It would be an understatement to say the Detroit Tigers bullpen has struggled this season. The Tigers rank 29th out of the 30 MLB teams in bullpen ERA with a gut wrenching 4.62, only to be atop of the Houston Astros’ bullpen’s 4.72 ERA. Opposing batters hit .268 off Tigers relievers, which also ranks second-to-last. To put it simply, the Tigers need some bullpen help and they need it bad.
Tigers General Manager David Dombrowski has tried many different approaches by bringing up youngsters such as Blaine Hardy and Pat McCoy; but none of them seem to be the solution. Joe Nathan has 21 ER’s this season and it’s not even the All Star Break. There is not a single reliable pitcher in the bullpen that manager Brad Ausmus can turn to and be confident that they can get the job done. And while there has been some bright spots in Joba Chamberlain and occasionally Al Albuquerque, they’re not enough to outshine the circus we know as the Detroit Tigers bullpen. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching (July 31st) and many non-contending teams are looking to sell the few good pieces that they have. Names such as Joakim Soria and Chad Qualls have said to be among those the Tigers have looked at. But let’s be honest, those two are not going to change the bullpen all too much. As a matter of fact, I think Jimmy Carter was president when Qualls was a rookie. That being said, I compiled a few names I think would undoubtedly fix the Tigers’ bullpen and are also within the team’s ability to acquire…
May 23, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcherJoaquin Benoit
(56) throws during the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
This is a tricky situation to discuss as it was agonizing to see the Tigers let Benoit, arguably the best set up man in the league, essentially leave Motown without any sort of offer. He was snatched up by the San Diego Padres and signed to a two year, 15.5 million dollar deal; a relatively cheap contract for the value he brings to a bullpen. And much like he did when wearing the English D, Benoit is putting up great numbers out in San Diego. Posting a 1.91 ERA in 37.2 IP, along with 43 SO’s, and 21 hits allowed. And there is no doubt he would bring those same numbers to the struggling Detroit bullpen. And what makes Benoit so much better than some other options is that he has the versatility that this Detroit bullpen lacks; he can be the set up man or the closer. How the Tigers would want to use him is up in the air, but chances are great Joe Nathan will remain closer and Benoit would be the eighth inning man, which is fine on all accounts as the man is lights out.
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Now, it’s apparent that the Padres aren’t playing great baseball nowadays and it’s been reported by Jon Morosi that Benoit is on the market and the Tigers are among those interested. And while it would be great to see him on the Tigers roster once again, it is beyond frustrating to have to give up assets (of the few the Tigers have) to get back a player we could have simply signed this past offseason. Regardless of the frustration, bringing back Benoit would dramatically change everything in the bullpen. He is such an important piece and would orchestrate any major league bullpen into a strong one; let’s just hope we see Joaquín pitching in the confines of Comerica soon.
Apr 26, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia (58) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Who? I know, the name doesn’t even ring a bell in the mind of the most avid baseball fan as Mejia is relatively unknown. His irrelevance among baseball fans is easy to understand when you see he plays for the New York Mets; but other than that there is little reason for him to be unknown. Mejia, 24 years old, has been in the majors for four seasons; all with New York. Making 33 appearances in 2010, and only ten over the next two seasons due to multiple injuries injuries and a surgery. Then comes the 2014 season, his breakout year, where Mejia won the fifth starter spot, but was later converted to a relief pitcher to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka. Jenrry has done nothing short of flourished in the relief role as he has closed, set up, and even done some long relief work. The only disconcerting stat about Mejia is that he has given up 64 hits in 63.1 IP. But remember, he began the year as a starter, which could also explain his 28 ER’s. He may not be light outs, but he can certainly get the job done better than most current Tigers relievers.
In the end he’s versatile, young, and has a haircut I thought only Lionel Ritchie was capable of pulling off. Mejia is a long term option that could help the Tigers for years to come and his energy is a rarity in the game these days. The only problem is whether the Mets will part with him or not as they are attempting to rebuild.
Jul 3, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Steve Cishek (31) throws during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Ballpark. The Phillies won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The 28 year old Cishek has been an under-the-radar player his entire career. The Marlins closer gets little attention but his performances are ones not to be missed. A 3.67 ERA and 20 saves this season is not something to be overlooked. Cishek collected 34 saves last season for a team that lost 100 games, along with a 2.33 ERA; a career best. This current season Cishek sports a 3-5 record, which is certainly cause for concern. But when discussing the young sidearm-er, the benefit of the doubt must be given to him as he has absolutely no help in the Marlins bullpen (Carlos Marmol? I think not) and is essentially a one man show down in South Beach. Now if he were to ever come to Detroit it’d be interesting to see how the team would use him. He can get the quick out (45 SO’s in 38.1 IP) or even potentially close to give Grandpa Joe Nathan the night off. But believe me in saying this, Steve Cishek could be an alternative, yet highly effective option if Benoit or some of the other options don’t work out.
The one problem with Cishek is that he will not come cheap as he is so valuable to the Marlins, plus the Tigers don’t have a ton to give up in return. While Cishek may be pricey, the Tigers’ past deals with the Marlins have kinda worked out in the Tigers’ favor (Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez anyone?). But first and foremost the Marlins are going to have to decide whether to be buyers or sellers soon. And let’s cross our fingers the Tigers go a-knockin when that decision is made.
“While Cishek may be pricey, the Tigers’ past deals with the Marlins have kinda worked out in the Tigers’ favor (Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez anyone?)”
Obviously there are an endless amount of options out there for the Tigers as far as relief pitchers go but I feel these three are ones that will legitimately help the Tigers’ bullpen. Let’s face it, pitching wins championships. Not just starting pitching but relief pitching as well; as a matter of fact it’s what ultimately sunk us last year against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. And with the trade deadline approaching, it’s time to seek help where it’s needed most.