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Could Jose Valverde Return?

Two different news sources (CBSsports and Rotoworld) piqued my curiosity today when mentioning the Tigers’ closing situation and the words “Safety Net.” I assumed they were going to write about acquiring a reliever from another team, or even about working out Brian Wilson, but no. Instead they quoted Jim Leyland as saying how he was shocked Valverde was still unsigned, and how he would like the Tigers to bring him back as that aforementioned safety net.

Wait.

What?

The same Jose Valverdewho played above his peripherals in 2011?

Oct 24, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Valverde (46, left) hands the ball to manager Jim Leyland (10, right) in a pitching change as catcher Alex Avila (13) looks on during the seventh inning of game one of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT

The same Jose Valverde who gradually melted down last season, like a car crash in slow motion?

The same Jose Valverde who was thrust so far down the bench in the playoffs that he was basically the Gatorade monitor?

The same Jose Valverde who the New York Mets wouldn’t sign? (The very same Mets who are using Frank Francisco as a closer??)

THAT guy? Why in the world would the Detroit Tigers bring that guy back?

A buddy of mine said it best when he tweeted, “That’s why Leyland can’t sign any players himself,” but even the comedy of the situation is grounded on a sad, resonating disconnect between Leyland and reality.

The man is loyal. Fiercely loyal. Unconditionally loyal. This is a man you want as a character witness if you’re ever the prime suspect in a murder trial, or if your spouse has thrown you and your record collection out on the street. However, this is not the best attribute for a baseball manager.

Ryan Raburn was a beneficiary of that loyalty, as were Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez before him. Leyland holds on to players and keeps inserting them into his lineup well after their consistency, and sometimes usefulness, has worn down to a nub. Bringing back a run-down relief pitcher to close, which can so very easily NOT be done (see: Tampa Bay Rays), is mind-boggling. If anything, baseball history has shown us that managers don’t have to be loyal to relievers, just because they can be so unpredictable and so replaceable. As blunt as that statement is, just check out the closer turnover in the major leagues the last three years. Look at the Oakland A’s and the Rays. Loyalty should not factor into this, especially with a player that we have seen enter the down slope of his career.

I’m grateful for the time that Valverde spent with the Tigers: he had a great run and he was pure, unbridled joy to watch.

But Jose Valverde is gone, Jim. Let him enjoy his mansion in peace.

Topics: Detroit Tigers, Jim Leyland, Jose Valverde

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  • rings13

    Perfect sentiments. Under no circumstances should “Grande” be back. In fact, he just begged off the WBC, which makes me suspect he’s done.

    • chrisHannum

      He apparently did so because somebody in his family got sick, I don’t know that you can say that he must not be able to pitch “because” he isn’t going to be in the WBC. Still… everybody will assume that he can’t pitch until he proves otherwise.

      • rings13

        Call me cynical, but for a guy at the end of his career – with a chance to squeeze a couple more million $$ out of the MLB – I seriously doubt a “sick uncle” (as has been reported) would keep him from his BEST opportunity to showcase himself after his disaster in the playoffs.
        He’s not getting any offers for a reason…and the WBC offers him a chance to remove that “stigma of failure” from the end of last year.
        My guess is that he’s truly lost confidence and is perhaps not in shape.
        Overall, I agree with Grant. IMO, he was more lucky than good during his time in the D and Jimmy Smokes will give him far more opportunity that he should if he’s on the Tiger roster, at the expense of other options, even at “only” a couple million $.

  • chrisHannum

    I disagree. Valverde ineffective last year and downright awful at the tail end, but that doesn’t mean he can’t right the ship. It isn’t as though we’ve never seen a reliever go through a rough patch and then be his old self again. The guy just has an awful lot to prove before anybody should be willing to give him a shot to close major league games. I had figured that we’d see him try to build value in the WBC and get multiple big-league offers if he looked sharp, now I don’t know…

    • Matt Pelc

      No one thought Fernando Rodney would be a factor again after he flamed out in his years with the Angels after leaving Detroit. Then he went to Tampa and had an astonishing year. You never know–closers find it, lose it, and (sometimes) find it again.

      Can Valverde be any worse than what Rondon has shown this Spring?

      • John Verburg

        Part of the reason Rodney “found it” is because his command improved greatly after the Tampa staff made a slight adjustment with him. What adjustment is the Tigers staff going to make with Valverde that the Tigers didn’t already try? If anything, he would be better off trying a new organization for himself. Maybe they can find what the Tigers couldn’t.

        • Matt Pelc

          Alas the point is moot as Leyland squashed it a couple hours ago. I was not saying I wanted him back, but for the closer, the Tigers seem to be throwing things at the wall, hoping they stick. Bringing Valverde back is about as insane as having an unproven rookie start the season as closer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.patten.7 Todd Patten

    Give him a chance. If he has turned it around, it would be a great move. There are no risks here…

    • John Verburg

      I disagree. There is clear risk of Leyland putting a guy into situations because of something he did well a couple years ago.