Would Tigers sniff at second helping of Big Potato?
Scott Boras called it a “philosophical cliff” for a team to put a minor-league prospect in a prominent big-league position and know what to expect. That phrase came during the Winter Meetings, and though Boras didn’t mention Bruce Rondon or the Tigers by name, he sure alluded to the situation.
“The evidence says that there are many young players in our game that are 20, 21 that can hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs and they’re extraordinary talents. Or win 15 games. But there have never been closers that can come in and get 30 saves,” Boras told reporters back then. “I think you count on one hand the number of closers under the age of 23 that have ever gone to the big leagues and at a young age put together 30 saves, let alone pitch in the postseason and be effective.”
Now that Rondon is headed to Triple-A Toledo to open the season, Boras isn’t gloating, at least not publicly. He still has a closer he’s trying to line up with a job. It isn’t the closer Boras was trying to market when he made those remarks (that was Rafael Soriano), but it’s the same closer the Tigers let walk as a free agent to give Rondon a chance to compete for the closer’s job in Spring Training.
“Our plan was to wait and see what closer options availed themselves at this time,” Boras said of Jose Valverde, who is currently throwing bullpen sessions for teams in his native Dominican Republic.
Would the Tigers now be one of those options? Boras isn’t mentioning specific teams, and the Tigers aren’t talking about options outside the organization.
At this point, a match is looking unlikely, even with Detroit staring at a closer by committee that does not include the closer of the future. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Boras tried to re-engage Tigers officials and maybe ownership, given the history both Valverde and Boras have with the organization.
Boras said Thursday that Valverde has thrown for multiple teams so far, and has a couple more teams lined up in the coming days. He would not say which teams, but he said he has had more contact with teams as roster decisions have unfolded.
Boras said Valverde’s fastball is registering at 93-94 mph, according to scouts’ radar guns. That echoes what Boras has told others over the past couple weeks. He also said Valverde is open to a one-year contract. Once Valverde wraps up these workouts, Boras said he expects a decision and a deal to come together with a team fairly soon.
Meanwhile, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday morning that the Rondon decision doesn’t change the Tigers’ approach to the market. He also said he had nothing going on as of Thursday morning.
Though the Tigers have been rumored to be interested in potential trades for relievers, such as San Diego’s Huston Street and Luke Gregerson, Dombrowski told the Detroit News last week he has not made a trade proposal.
Dombrowski has said all spring that he believes they have options in camp to fill the closer role, whether Rondon made the team or not. Now that Rondon isn’t on the team, Dombrowski said they have options to close games, even if they don’t have a closer.
“We have guys that we feel very comfortable can close games,” Dombrowski said. “We may not have a closer anointed, but we have many guys that we think can close games. And so [manager] Jim [Leyland] will, kind of like he did in the postseason at times last year, mix and match.”
Even if Valverde does sign somewhere in the next few days, he would not be ready to open the season in the big leagues. He’ll need some appearances against live hitting, either in extended Spring Training or the minor leagues. He probably wouldn’t be far off.