The Detroit Tigers are Trying to Acquire a Closer: Three Potential Options
Per a tweet from Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, general manager Al Avila reveals that the Detroit Tigers are “trying to acquire a closer, either in free agency or a trade.”
This obviously makes sense.
The Tigers used a rotating door of closers once Joakim Soria was traded. Bruce Rondon, Alex Wilson and Neftali Feliz all converted saves. In total, the trio posted a mere 11 saves. This ordeal taught us that Rondon isn’t quite ready for the bright lights, Wilson is better suited as a setup man and that Feliz… well, actually Feliz wasn’t awful down the stretch. The former Texas Ranger posted a 3.21 ERA over his last 14 appearances, but he’s simply too expensive.
Rondon isn’t going to be the team’s closer next season, and neither is Wilson or Feliz. Here are three players who could get the ball at the end of games for the 2016 Detroit Tigers.
Andrew Miller: The Full Circle Candidate
Four score and seven years ago (eight seasons to be exact), Andrew Miller was the Tigers’ next big prospect. At the time, he was ticketed as the team’s next ace. After being included in the Miguel Cabrera heist, Miller split six seasons between Florida, Boston and Baltimore before signing with the Yankees last season. While with the Red Sox, the pitcher transitioned to the bullpen.
As it turns out, that was a really smart career move.
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Since transitioning to the bullpen, Miller owns a 2.40 ERA and 302 strikeouts in 195 innings. He transitioned again, this time to the closer’s role, for the Yankees last season and thrived. The former Tiger struck out 100 batters in only 61.2 innings while converting 36 saves.
According to CBS Sports baseball insider Jon Heyman, the Yankees are “willing to listen to offers for closer Andrew Miller.” It would cost a lot in terms of outgoing players, but Miller was exceptional for New York last season, and has been one of the better relievers in the league for some time.
Darren O’Day: The Outside the Box Choice In terms of bringing in a closer, MLB.com’s Jason Beck quotes Avila as saying, “There might be a guy that you might not think is a closer but we do.”
That “guy” could be Darren O’Day.
You can read all about how O’Day can save the Tigers’ bullpen here, but if you want to read on, I’ll cut to the chase. Darren O’Day is a strikeout pitcher who limits walks and base runners while posting a minuscule ERA. He’s never been a closer, but that clearly didn’t prevent Miller or Luke Gregerson from being successful.
Craig Kimbrel: The Established All Star
If signing O’Day represents outside the box thinking, trading for Craig Kimbrel is the extremely obvious choice. The former Atlanta closer has been dominant in the big leagues to the point of absurdity. Here are some of those absurd stats.
Aug 19, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) pitches during the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
- From 2011 to 2014, Kimbrel led the majors in saves during each every season.
- In 2012, Kimbrel faced a total of 231 batters. He struck out 116 of them.
- Kimbrel has pitched 348.1 innings and owns a career ERA of 1.63.
- His FIP isn’t far off either at 1.72.
- Kimbrel has finished in the top nine in Cy Young voting in each of his first four seasons.
- During that span he also won Rookie of the Year, earned four All Star Game Appearances and finished 23rd, eighth and eleventh in MVP voting. If starting pitchers don’t garner much attention, than closers garner even less. Those votes are a testament to Kimbrel’s ability.
The Padres will no doubt want a significant package of players for Kimbrel considering what the team gave up (not to mention absorbing Melvin Upton’s contract), but the biggest luxury on a losing team is a closer. Given Petco Park’s ability to make pitchers in the same way Brett Favre used to make receivers, the Padres won’t have as much trouble finding a replacement, especially if the team’s struggles from 2015 carry over to 2016.
San Diego has needs up the middle of the field, so perhaps a deal including one of Jose Iglesias, Dixon Machado or Javier Betancourt could work for both parties.
Regardless of who the Tigers acquire, expect the team to bring in a closer in some fashion. Al Avila isn’t going to publicly say the team is looking to trade for or sign a closer and then come up empty handed.