Tigers Expected to Pick Up Option on Jose Valverde “Soon”


The first domino of what is sure to be a busy off-season for the Detroit Tigers may be falling shortly, according to Jon Heyman of MLB network and Sports Illustrated. Heyman tweeted this afternoon that the Tigers are expected to exercise the $9 million club option for closer Jose Valverde, keeping Papa Grande in Motown for another year.

Valverde, who converted all 49 save opportunities in 2011, was signed prior to the 2010 season and has made two all-star teams in his two seasons in Detroit. In 2011, Valverde re-wrote the franchise record book for closers, breaking the single season saves mark, previously held by Todd Jones, who saved 42 games for the 2000 squad, as well as the consecutive saves record.

I fully expect reaction to vary widely on this move when it actually happens. detractors have an easy case to make, and they’ll cite Valverde’s Type-A free agent status (and potential draft pick compensation) as the biggest reason that this is not their favorite move. $9 million is a lot of money to pay a reliever, in any role, and certainly they club could use some of that cash with significant raises due to other players through escalating contracts and arbitration raises.

The Elias rankings, which determine draft pick compensation for free agents, are based on a two-year period, so even if Valverde has a poor 2012, he will still likely qualify as a Type-A guy next year, so the Tigers will have another chance to obtain those picks at that time.

The other argument will be centered around the value of Valverde’s assigned role. While I’ll agree that paying for saves is not a good practice to get into, there is a great deal to be said about a team going undefeated when leading after eight innings, as the Tigers did this year. Valverde was certainly a major factor in the Tigers not blowing a single last-inning lead.

By locking up Valverde, the Tigers are keeping their late-inning duo intact. That’s important because they already have a spot or two in the middle innings that they could upgrade, in addition to the holes that need filled in the lineup and starting rotation. Had they opted instead to allow Valverde to walk (and he almost certainly would have sought a multi-year deal on the open market), the Tigers would also have to find a replacement either for him or for Joaquin Benoit, had Benoit been shifted to the ninth inning.