The Detroit Tigers had another rough year in the bullpen. Could former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal be a free agent option?
Through 158 games this season, the Detroit Tigers bullpen has a 4.42 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. While the Tigers struggled this season because of inexperience and injuries, it was another subpar year for the relief corps in the Motor City.
With 2019 expected to be another rebuilding season, it is unlikely the team will invest heavily in their bullpen. However, it never hurts to look for reinforcements. Particularly if those reinforcements are cost-controlled and relatively youthful. A team like the Tigers can kill two birds with one stone if they can find a player who is affordable and can help the team now and in the future when they are contending again.
Those players rarely come without risk however, and Detroit will need to weigh those risks over the cost before making any decisions. One player that fits this bill is former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal is a strikeout machine who was a mainstay in St. Louis’ bullpen from 2012-2017. He was their primary closer between 2014-2015, saving 93 games with a 2.65 ERA and a 11.0 K/9. He faltered a bit in 2016, but looked like his old self in 2017 with a 3.40 ERA and a huge 14.35 K/9.
Unfortunately, Rosenthal underwent Tommy John surgery in August of 2017. That kept him out for the entirety of 2018. Unlike Michael Pineda and Drew Smyly, who signed low-cost two-year deals when they knew they would miss one season, Rosenthal opted to remain unsigned and rehabbed on his own.
Now, he is planning to host a showcase on October 3 – roughly 13 months removed from the surgery. It stands to reason that virtually every team will be on hand to watch the former All-Star closer to see how he looks.
The Tigers should consider signing Rosenthal if his cost doesn’t get too high. By the time spring training rolls around, Rosenthal will be 18 months removed from surgery and should be back to his healthy, hard-throwing ways. It’s always a risk to pick someone post-TJ, as often times their control falters and their risk for re-injury is much higher.
However, the Tigers have very little to lose in this situation. Rosenthal is just 28, and if he can return to even close to his old ways he would immediately slot into Detroit’s late-inning situation.
If things don’t work out, Detroit won’t have lost much. Plenty of teams will surely offer Rosenthal small contracts loaded with incentives, but few can offer a clearer path to a late inning role. Rosenthal would be smart to come to Detroit where he has a great chance of grabbing an eighth or ninth inning job.
Overall, Rosenthal is worth the risk – assuming his cost isn’t too egregious. Former closers with his potential aren’t available for cheap too often, but this could be a rare opportunity for the Detroit Tigers to shore up their bullpen without breaking the bank.