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Detroit Tigers Dilemma: Jose Valverde Edition

The Detroit Tigers are one of the most talented teams in baseball and are expected by many to represent the American League in the World Series and many are picking them to go on to win the World Series. Those expectations may only be dreams however, as the Tigers have a dilemma that no team in baseball is envious of, what to do with Jose Valverde and their closer role?

The Tigers entered this season saying that they were in no way going to resign Valverde and they were going to instead opt with rookie Bruce Rondon to handle the closing duties. Rondon struggled at the end of Spring Training which led the Tigers to open the regular season with a closer by committee. The Tigers seemed content with this option and still there was no mention of bringing back Valverde to close out games. The closer by committee approach soon ran into some problems and cost the Tigers a couple of early games in the season. This caused the Tigers to look to the free agent market and bring back a familiar face in Jose Valverde with a minor league contract. The contract was seen as a win win for the Tigers. If Valverde was able to regain his form, the Tigers would have a potent closer. If Valverde failed  to work out his issues, the Tigers wouldn’t be on the hook with a major league contract and would be able to cut ties with Valverde once and for all.

Valverde was able to work his way smoothly through the minors in a couple of weeks mainly unscathed. He was getting batters out and not giving up many runs. This made the Tigers make the move of bringing Valverde up to the big club to close out games for them once again. All was going well for the first couple of save opportunities but then Valverde got shaky  and blew his first save in his fourth appearance on May 12th against Cleveland. He would then go on to blow another save in dramatic fashion against  Baltimore when he gave up two home runs in the ninth inning, a solo shot to bring the score to within one and a three run shot for the blown save and the loss. His latest blown save has brought out all of the frustration in Tigers fans that has been building since the first one. Only one strike away from notching the save and giving Justin Verlander the win, Valverde threw a meatball over the plate that Lorenzo Cain was able to deposit into the seats to tie the game at two. This led to an outcry from the Tigers faithful to replace Valverde with someone else, anyone else. The question is though, who do you replace Valverde with?

The Tigers have some internal options that they could use at the closer role though none of them are proven and not yet reliable or already flourish in other roles. The first option is using Drew Smyly to close out games as he has shown the ability to get out both left and right handed hitters. There are two problems with Smyly though. Smyly has never been in the closer role so who knows if he can handle the pressure, and Smyly is crucial to the Tigers out of the bullpen especially for long relief roles.

Another option is promoting Bruce Rondon back to the majors to take over the closer role. Rondon saw very limited time in the majors earlier this season with no success. In 2.1 innings pitched, Rondon has given up five hits and three earned runs for a 11.57 ERA. He has pitched well in the minors though this season. In 23.1 innings pitched, Rondon has a sparkling 0.77 ERA with 10 saves. The only worry is with Rondon’s lack of experience. He showed the lack of experience at the end of Spring Training and his limited time in the majors and the biggest question is if he will be able to get major league players out with the same efficiency as minor league players.

The one candidate that Tigers fans may be most comfortable with would be Joaquin Benoit.  In 28 innings pitched, Benoit has a rock solid 1.93 ERA while giving up only 6 runs. He has the ability to get any batter out and has proven to be able to perform in high pressure situations. The only problem with Benoit is that he is a strong eighth inning set up man and if you put him in the closer role, all you are doing is creating a hole in the eighth inning.

These situations lead to the dilemma that the Tigers face. Do the Tigers give Valverde a short leash and some more opportunities, or do the Tigers make a move right away, whether internally or through a trade, and send Valverde packing once and for all?

What do you think Nation? If the Tigers are to trade for a closer, who should they trade for? If the Tigers look internally for a replacement, who should it be?

-Brett D’Angelo

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406 Comments

  1. no way valverde should stay on this team ,i say i more blown save and he has to go for sure ,and i dont want tigers to lose any games if it was up to me which its not .

  2. tigers go out and find a new closer ,see who,s out there ,its going to cost them some money though ,but why wasnt this taking care of in the off season ?

  3. I love how FANS are so willing to shell out millions of Mike Illitch’s money (not that Mr. Illitch hasn’t proven more than willing to shell out the money himself). I wonder how many of these so-called fans would be willing to shell out even ONE million of their own money . . . I wonder how many of them even HAVE a million dollars.

  4. No, you (& we) don’t have a vested interest. To vest an interest, ya gotta have some skin in the game. The people with skin in the game (literally) are the team’s employees (players, coaches, manager, front office) and – most of all – Mr. Illitch, the owner, who has millions of his dollars tied up in this team. We just have an interest – not vested. (It’s as silly as saying I have a vested interest in whether or not Keith Richard cleans up his act because I like the music of The Rolling Stones!) We’re JUST fans, our only interest is a rooting interest. Give it a break and stop obsessing.

