For the third time in ten months, the Detroit Tigers have announced that they have parted ways with Jose Valverde. They decided not to re-sign the closer following the playoffs last October, they designated him for assignment after his return to the club ended in failure, and now they’ve released him from the organization after it became clear that he wouldn’t be working his way back this season.
The Tigers announced Wednesday afternoon that they have given Valverde his unconditional release, which puts an end to his comeback bid with the organization.
The Tigers signed Valverde to a minor-league contract in early April after Bruce Rondon failed to win the closer’s job in spring training. Valverde quickly worked his way to the majors and pitched well for the Tigers at first, then stumbled and was designated for assignment. He accepted an assignment to Triple-A Toledo, where he had a 4.09 ERA and seven saves in 11 outings.
Valverde simply hasn’t been very effective in AAA, and, now that Jose Veras is in the fold and Octavio Dotel is set to begin a rehab assignment, the Tigers have no need for a mediocre right-handed specialist in the bullpen. It could have, would have been a great story had he returned to some form of success when he was called up to the big leagues earlier in the year, but it quickly became clear that he wasn’t going to become any sort of trustworthy late-inning reliver.
Joaquin Benoit has been downright silly as the team’s closer – he’s allowed just one run since Valverde was demoted back in June – and Drew Smyly and Jose Veras appear to be an excellent combo to handle seventh and eighth inning duties based on matchups. Octavio Dotel, who appears set to return in 10 days, has been very tough on right-handed hitters in his career, and, despite the overall numbers this year, Phil Coke has remained rather effective against left-handed hitters (.277 OBP against). Those five pitchers plus Bruce Rondon and Rick Porcello are odds on favorites to comprise the postseason bullpen.
Relief pitching was an issue earlier in the season, but I would have no qualms whatsoever about anyone in that bullpen so long as they’re used correctly. That means Phil Coke (almost) never pitching to right-handed batters and Octavio Dotel (almost) never pitching to left-handed batters, certainly not in high-leverage situations at any rate. Detroit potentially has a very good playoff bullpen on their hands.