Detroit Tigers: Most of that Horrendous 2015 Bullpen is Already Gone

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The Detroit Tigers pitching staff was… well, it was bad in 2015. For all the struggles the starting rotation had, the starters were much better off than the relievers. At least the rotation had half a season of David Price and a resurgent Justin Verlander

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You could probably say that it was in shambles. After Joakim Soria was dealt, the bullpen fell into disarray. Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy, the team’s only dependable relievers, often became overworked. Change was obviously coming in the bullpen. Thankfully, general manager Al Avila has been hard at work improving the team’s relief corps. Francisco Rodriguez was traded for to solidify the ninth inning while set up man Justin Wilson also arrived via trade. Mark Lowe was signed to round out the back end of the bullpen.

The trio, along with Wilson and Hardy, provide a significant improvement over last year’s bullpen when the likes of Neftali Feliz and Tom Gorzelanny were counted on to hold the lead late in games.

While many are rightfully talking about the improvements in the ‘pen, one aspect of the offseason that has gone a bit unnoticed has been the steady departure of last season’s relievers.

Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wolf, proud owners of respective 5.95 and 6.23 ERAs were declared free agents in early November. Just a few days later Guido Knudson, who allowed 13 hits, 10 runs and five home runs in only five innings, was lost on waivers to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fellow reliever Ian Krol was flipped to Atlanta in the Cameron Maybin trade. Krol, who never quite figured things out in Detroit, posted a 5.34 ERA and a 5.18 FIP during parts of two seasons in a Tigers’ uniform. 

As the calendar turned to December, the Tigers finally made decisions on two of the team’s non-tender candidates, Neftali Feliz and Al Alburquerque. The team decided against offering the duo contracts for the upcoming season, making both free agents.

Feliz was signed to provide a boost to the Tigers ‘pen, but struggled mightily. His ERA as a member of Detroit’s pitching staff was an unsightly 7.62. While he posted a 2.61 ERA over his last 10.1 innings and had an overall FIP of 3.95 (both somewhat redeeming stats), Feliz needed a change of scenery. His 10.96 ERA and .347 batting average against in save situations was simply too poor to overlook. That and a relatively high salary sealed his fate. MLBTradeRumors.com projected a $5.2 million number for Feliz in 2016.

Alburquerque was the more surprising of the two non-tenders. While he did struggle comparatively in last season, he has a solid track record. The reliever owns a 3.20 ERA and a 3.34 FIP in 225 innings pitched.

The bullpen departures didn’t end at the major-league level. Detroit parted ways with two minor-league relievers in Melvin Mercedes and Josh Zeid. Neither made a big-league appearance in 2015, but both were counted on as depth pieces. 

Next: Predicting the 2016 Detroit bullpen

While all of the relievers listed above are gone, the Tigers have brought in a strong group to replace them. Now, instead of quarrelling about who the team should sign to improve the relief corps, we’re trying to predict the exact look of what should be a strong bullpen. Not a bad trade off right?

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