Where the Detroit Tigers Bullpen Stands With Joe Nathan in the Mix

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Jul 29, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Joe Nathan (36) throws a pitch during the ninth inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers beat the White Sox 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers got their closer yesterday – reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $20(ish) million deal with free agent Joe Nathan – but the bullpen, as currently projected, is still much worse than it was when the season ended in Boston.

Here’s a quick comparison chart:

2013

2014

Joaquin Benoit

Joe Nathan

(

Bruce Rondon

Al Alburquerque

Al Alburquerque

Phil Coke

Phil Coke

Drew SmylyIan KrolJose VerasLuke PutkonenJose Alvarez

Reed / Ortega

Joe Nathan essentially replaces Joaquin Benoit – maybe he’s even a bit better – but, essentially, the Tiger have lost Drew Smyly (to the rotation) and Jose Veras (declined option) in favor of Ian Krol and Luke Putkonen (or Luis Marte is he’s healthy).

Bruce Rondon, who wasn’t on the playoff roster due to elbow soreness, will likely be a big part of the relief corps this season – you could even argue that he’s basically replacing Veras – but that still leaves Smyly’s void in the seventh or eighth inning (and that’s just to get back to how good they were a season ago). Ian Krol will likely be given the opportunity to pitch in the seven thinning, particularly against lefties, but the Tigers can’t be close to done with regard to bullpen upgrades (nor have they implied they are).

If the Tigers are intent on making serious upgrades to the bullpen this year, then at least one quality setup type arm should be added before the start of the year, if not two more. It seems like pitchers such as Coke, Krol, Putkonen, Evan Reed, and Jose Ortega should be battling for two spots not four, but, as it stands now, more than half of the pen stands to be comprised of those fringy type guys.

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