  5. I’ve often wondered who’s a** Jose V had to kiss to get back into a Tigers uniform? Seriously, Leyland, Did u not learn from last season? Evidently not!

  6. As a baseball learning stupid European, I see the Tigers losing games in the 8th, 9th or extra innings all season. To me, Valverde isn´t the problem, he´s just a part of it. Offense is fine, Pitching works out six or seven innings – but closing close games seems to be a bigger problem to the Tigers right now. It´s more the managers decisions and less the pitchers decisions that loses these games. right?

  7. The Tigers organization must have had their heads up their asses when they brought this guy back. Now look what’s happening. U can’t depend on Verlander and Scherzer to win it all the time.

  8. .. @Bobby I’m with you on the name calling – he did some really good stuff in the past for us – so he is a little off right – but I think he pitch in the right spots – but to say the the things people are saying is a little over the top – It’s sad

  9. What I don’t like is he did extremely well for the last few years for the Tigers and he had a few bad games. Unfortunately, it was when we needed his best and kind of lost us a few important games in the playoffs. So, personally I can see him NOT closing for a while, but I think he has some stuff to fit in and do some good pitching in the right spots. I don’t think he should be just a closer or closing all the time right now, but I think he has some usefulness.

  10. Ok just a thought here……………..and feel free to try it Jimmy Leyland. Since you have no closers who can put a game away, open up the game with Valverde, let him pitch his 2 innings let the game get out of hand then let your starters come in for 7 innings shut them down and walk away with the W !!!!! HUMMMM I might have something here, maybe I should be the Tigers new manager

  11. Never should’ve signed him back with the Tigers. Tigers should’ve looked harder for a closer pitcher. Wish I could get paid what he’s getting paid and blow the games…..

  12. It doesnt seem fair to throw the Rondon kid on the hot seat just yet….It would be better if they could just let him mop up and get used to pitching in the bigs and work towards closing next year or the year after if we can find a good closer over the next 6 weeks….

  13. Keep him around so he can pitch the Home Run Derby….then release him following that. And if Jim wants to bring him back, release Jim as well.

  14. The person who blew it here was Dombrowski for thinking he was going to use a ROOKIE as a closer on a world series contending team….You people who call Valverde names and talk about him like hes a bum are wrong…He has been in the bigs for 11 years,has a career 3.14 era and has saved 286 games,he has had a GREAT career,he is just reaching the end of the line unless he can come up with a trustworthy secondary pitch….Do you think he doesnt care? Do you think he likes to blow late leads? I bet he feels really bad about it so why dont you people lighten up and at least have the brains to blame the right person….

  15. I agree…Its annoying and silly…Do these people think Valverde doesnt care or isnt trying? He deserves respect,hge made millions of dollars pitching in the bigs for the last 12 years…He has 280 something saves…He didnt get them by luck he has talent…He’s just getting older….

  16. Need a closer with more pitches then a fastball or a fastball. The person at bat can’t know whats coming next. That’s what a pro does and that is what makes him a pro.

  17. dilemma?? they should have never brought his dumpy ass back to the team!!! there should be no dilema….drop him…leave him anywhere but on the mound….and what about leyland’s decision making…verlander was pitching what, a 4 hit shut out and they pulled him…let your ace finish his games.

  18. I knew this experiment was a bad Idea from the start. Coke and company blew through games like a knife through butter after replacing bobo grande last year. Why didn’t Leland keep up the trend? Or was it Dumbrowski?

  19. Who the hell wants him now? Acquire Brian Wilson already! Or maybe make Smyly a closer. Whatever they do, they’d better get someone reliable for the playoffs.

  20. Try Jose Alvarez, he had a good showing as a starter maybe he can find a niche as a closer. Worth a shot can’t be any worse then what is going on now.

  21. The other issue is that he leaves his pitchers in WAY too long — way past the point where you know they are out of juice, or they never had the good stuff in the first place. JL doesn’t care. It’s like he’s more worried about upsetting them than he is about wins. You almost NEVER see him switch pitchers in the middle of an inning, and it’s almost never a pre-emptive chance. He sticks with them until they break – THEN replaces them (when the team is now down by 4 after being up by 2).

  22. Leyland is kinda forced to use him. Do you think the front office would allow Leyland to keep Valverde on the bench? That would be like my boss paying me to stay home.

  23. Leyland is a good manager. The more he plays him the more he puts pressure on Dombrowski to move someone else in. Smart. Puts the ball in the GM’s court

  24. They would be better off using a closer by committee until they can get someone more permanent. He is a one man wrecking crew. Wasting our stellar starting pitching!

  25. Yeah, Verlander has been awful, 3.41 era..GIVE ME A BREAK! Still one of the top 3 pitchers in the league. Valverde had his day, he is done.

