The Detroit Tigers have had some interesting history when it comes to signing relievers off the perpetual scrapheap with a mixed bag of results. When taking flyers on proven veterans who are nearing the end of their careers, for every Octavio Dotel, who gave you at least one good season of productivity as he did in 2012, you have 16 games of Jose Mesa in 2007 at the age of 41.
One pitcher comes to mind when I think of Jose Cisnero and that is Jamie Walker. Yes, you read that correctly. Are they even the same type of pitcher? Heck no! So, what do they have in common then you ask? Both were signed with the Tigers at the age of 30 years old when teams moved on from them. While this might be a stretch a bit, the point I am making is with Walker, while he did not the big strikeout numbers or average WAR, Detroit took a flyer and got five seasons’ worth of work before he got a raise and went to Baltimore.
Cisnero has seized the opportunities the Tigers have given him and is in the mix to be the team’s closer in 2021. From the long journey he took to get here as Cody Stavenhagen highlighted last season in a great story in the Athletic, it continues to bode well for Detroit.
Jose Cisnero’s contract status with the Detroit Tigers
His current deal is at one year for $970,000 and he is not eligible to be a free agent until 2024
Jose Cisnero’s game
Cisnero throws primary a fastball, slider, and a changeup. His fastball spin rate was among the top 73% percentile in baseball, at 2412 RPM in 2020. Cisnero’s slider last year really jumped up in terms of effectiveness. He generated a whiff% of 48.5% and became his main put-away pitch as batters were batting just .143 against it. This right here is a good example of it and what makes it better is who he strikes out here.
While his ERA was 3.03, his FIP was 2.65 and was second only to Gregory Soto in K% at 27.6%. Minus the struggles Soto had at walking batters, still, it was an effective lefty and right combo out of the bullpen.
According to FanGraphs’s ZiPS projections, they projected him to have a K per 9 of 9.72 with his BB per 9 going up (4.59 from 3.03 in 2020) and FIP jumping up (2.65 to 4.76).
MCB’s take on Jose Cisnero
Manager AJ Hinch has Cisnero in the mix to be the team’s closer. As our own Kellen discussed last year, his upside in a small sample size is positive and could be a good sign for more than average bullpen production.
That being said, if Cisnero can continue his upward projection, he could be a trade piece. Now, I know Tigers fans do not want to hear that and I have seen reactions on social media that are angry for the mere suggestion. But Justin Wilson turned into Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes. Detroit needs more hitters as we have witnessed this spring and last year, they strike out too much.
I said “could” because in reality, I would like Cisnero to pitch meaningful games in a Tigers uniform but Detroit is still rebuilding. Whatever the case is for Cisnero in 2021, I am looking forward to seeing how he can mix in his changeup to throw batters off balance when they expect the slider or fastball.