January 16th, 2009

Closing the deal … eventually

By this time next week, the Tigers should hopefully, finally have a fairly good idea who their closer(s) is/are going to be, whether it’s Fernando Rodney, Jason Isringhausen, Brandon Lyon, another free agent, Guillermo Hernandez (not really), Franklyn German (definitely not), or some sort of combination.

If they don’t, then there’s a good chance this is going to be real interesting in spring training.

True, I don’t think anybody expected the Tigers’ closer search to go this long to begin with. Think about it: It has been over a month since talks for J.J. Putz fell through, and since Dave Dombrowski first said there’s a lot of time before April 6, when the Tigers open the season.

On the flip side, I don’t think any of the free-agent relievers — save for maybe the recuperating Chad Cordero — expected to sit on the market for this long. Last week, coming out of the holidays, was supposed to be the week that the markets really defined for a lot of these guys. That really didn’t seem to occur until this week. Now that it’s starting to happen, though, I expect you’ll see these guys make their decisions quickly, and clubs doing the same. Once Isringhausen or Lyon reach a deal, maybe by the middle of next week, the other might soon follow, since some of the same teams seem to be involved. Russ Springer, who seems to be attracting a surprising amount of interest on the market, might not be far behind. So could Juan Cruz, whose status as a Type A free agent who will cost a signing team a draft pick really seems to have dampened interest. Eric Gagne is out there, too.

Somebody’s going to get a good reliever in Cordero, as long as he’s healthy. The risk in focusing in on him alone is that if he has to take it slow and isn’t ready when the season starts, or if he ends up signing somewhere else — keep in mind, a dozen teams are reportedly monitoring him — then what? Wait for a team to dump a closer at the end of spring training?