  26. Milwaukee has three closers… Henderson, Axford, and K Rod. Go get one of ’em. Any of those guys are way better than Valverde. It’s sad that the Tigers didn’t take care of this in the off-season. I don’t know why they thought they could just throw a rookie out there to close games for a World Series caliber team.

  27. it’s funny, 2 years ago a good portion of the people saying he sucks, he’s an ***clown, etc, were most likely singing his praises. Not that I don’t think he needs to go. He is clearly not the pitcher he was and most likely will not ever be again. I feel bad for him, one year he does nearly the impossible and goes 100% and now it’s 50/50 at best. The team cannot be successful with him. Period. Thank you Jose for your time and service but the team needs to go a different direction.

  28. Make a trade to acquire another closer. Just don’t mortgage the whole system to do it. Once you get another closer… dump his sorry ass.

  29. This has been talked to death already. The smartest thing to do, is hang on to him, while finding the guy from within to replace him with. Closer aren’t let go of easily, the Tigers aren’t going to find one better than Valverde on the open market right now. What he needs, is someone to sit down with him, and help straighten his head out on a day by day basis.

  30. No one in the system seems to have what it takes to be a go to closer. Its time to look outside the system and trade for a quality, proven closer.

  31. With this lineup of hitters, why is any team within striking distance by the ninth? As for Valverde, move him to a starter. Once he gives up a couple runs bring in the real pitcher. That way our lineup has innings to catch up and go ahead!

  32. WHY CANT we in-the-meantime just DEMOTE him to ‘just another arm’ in the pen vs THE closer? go back to playoff mode/ POST game 1 ALCS that is??

  33. Quit trolling Jeff, anyone who actually knows a thing or two about baseball will tell you having Fielder in the lineup behind Cabrera is the single biggest contributing factor why he was able to win a triple crown, and why he will have another chance at one this season. Teams can’t pitch around Cabrera because they aren’t going to put another man on base for Fielder. And if you want to use playoff stats against him, it would be wise to recognize that Detroit went to the World Series in their first season with Fielder in the middle of the lineup. If you think that had nothing to do with it, you’re kidding yourself.

  34. I want to see them try Smyly as closer this year until Al-Al or Rondon get their control solid enough for the 9th. Makes more sense to give him a shot; some of the best closers were originally starter prospects, and Smyly doesn’t have the usual lefty/righty splits for a LHP.

  35. he’s got to go. you brought him back to see if he has improved and he continues to struggle even the games he has managed to save he has made them nailbighter situations. all the money this tram has spent on it’s batting lineup you would think they would be able to spend a few million to get a decent closer. i wonder f they miss jason grilli he seems to have a pretty good career going on in pittsburgh these days. continue to develop rondon in the minors and try to help him develop a couple more pitches to his arsonel. the guy has a hell of a fastball just needs to get the command under control is all. in the meantime i would say to put benoit in that spot as the options are pretty slim right now.

  36. Starting pitchers should be expected to complete their games like in the old days. The modern 100 pitch count is a farce. Verlander should be more upset that he was taken out of the game the other night!

  37. Starting pitchers should be expected to complete their games like in the old days. The modern 100 pitch count is a farce. Verlander should be more upset that he was taken out of the game the other night!

  38. Valverde should have never even been brought back. Not a single team had any interest in signing him, so that tells you something right there. The Tigers should have picked up a real closer during the off season, instead of relying on an unproven prospect (Rondon). Mr. Illitch needs to spend some real loot, and get a proven closer if he plans on winning a World Series anytime soon.

  39. its unfortunate that he did not improve enough to properly “close” the games, so at this point, it is time for him to go. I have been questioning Jim’s decision on this, and I have always enjoyed Jim, but come on! Let Verlander do the whole game…he could do it!

  40. Drew Smyly is the best candidate to close. Starter’s arsenal, doesn’t get hit hard by lefties or righties, and has the right temperament.

  41. stick with papa. Why would we put coke or one the losers there. There WORSE! What even worse is coke for one thinks it funnie when he fucks up. Witch every seems to forget he dose a lot! Why is it they yell about pap but not some this other that worse. How many is coke or benion going to toss away before the 9th? Or how many times can Fielder get the most outs in a game? How about getting rid of dumboski? All he dose is trade our good peaple away.

  42. Just get rid of him! I don’t care if the bat boy has to close, don’t let Valverdeever touch a basenall again as a Tiger! If anybody disagree’s, they’re not a Tiger fan.

  43. The first step is to go with the starters as long as possible, because the entire bullpen is sub par. Secondly, Leyland should go with a relief pitcher as long as possible, while keeping the bullpen ready. My view is that you don’t take a pitcher out that is pitching well, for a reliever that may or may not have his “A” game on any given day. It seems that Leyland is willing to throw away games now, in order to be better rested later in the season. You need to play to win everyday.

