Detroit Tigers may not need a closer often, but they will at some point.
It's early to overanalyze comments from A.J. Hinch about the 2023 ball club. He has not seen some of the new faces and has not seen the progression or regression of some Detroit Tigers players from last year to this Spring.
That being said, his recent comments about the Detroit Tigers' 2023 closing role were very non-committal. Hinch mentioned that "someone" will be closing out ballgames for the team in 2023. He delved deeper to say that the Tigers do not have a specific player pegged for the role at this point.
This feels like a role that should be going to Alex Lange, and he seems to be the best fit for the job with the closer vacancy on this roster. After the team moved on from Gregory Soto in the trade with the Phillies, it opened up the closer role, but trading Joe Jiménez to the Atlanta Braves earlier this off-season also opens up some space in the bullpen.
There is still work to be done and players to win jobs, but with a vacant closer role. Considering Jason Foley for the position is worth considering. It sounds a little crazy to suggest a player with just 71 big-league appearances for the closer role, but he might be able to earn it.
I'll stand my ground on Lange being the best option, but the dark horse who sneaks up out of nowhere could be Foley. If he comes out in spring ball and cements a late-game role, he could easily earn some closing opportunities in 2023.
Foley's second season with the Tigers at the big league level came in 2022 when he was able to find his way into 60 games for the Tigers. He finished off 15 games during his 60 appearances and logged 60.1 innings pitched. Foley pitched to a 3.88 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.
He struck out just 43 opposing hitters, but that's not his calling card. He's not the flame-throwing closer by any means, but he can get up into the upper-90s and averages around 96 mph on his fastball. There's reason to believe he could be an effective reliever in brief outings.
Foley features a primarily sinker/slider attack with a tertiary changeup in the mix. The fastball spins just over 2,000 RPMs on average and has a sinker profile to it. He pairs that with a slider that spins in the 2,200 RPMs on average and has a 26.7% whiff rate on it, according to Baseball Savant.
There are a few things that need to happen for me to really cement him as a closer candidate, but I think there's a case to be made. The Tigers will try their luck with several options, so Foley is likely to get a chance; he may not have the best odds, but he's a sneaky candidate.
If he comes out in Spring Training and looks solid, there's more reason to believe he goes into 2023 as a high-leverage arm for the Tigers. If the Tigers can tweak and toy with his arsenal to try and get the chase & whiff rates to climb on his slider, there's a good reason to believe he could have success in short outings with a SNK/SL profile, being able to pull out the change-up if he really needs it.
Foley may not be the next 40-save closer, but he may be a stopgap guy who's given the ninth inning in 2023 if all goes well this Spring.