This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the Tigers aren’t even thinking about throwing money at free agent reliever Rafael Soriano (formerly of the New York Yankees). Danny Knobler provided the intel:
Tigers are not interested in Soriano. Plan to stay in-house for closer, with hard-throwing 21-year-old Bruce Rondon getting chance at job.
— DKnobler (@DKnobler) November 9, 2012
Soriano declined his player option for the 2013 season that would have had the Yankees paying him $14 million (!), electing instead to become a free agent. It was thought that Soriano would turn down the deal to gain a deal with longer-term security at a lower annual rate, but apparently super agent Scott Boras is seeking a four year deal for his client that could total up to $60 million. That’s a ridiculous sum for a relief pitcher.
I think we all knew that the Tigers wouldn’t hand out that type of cash for a closer, but perhaps more interesting is the implication that they won’t pursue a “closer” at all on the free agent market. I’m certainly all for that idea, as “proven closers” often cost much more than they’re worth.
I had thought it was a near-certainty that Dave Dombrowski would pursue some sort of reliever in free agency (someone in the $1-$3 million range) – and he still might – but I’m not even sure about that anymore. The Tigers are likely set with five of their seven bullpen arms – Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, and Brayan Villarreal – and would likely fill another spot with one of Darin Downs, Luis Marte, or Duane Below, leaving only room for one more relief pitcher. That could be the rookie Bruce Rondon getting a chance to close, or it could be Jeremy Bonderman if he’s able to get his slider working, or it could be another of the three listed above.
If Detroit doesn’t add a relief arm in free agency, and Rondon isn’t able to win the closer job in the spring, then I’d like to see the Tigers eschew the “closer” idea altogether and simply play the best matchups in the late innings.