With the trade deadline two weeks away, and reports coming out that Tigers closer Justin Wilson is drawing legit interest from other teams, it’s time to start thinking who could replace him.
For decades the Tigers bullpen has been atrocious. Mostly because we’ve never had a strong anchor hold down the back end of our ship. Wilson was beginning to do that since he took over from Francisco Rodriguez, but if he goes who do we replace him with. This list is comprised of those players that would be the best option for the Tigers as they go through the next 3-5 seasons. They are in order of best option.
Shane Greene is a name that was tossed around for the closer’s role when Rodriguez was demoted. However, that role was given to Wilson and Greene continued to be a jack of all trades out of the bullpen. And he’s been good.
In 2017, Greene boasts a 3.00 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched, according to Baseball Reference. Not only do his numbers look good, but Greene has shown the keen ability to leave runners stranded when he’s coming into games. In 2016, he didn’t allow a single inherited runner to score, and this season he has let a whopping 5 out for 34 (14%) come in to score. A statistic that can go over looked but also shows the value of Greene at the backend of a bullpen; his ability to come into games and save them when runners are on base. Also, according to Spotrac, the Tigers still have three arbitration years with Greene.
Lastly, and this is completely 100% facts based, Greene seems quirky to me. There’s just something about him–the show faux-hawk he had at the beginning of the season or the incessant licking of his fingers on the mound–there is just something about him that seems quirky. I like quirkiness in a closer.
I know, I know, I know–every now thinks I’m crazy. But just hear me out as I flesh out why Justin Verlander is the second best option to replace Justin Wilson.
Verlander is owed $78 million over the next three seasons (2018-20), and though his name has been tossed around in trade rumors, it is going to take an aligning of the stars for JV to be moved. That means the right amount of money is going to need to be eaten by the Tigers while their trade partner gives up the correct prospect value for our ace. It’s a long shot.
Given that JV most likely will be with the Tigers through the end of the season, and if we’re continually shopping in the offseason, why not put him at the back end of the bullpen and allow him to diversify his skill, upping his value, while we get some younger arms into the rotation.
Verlander boasts good numbers first time through lineups, recording over his career highest number of strikeouts, lowest batting average against, and the lowest amount of runs scored in his first trip through the batting order. That could serve him well in the closer role for the Tigers and he could help bring stability to a back end that hasn’t been very stable. All of which leads to the next guy in line.
Joe Jimenez has been the name everyone has been waiting to see on the mound for the Tigers. We got a small flash in the pan earlier this season when Jimenez made his debut, but the joy was short lived.
Jimenez appeared in five games for the Tigers and was hit around, something he wasn’t used to down in the minors. The question everyone seems to ask is where does Jimenez fit? Clearly, he is the closer of the future, yet doesn’t seem just right for the pressure. Which is why he’s placed number three on the list.
Eventually, Jimenez will close games for the Tigers and he will do it at a spectacular rate, but that time isn’t just yet. Hence why JV goes into the second slot on the list, allowing Jimenez the opportunity to come in and cut his teeth before the entire weight of the Tigers fandom rests on his shoulders.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Rondon could be the guy, as was the plan a few years ago. However, Rondon has done certain things–mainly not pitching too well–that has taken him out of the running. He could enter the mix eventually, but not as of this writing.