Sep 27, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Veras (31) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Marlins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
In a relatively shocking move, the Detroit Tigers have announced that they won’t be picking up the $3.25 million option they held on relief pitcher Jose Veras for the 2014 season. Here’s the Detroit News:
"The Tigers on Friday announced they have declined to pick up the 2014 option for veteran reliever Jose Veras, making him a free agent.Veras’ option was for $3.25 million, and the buyout only cost the team $150,000 – so there’s a chance the Tigers will attempt to sign Veras for a lower price. It’s a maneuver president and general manager Dave Dombrowski has orchestrated in the past, most notably with Jhonny Peralta a few years back."
It’s shocking because the bullpen was a weak point last season, they don’t have (m)any veterans returning, and $3.25 million isn’t a lot of money for a back-end type pitcher who put up solid numbers. Danry Vasquez now looks like an extreme overpay for two months of Veras.
I actually think declining the option is the right move – though I wouldn’t have argued either way – but I’m certainly surprised the team had the guts to pull the plug on one of the few ‘solid’ options they had.
With Phil Coke likely headed for a non-tender this offseason, Joaquin Benoit hitting free agency, and now Veras being ushered out the door, the bullpen is headed for big changes. Seven relievers who pitched in 2013 remain under team control (assuming Coke is non-tendered):
It’s possible that they work out a deal with Joaquin Benoit (or some other ‘proven’ veteran), but it’s also possible that they’re clearing the way for some younger arms.
24 year old lefty Matt Hoffman looks to be ready for the big leagues, he put up a 2.06 ERA in Toledo in 2013. Casey Crosby, after struggling again as a starter, could be moved to the bullpen (and pitch in the big leagues) next season. Melvin Mercedes pitched well to finish the year in Erie and put up a 1.44 ERA across AA and Advanced-A. Corey Knebel, a first round draft choice last season, only pitched in A-ball, but he dominated the Midwest League (0.89 ERA, 11.9 K/9) and has continued his success in the Arizona Fall League. He might be close if the front office elects to continue his development as a reliever (there was talk of possibly converting him into a starter after the draft).
There are many paths the Tigers could take with the bullpen. I generally prefer the in-house (read: cheap) method since reliver performance is so fickle to begin with, but it only works so long as the guys perform. That didn’t really happen last year for anyone not named Benoit or Smyly.