Tiger Droppings: 1/15/09

Although I tend to stay in my normal poop and fart joke wheelhouse around here, I would like, from time to time, to offer you some real opinion and analysis about your Detroit Tigers. So, the current plan is to offer up a sort of “Week in Review” on Fridays here at DesigNate Robertson covering the big news of the week, other stories, rumors, and some articles from around the web that you may be interested in. Thus, you get “Tiger Droppings”. You’re welcome.

The Top Story

We got a closer. The Tigers announced the signing of Jose Valverde to a 2 year/$14 million deal with a $9 million option on a third year.

Reaction has generally been of the “sky is falling” variety, and the Tigers really have no one to blame but themselves for that. When you trade arguably the most popular Tiger since Alan Trammell in Curtis Granderson and give the “dropping payroll and getting younger” excuse, it’s probably not a good P.R. move to so quickly spend millions on a soon-to-be 30 year old closer when your organization is stocked with young, fireballing relief pitchers. Having to surrender your first round draft pick to the Astros, since Valverde’s a Type A Free Agent, hurts, too. Mike, from Bless You Boys, has a very good example of these arguments right here. And though my initial reaction to this is to agree with him (and most of you, I guess), especially over losing the draft pick, let me play Devil’s Advocate and point out the good parts of this deal before we march on Tiger Headquarters with torches and pitchforks.

Exhibit A: This relieves the pressure on Joel Zumaya to be 2006 Zoom again right away. Knowing him, he’ll try to throw 100 mph on every pitch and hurt himself again. It also gives guys like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth time to work on their games without throwing them into the fire right away. Although giving one of those guys the chance at being closer in 2010 is much cheaper, it could have done more harm than good.

Exhibit B: Valverde is the best closer the Tigers have seen since my boy, Mike Henneman. Todd Jones was a great guy and Fernando Rodney, um, wore his hat in a funny way, but I never really felt safe with either man protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Did you? While I think the “save” stat is very overrated, I think having a lights-out closer is not. How many times has Joe Nathan entered the game for the Twins against us and you just knew the game was over? Jose could be that guy for us. Valverde’s stats the past three seasons?

(2007, 2008, 2009)
ERA: 2.66, 3.38, 2.33
ERA+: 179, 125, 180
WHIP: 1.12, 1.18, 1.13
K/9: 10.9, 10.4, 9.3

He’s good. He’s not Mariano Rivera, but he’s a top-tier closer. Are you still gaga over Rodney’s lucky 37/38 saves last year? His numbers against Valverde’s above body of work:

ERA: 4.40
ERA+: 104
WHIP: 1.47
K/9: 7.3

A big part of 2006’s success was having the bullpen be such a big strength. With Valverde anchoring the pen, whatever combination of Seay, Zoom, Schlereth, Coke, Perry, Minor, Ni, and/or whoever gives us one heck of a group to mop up for JV, Kid Rick, Mad Max, Bondo, and whoever wins the death match to be #5.

Exhibit C: Is $7 million a year that much for a proven, good closer? I really don’t think so. We all can’t get lucky and find a Brian Wilson or Ryan Franklin to be a cheap, solid closer. Would we have with our young cubs? Maybe. But Dave Dombrowski apparently didn’t want to take that chance. He’s taken enough of them. But $7 million, for a proven guy who made $8 million last year, isn’t bad. Take a look at what these closers are going to get paid in 2010:

Brian Fuentes: $9 million
Kerry Wood: $10.5 million
Francisco Rodriguez: $11.5 million
Brad Lidge: $11.5 million
Francisco Cordero: $12 million
Joe Nathan: $11.25 million
Mariano Rivera: $15 million
Trevor Hoffman: $8 million
B.J. Ryan: $10 million…and he doesn’t even play for Toronto anymore.

$7 million is a bargain right now for a good closer. But yeah…losing the draft pick kind of pisses me off. Much like Austin Jackson, Jose Valverde is going to either make Double D look like a genius…or a fool. If the Tigers are serious about being contenders in 2010 and add another bat or two (Russell Branyan, I’m looking at you), I can get behind this deal. If they do not, then I think it makes no sense. What good is a closer if he has no lead to protect?

One last thing on Valverde…I promise. If this affects the signing Justin Verlander to a long-term deal, I will personally beat Double D to death with the blunt object of your choosing, dear readers.

In Other News

-The Tigers signed 17 minor league free agents this week. Five of them are left-handed pitchers, proving that Dave Dombrowski has not lost his sense of humor while taking so much heat from the fans. Also included in the group was catcher, Mike Rabelo, who was part of the sack 'o' prospects that went to Florida in the Miguel Cabrera deal. Florida, sadly, has not been willing to take Dontrelle Willis back from us.

-Joel Zumaya avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $915,000 deal. Only in baseball do you get a raise for doing absolutely nothing.

-The Tigers have been rumored to be talking to Russell Branyan and Johnny Damon lately according to stories I’ve read and am to lazy to find. This doesn’t necessarily mean much, as there have been rumors this offseason linking them to guys like Jack Cust, Orlando Hudson, Scott Podsednik, Juan Pierre, and others. Branyan would be great as a DH and backup 1B/3B/OF, methinks (especially since I expect someone to step on a crack and break Carlos Guillen’s back by June), but Damon doesn’t really fit in anywhere. He’s definitely not the answer to play center field while AJax gets ready for the majors. They say he has a career OPS of .961 at Comerica Park, but come on…that was against our crappy pitching. Double D has already claimed this offseason that the team isn’t looking to add a DH, but he’s BS’d the media before. See Jose Valverde.

My personal choices that I’d like to see as long as they don’t cost an arm and a leg? Branyan or Jim Thome for DH, and either Rick Ankiel or Reed Johnson to play some center (since Ryan Church is off the market). Then again, I’m an idiot.

-The San Francisco Giants signed Aubrey Huff. This is, of course, a year after signing 2008 Tiger failure, Edgar Renteria. I’m hoping that next, they sign Gary Sheffield or maybe trade for Kyle Farnsworth.

-The Royals are rumored to be interested in Marcus Thames. I always liked Marcus and hope he finds somewhere where he gets a chance to play “Country Strong” 20+ times a year. Just not against us, though.

But, Plugs

-Although she is a constant pain in my ass, Jen from Old English D was apparently a decent good luck charm for the Tigers in 2009. Someone get this girl some season tickets, please.

-Samara at Roar of the Tigers continues her brilliant illustrations of the superpowers of the Tiger starting pitchers. I am eagerly waiting to see if she includes Nate Robertson’s unique power of suck.

-John at Tigers Tracks gives his thoughts on the whole Mark McGwire saga of the past week. If you want to know how I feel about it, read John’s thoughts and imagine me nodding my head in complete agreement. But imagine me with hair…I always do.

-Kurt at BYB reminds us that Spring Training is right around the corner. I really need to start working out if I’m going to fit into my speedo by Opening Day.

-Finally, this one has nothing to do with the Tigers or baseball, but if you can handle curse words and insensitive humor, check out Drew Magory’s parody of New York Jets coach, Rex Ryan, addressing his team over at Kissing Suzy Kolber. This made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen in recent memory.

Have a great weekend, kids.