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?

9 Comments

It has been an odd offseason for nearly all the clubs. That must be a result of the economic situation. Of all the relievers left, all of them have a downside of varying levels. I’m not sold on Lyon. Isringhausen doesn’t create a lot of confidence. I wouldn’t mind giving up a draft pick, but I’m not sure Cruz is the guy you’d want to give one up on. Springer would be a very good pickup, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that he’s coming here. Of this group, only Lyon and Izzie have closer experience, to my knowledge. As you say, Jason, Cordero can really help someone if healthy, but we certainly can’t wait around for him. I think I’d make him an offer he can’t refuse and start the season with Rodney as closer if necessary. Fernando might be able to hold down the job if he knows it’s temporary. BTW, I hate having to be so negative about him all the time, because he appears to be a decent enough guy. I’m just convinced he doesn’t want the closer job.
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But yeah, we’ll probably get somebody. Some of us will be happy, some unhappy, but it is what it is. As cold as it’s gotten, I’ll be glad to get to Florida even if it’s to watch Julio Navarro close for us.
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–Rich

I feel that management has missed the boat on the closer issue. Anything they pick up at this stage will be mediocre at best. They missed on Putz (which would have been my favorite-he has proven he can get AL hitters out alread), and the let the Tribe outfox them on Wood. Saito was another blown opportunity. He likely has one good year (which really is all the club will need) in him.
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Cruz does not excite me. If it’s the same Cruz I’m aware of him the last (and only) save he had was in 2002.
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Isringhausen is total hope and dream material.
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Lyon is stop-gap.
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They are still yapping about John Parrish and that is almost pathetic to think this is any kind of solution. I’ve said this before about being fixated on another southpaw to complement Seay. We already have Rapada, McBride, Bloom, Willis and Robertson. Not too mention Ni.
What’s the point?
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The only guy I see with closer potential is Cordero. And he is a re-hab project I hear.
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I hope DD has somenting up his sleeve but I have become conditioned to believe that management is becoming a bit arrogant and willing to be stubborn over the closer issue.
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Here’s hoping for a rebound year for JV, a comeback for Bonderman (along with, finally, a 3rd pitch) and some kind of real production from either willis or Robertson as a starter. Everything depends on the rotation this year. We get a couple of guys struggling in the rotation and we’ll be toast.
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I may be “Always A Tiger” but I won’t let that fact lead to unbridled and unsupportable optimism either. This is a team that as af the middle of January, still needs drastic improvement.

Here’s what I think (wow, Rich is going to tell us what he thinks, what a surprise). :-)
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In his time in Detroit, Dave Dombrowski has done little in the free agent market, preferring trades over FA signings. Off the top of my head, there are only a handful of players who have arrived via free agency. There’s Fernando Vina and Rondell White late in 2003. Then you have some guys that nobody else really wanted for injury reasons like Pudge and Maggs. Then there’s the guy that nobody wanted for many reasons, Kenny Rogers. I may have forgotten some.
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The thing is, players here who are thought to be the free agent type actually came via trade. We’re talking Sheffield, Cabrera, Willis, Guillen, Polanco, Casey, etc. A less than casual fan would think they had been picked up as free agents, and some fans who should know better think that. Here’s an excerpt from an online report that demonstrate this (I’ll withhold the name for the author’s own sake):
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“We have also seen the Mets and the Angels bump up their payrolls thanks to large free agent signings the past few years, but have yet to be successful. The most recent one to be plagued by the curse would be the Detroit Tigers who spent plenty of money to bring in free agents Edgar Renteria, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera (via trade) and last but definitely not least, Dontrelle Willis.”
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I’ll give the guy credit for recognizing that Cabrera came in a trade.
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What I’m getting at in a roundabout way is, I’m more likely to expect a trade than a free agent signing, especially after looking at the list of leftover FAs. Another issue that I suspect to be problematic is that it’s entirely possible that ballplayers just don’t want to come to Detroit. Think about it. We didn’t seem to gain any real mileage from our 2006 WS appearance. These guys talk about wanting to play with a winner, but Detroit doesn’t seem to be included in that list, even when they were winning.
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I could spend all evening speculating why DD doesn’t sign more free agents, but speculation is all that it is. We fans are given very little real knowlege regarding the machinations of the front office, and that’s as it should be. There’s not a GM worth his salt who’s going to tip his hand in the interest of making the fan base happy in January.
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I’d welcome some comments on this, as I’m just throwing it out there.
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–Rich