  44. He has driven me sooo crazy ever since he came here. I turn off the game as soon as they bring him in. Send him ANYWHERE! Send to Trump so he can say YOUR FIRED!

  45. I wouldn’t call Prince “piss poor production”! Yes his HR totals are down, but the guy is 4th in the league in RBI’s, 3rd in BB’s and 6th in OBP!! And in addition he never misses a game. Sounds like pretty damn good production to me!!

  46. That being said, Valverde is mentally unstable. He believes in too much superstition and if he didn’t chew his gum exactly 56 times or whatever bizarre ritual he has, he loses all confidence. A person like that doesn’t belong on their payroll.

  47. Get rid of the closer’s role altogether and simply put your best (remaining) bullpen member in to finish the game. There’s no need to pretend it’s a special talent to get a Hold in the 9th vs. the 8th.

  48. What to do with him??? Seriously. .I say make him play. .you were stupid enough to bring him back. Now deal with it and watch all your money go down the drain. And watch league champs last year to the worst team this year..good job Tigers

  49. just get rid of him for good, it should have been final after is postseason meltdown. I don’t know what it takes to get the message across our management like common!

  50. its time to say good bye, he hasn’t worked his kinks out, he hasn’t proved his change for the better, we took a chance. its time to say good bye, we supported him enough, gave him enough chances…we don’t need to sacrafice anymore games on him.

  51. why would you geopardize the future of the tigers in his hands???you should’nt have brought him back to begin with.if you keep putting him to close n gives it away then don’t expect us millions of fans to stay loyal with the tigers…

  52. Gotta love pappa, but either there are severe mechanical issues, or he has just lost it. We’ve got to do something soon but should be careful not move to quickly. It’s ok right now because fortunately the other teams in our division suck worse than us (at least their records do). It’s not a critical issue until after the all star game. Then Mr. Dombrowski better saddle up and bring a new doggie home.

  53. What do you mean what do you do with him? Let him go and have the guy that delivers hot dogs to comerica park close out games. He can’t be any worse…..Right?

  54. Trade…find someone out there. Can’t handle Valverde’s heart attack moments, even when he’s on his game. And don’t upset the rest of the pen by promoting within. Get someone new.

  55. LOL @ ‘mumbles’…
    The funny thing is that we really *don’t* know what we don’t know. So much goes on in the locker room that we’re clueless about. However, results are results.

  56. Send Valverde back to the minors, make Porcello the closer, put Smyly into the starting rotation, and bring up the next pitching phenom for middle relief work…

  57. Benoit cant close he 16 for like 35 in save opps before this year… He is dominant at his 8th inning spot. Leave him there. I say give porcello a shot n move smyly into the rotation… If he doesnt get it done we got another month to make a deal

  58. Trade if someone is available, otherwise just go back to bullpen by committee, at lease that way I can’t be mad at the same player all the time. 🙂 Alvarez seems like he’d be great trade bait.

  59. They need to be scouting the heck out of some 8th inning guys on other teams that could be had fora lesser price (who they project could close). Until then its Benoit/Smyly while Rondon gets some more seasoning in Toledo

  60. this man has to go ! not only is he giving up hits he ‘s giving up homeruns ! be doing it since last year . we need a closer try someone else ; if we have to make a trade don’t give up our top prospect unless we get a true shut down closer .

  61. It is time to say goodbye to Jose. Baseball players age like everyone else. He doesn’t have it anymore. Thanks for all the saves you did have in Detroit Papa Grande!

  62. (This is why I’m not a fan of the Management — they choose to sign and play guys that simply should not be playing for this team. Having JL as a closer is like driving a Bugatti Veyron with $4 brake pads)

  63. Erich has a good point — and it should be said, especially on a thread like this. FWIW (and I know no one gives a rat’s behind what my opinion is), I don’t HATE any of these guys, especially Valverde. I believe these guys are going out and doing the best they can possibly do. I really don’t like to hear when people say they ‘hate’ this guy or that guy. It’s unfair to these guys who sweat blood for the team. Unless you have a reason to question work ethic, then lets keep the hatred to a minimum.

  64. Two years ago Valverde went 49-0. Last year he blew saves in critical situations. During that same time the Tigers tried to turn Phil Coke into a starter, a silly move that almost ruined his career. Leyland had to baby Coke along almost a pitch at a time to turn him back into an effective reliever.
    Before I release Valverde, I want to know if he can get back to his 49-0 form. I think the Tigers can afford to try to do that.

  65. You can’t trade him since not one club was even interested when the Tigers released him last year! Cut your losses now and release him so everyone can stop obsessing over this.

  66. I don’t hate papa grande as much as you guys. I kinda like him but he’s lost the ability to put a blown save behind him. I say release papa. He was great for us but isn’t the closer he used to be. Sign Brian Wilson to a minor league contract and promote Rondon for the time being. Probably the safest bet.