Boras: “We thought there would be a need”
This is what Jose Valverde’s agent, Scott Boras, said a week ago:
“Our plan was to wait and see what closer options availed themselves at this time.”
This is what Boras said Thursday evening:
“We were patient, and we thought there would be a need in the organization.”
He found it. In the end, it was in the place he targeted all along. Whether Valverde is the one to fill it remains to be seen.
It’s a low-risk signing on the Tigers’ part, basically allowing them to get a look at Valverde against live hitters and see if what they’ve heard about Valverde’s fastball and splitter, and what a team evaluator saw, hold up. It’s a chance for Valverde to essentially showcase himself in the camp where the opportunity is high and the potential reward is higher.
Boras said Valverde had opportunities with other teams (which sounds a lot like similar offers), but that the familiarity with the Tigers and the opportunity to fill save situations on a contending team made the most sense. Boras’ remarks above made it sound like this was where he thought Valverde could fit for a while.
On the Tigers’ side, it appears they’ve been gauging this for at least a week, ever since Bruce Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. When Boras made the remarks he made last Thursday, he said Valverde had already thrown for a few teams, and had a couple more set to watch him. When Dombrowski announced the signing, he said a scout watched Valverde throw in the Dominican Republic last Saturday.
The negotiations, Dombrowski said, came together Thursday morning, starting with a text message in the middle of the night and reaching a breakthrough with the willingness to take a minor-league contract with no guarantee of the big leagues. While Dombrowski said they’ve discussed “parameters” of a potential Major League contract should the Tigers call him up by his opt-out date of May 5, Boras suggested they had the framework of a deal ready should it come to that.
The opt-out date gives the Tigers about a month to look at him. It might not take that long. Boras said Valverde will report to the Tigers’ Spring Training facility in Lakeland this weekend and start throwing. He’s already throwing bullpen sessions every other day, so it shouldn’t take long for him to stretch out to the point that he’s ready to face live hitting. He could be ready in two or three outings down there for his shot at Triple-A Toledo.
From there, it might just take a handful of outings to get a yes-or-no answer.
“We’re not looking to prolong this,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a situation where he can either pitch and come back and help us here or we probably end that relationship at that time.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers not only have to evaluate Valverde, but also how they plan to work their bullpen going forward, with or without him. If Valverde does get the call, does the 35-year-old automatically assume his old role as the unquestioned closer with the same workload? If not, can he handle the ins and outs of a closer by committee, specifically the ins and outs of pitching sometimes in non-save situations?
Is this the beginning of the end of the closer by committee idea?
“We do not have a dominant closer,” Dombrowski said Thursday, “and most clubs that have a chance to win have a closer. That doesn’t mean you can’t win by mixing and matching, either, but right now we’re in a situation where we’re mixing and matching and if the situation ends up being better with Papa Grande, with Rondon, with whomever it may during times, we’re open-minded to that.”