I don’t know if I really think that no one wants to come to Detroit. I think that these players want to go where they are going to get paid the most money. And when it comes down to it maybe Mr. Illitch isn’t willing to pay the kind of money to get some of these guys?? I cannot imagine ticket sales are going that great. I just use that from my own personal experience the last few years. 2006, 2007 season tickets called back right away when we placed our call to purchase tickets. 2008 it took forever to get called back and we were frankly bumped out of our seats in favor of bandwagon jumpers who wanted full season packages. This year we were called back in early December. So with the economy it seems that he just isn’t going to spend the money. I don’t know. I hope your wrong Rich I think they want to go where they are going to make the most and it seems that Boston, and the New York teams are the big spenders.

Rich raises a point. Even after the World Series trip, Detroit isn’t the same destination for free agents that Boston, New York and L.A. are, and they probably never will be. Part of it is the franchise, and I’m sure part of it is the city. Detroit is never going to have the same appeal as a place to live as those other places, certainly looking in from the outside. But it’s not just a Detroit problem; Washington and Baltimore put in huge efforts to try to sign Mark Teixeira, who’s form that area, and he ended up going to the Yankees when they swooped in.

I wouldn’t brush off what Dombrowski was able to do by signing Ivan Rodriguez after a 119-loss season (after Miguel Tejada and Vladimir Guerrero wouldn’t even listen to their pitch) and Magglio Ordonez after more than a decade of losing seasons.

I don’t mean to brush off either the Pudge or Ordonez signings. Pudge was probably the biggest FA the franchise has ever hauled in. As I recall the Ordonez case, his nearly unprecedented knee injury had caused most of MLB to be wary. With the injury clause in place, along with the graduated payscale, this was probably DD’s shrewdest signing. DD has made a number of excellent trades, a couple of clunkers notwithstanding. I can’t complain, because I think he’s an excellent President/GM. I’m just saying I expect trades much more than free agents. The only one I thought we may have had a shot at was Kerry Wood but here again, we don’t know the details.
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Speaking of player personnel as seen from the administrative level, it seems to me that the entire arbitration issue doesn’t get the attention from us fans that it deserves. I’m coming to understand that you want to avoid arbitration at all costs. The potential loss of goodwill plus the payroll hit is huge.
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That’s interesting about your ticket experience, GK. Hard to believe it was only a year ago that they had to suspend sales for awhile. You’re right about players going where the most money is, for the most part. They may say they want to play with a winner, or play near home, or play for a certain manager, but in the end, it’s almost always the cash and the chance to become an even bigger celebrity.
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–Rich

To anyone interested the new MLB network is playing game 4 of the 2006 ALCS and every game of the World Series against the Cardinals next weekend. Between that and Tigerfest on Saturday I’ll be pumped up for this coming season.

I really thought this closer situation would have been decided by now. It seems our requirements are a veteran closer looking for a short-term deal that would not cost us a draft pick. I assumed we would have been in on Hoffman and Saito. We appear to be down to Lyon, Izzy, Cordero, and perhaps Gagne (yikes!), Gordon, and Guardado. Nobody on that list is inspiring. We may have to sign two of them to incentive-laden deals and hope we get lucky with one of them.

On another matter, does anybody know what we are doing about Polanco’s contract? I know DD has been burned on most of his extensions lately, but can we really afford to lose a .300 hitting middle infielder with sure hands?

Foster_belle:

I’m with you on Gagne. Let’s make it a rule that Mr. Gagne’s name isn’t brought up on this page in the context of possible relievers out there on the market. I’d sooner drag in Willie Hernandez.

Rich: I do think you have something there. All throughout the Winter here I have read ballplayer comments (probably just mouthing the words from their agents) and not a one has brought up Detroit as a possible. Even Lowe or Smoltz. Nothing. So it is either the theory about DD avoiding FA like the plague or the troubles with Detroit but we don’t seem to garner much attention from the FA class.

So, we move to spring training with a glaring hole (just like last year, maybe not so glaring).

Few weeks left.

Eric

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