We’ve heard rumblings over the past month that Joel Zumaya hopes to make a return to baseball, and that his first choice for a comeback would be with the Detroit Tigers. Zumaya hasn’t been healthy enough to pitch in the big leagues since 2010, and he hasn’t thrown more than 40 innings since his rookie season in 2006, but he was effective in his major league career when he was on the field.
Staying on the field has obviously been a huge problem for Zumaya in his career — and the Tigers couldn’t count on him as the solution (or even a solution) in the bullpen, they’d still want to bring a solid late-inning arm into the fold — but signing Zumaya to a minor league deal (assuming he can throw a ball) would be a low-risk, high reward move. Zumaya owns a career 3.05 ERA and a strikeout rate a shade over a batter per inning, and that type of production can always be squeezed onto the team.
Zumaya’s deliver is so violent, and his injury history so extensive, that it would be unwise to expect him to complete a full season without a stint on the disabled list, but it might be worth the gamble to see if he could dial the intensity back a bit and work in the mid-90’s with his fastball to save his arm from complete destruction.
The upside of the move would be an additional 1+ WAR pitcher in the bullpen, and the downside would sacrificing one spring training or AAA slot that would otherwise go to a organizational depth-type pitcher. If they could get him on a minor league deal (an really, who’d going to give him a major league one), then they only way they would have to pay him much of anything would be if he makes the major league roster. And at that point you’d be happy to pay him the small sum because it would mean he’s contributing to the team.
Again signing Joel Zumaya wouldn’t be THE MOVE to fill the bullpen opening, but it would be a low-risk move that could potentially pay dividends if he proves effectiveness and makes his way back to the big club.