
Peralta has only recorded ten career saves, so he’s not a seasoned ninth inning guy, but he’s converted either a hold or a save in just over 90% of save situations (81 situations in all) over the past three years (Mariano Rivera has converted 88% of such situations in the last three years).
If the Tigers sign Peralta, it shouldn’t necessarily mean that he would be the closer, but he would be one of several guys that could likely get the job done in the ninth inning, and, unlike Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel, he hasn’t shown a large consistent platoon spilt over the last several years so he could be trusted to get both lefties and righties out.
Peralta isn’t a name that sounds foreboding in the ninth inning, but he could be a very nice addition to the back end of the bullpen for a relatively low cost.