Detroit Tigers free agency primer: Why Matt Albers could be a fit
Detroit Tigers executive vice president and general manager Al Avila could do with another late-inning bullpen option. Free agent Matt Albers could be a fit.
Detroit Tigers fans saw the team’s bullpen struggle once again last season.
The Tigers’ bullpen finished 30th in the league in WAR with a collective -1.2 number. They were the only Major League relievers to finish the season with a WAR south of 0.0.
It wasn’t just WAR either, name a metric and the Tigers likely finished towards the bottom of the league in said metric.
xFIP? Detroit relievers ranked 30th. Strand rate? The Tigers bullpen also finished last.
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Interested in walk rate? The Tigers’ relief pitchers weren’t exactly last in that statistical category, but they were close, checking in at 23rd.
So all and all, not exactly a banner year.
Signing one bullpen arm isn’t going to fix things.
For that matter, signing two or three might not be enough to turn the tide.
Still, adding a veteran arm to the mix would help ease the pressure on younger relievers like Joe Jimenez, Bruce Rondon, Jairo Labourt and others who figure to play a part moving forward.
One potential fit on the free agent market is Matt Albers.
A 35-year-old veteran who has pitched for seven different teams, Albers had perhaps the best season of his career last season, a season that was quietly one of the best in baseball among relievers.
In 62 innings for the Washington Nationals, the right-hander turned in a 1.62 ERA, a 3.20 SIERA, a 3.40 FIP and a 0.852 WHIP. He also chipped in with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings and surrendered just 2.5 walks and 0.9 home runs per nine frames.
What’s more, the veteran paced all relievers not named Craig Kimbrel with a 92.4% strand rate while also finishing eighth in WHIP ahead of bullpen dignitaries like Felipe Rivero, Chris Devenski and Raisel Iglesias.
Albers also finished in the top 55 among 155 qualified relievers in both SIERA (36th) and strikeout percentage (54th).
Hypothetical role with the 2018 Detroit Tigers
With Detroit, Albers could conceivably slot in as Shane Greene’s primary setup man. The right-hander could even step in for Greene as the ninth-inning option if the Tigers trade Greene.
Speaking of trades, Albers could also provide executive vice president and general manager Al Avila with a potential trade chip as the 2018 season progresses.
In a crowded right-handed relief market that also includes Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Brandon Morrow, Addison Reed, Brandon Kintzler, Bryan Shaw, Steve Cishek, Tyler Clippard and Luke Gregerson among others, Albers could provide value.
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If Detroit can, hypothetically, sign him to a short-term deal and plug him in at the back end the bullpen, he could be providing value for the Tigers in the Motor City.