Tag: Jose Valverde

The 5 MLB Teams That Can’t Afford to Fail at the Trade Deadline

With the July 31 trade deadline looming, less than two weeks remain for teams looking to make a non-waiver deal.

The deadline represents an integral period of time for both contending and rebuilding organizations. Contenders, like the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, must decide if this year is theirs and sacrifice a bit of the future to improve the present.

On the flip side, a team like the New York Mets would have to juggle an already-livid fanbase if they entertained trading homegrown closer Bobby Parnell, for instance. While a big return for Parnell would help fill gaping voids for 2014 and beyond, it’s never a popular decision to throw in the towel—especially in New York.

Regardless of a team’s direction, the strategy must be a resolute one: Failure simply isn’t an option.

Below are five MLB teams that can’t afford to fail at the trade deadline this year.

All statistics sourced (through July 18, 2013) from Baseball-Reference.com.

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Detroit Tigers Struggling Offense or Closer Jose Valverde: Which Is Worse?

The Detroit Tigers have quite a few glaring weaknesses for a team that leads its division by 4.5 games, namely struggling closer Jose Valverde and an anemic offense that only shows up for six innings a night.

Manager Jim Leyland has come under scrutiny in recent weeks because of these woes plaguing a team that should be competing for the best record in baseball behind Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder and co.

Leyland has two issues on his hands right now and it’s tough to figure out which he should try to address first. Let’s break down both issues and try to make sense of the mess in Detroit.


The Struggling Offense

Let’s start with the issue of an offense that apparently can’t hit relief pitchers.

The Tigers have the best 3-4 punch in the MLB behind Cabrera and Fielder, and the offense appears to be just fine when you look at its league-leading batting average and its ranking of fifth in runs scored.

But that’s just the top layer.

The Tigers might be able to blow opponents out of the water in some of their games, but what about in close games? What about games that come down to the final inning? What about games that are as close as you’d expect a playoff game to be?

Well, that’s a whole new story.

As MLive.com reports, the Tigers are the best team in baseball for the first six innings, but can’t do much of anything when relief pitchers come in for the last three innings:

The Tigers lead the majors in batting average (.308), runs scored (263) and OPS (.850) in the first six innings. They are 29th in batting average (.222) and runs scored (61), and 28th in OPS (.620) in the seventh inning and beyond.

If any team can win a nine inning game with only six innings of batting it’s the Tigers, and they’ve proved that so far. However, it certainly won’t be enough come playoff time.


What’s Wrong with Jose Valverde?

Less than two years after going 49-for-49 in save attempts, Valverde has become one of the shakiest closers in the game. What’s worse is that he’s been giving Leyland headaches simply from all the questions coming at the Tigers’ skipper.

Leyland proved that the questions are getting to him, dropping some very colorful quotes (via MLive.com):

I’m not going to talk about silly (expletive). We’re going to do the best we can. We’re going to use Jose Valverde until we decide Jose Valverde can or can’t do it or we’ve got somebody else better. That’s what we’re doing. That’s like everybody else does. That’s what you do. That’s what we’ve got, in our opinion, right now. …

We’ve got a good team and a lot of guys have been doing good. Some guys haven’t been doing as good. Papa Grande’s been good on some occasions. He’s let a couple get away. I haven’t managed great in every situation. Everybody hasn’t hit great in every situation. Somebody made an error once in a while. That’s all baseball. That’s all baseball.

Leyland didn’t stop there, though. Per USA Today, he kept ranting to reporters who were only too happy to scoop these quotes up:

Who the (expletive) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Who the (expletive) do you want to be the closer? … I don’t know what the (expletive) these people want. They just throw stuff out there. People just talk, they don’t think about it.

Well those answers weren’t good enough for fans on Twitter, as they went off on Leyland and what they saw as his inability to change closers, while others continue to crack jokes at the expense of their once beloved closer.









The fans clearly want to abandon ship after Valverde has surrendered seven earned runs in his last six games, calling for Joaquin Benoit to be named closer after posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.04 WHIP this year.

However, Valverde had been exceptional before June, posting a microscopic ERA of 0.75. He has really only struggled for six games, as USA Today reports.

Yet the recent numbers reveal an ugly story and explain why the Tigers are turning to their unlimited call plan, speed-dialing teams for a closer. Valverde yielded a .077 batting average (3-for-39) with no homers in his first 12 appearances this year but is allowing a .370 batting average (10-for-27) with five homers in the six games since.

The fans want a new closer and Leyland doesn’t, but it will all come down to Valverde‘s efforts in the coming weeks.


The Bottom Line

The Tigers have two problems staring them in the face, but it’s obvious that the team’s offensive woes are far worse than Valverde‘s struggles on the mound.

Without offense, you can never get into a position to win games, and you can’t maintain leads. While the team hits well for six innings, it tails off after that.

The biggest reason why the team’s bullpen is 4-12 in spite of having a solid ERA and WHIP is because the Tigers never score when the relievers are in. The bullpens surrenders a few runs every once in a while, but because the team can never score those times almost always turn into losses. Meanwhile, the lineup has only managed to win tied games or come from behind with the bullpen in the game four times all year.

The other clear reason why the offense is the biggest issue is because Valverde had been on fire up until two weeks ago. Also, he is only struggling because opposing batters are hitting him hard, as USA Today reports that his WHIP is very low compared to the rest of his career.

Valverde, along with the Tigers coaching staff, will argue that he’s pitching better than he did last season. His walks are down, his strikeouts are up, and if he maintains his 1.04 WHIP (walks and hits per nine innings), it would rank as the second-best ratio of his career.

If Valverde can regain his confidence he will likely return to his old self, and even if he doesn’t, the team can move Benoit to closer.

The offense, however, cannot be replaced for the last three innings. If the Tigers continue to struggle in the last three innings of games, they will likely be ousted from the playoffs before they can make a run, and that is what really matters in Detroit these days.


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Detroit Tigers: Make Two Key Moves in Bullpen Including Naming Valverde Closer

After a lackluster start to the season by the bullpen, the Detroit Tigers made two big moves on April 23 to try and stabilize it.

According to MLive.com’s Chris Iott, the first move is that the Tigers called up pitcher Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo and placed pitcher Octavio Dotel on the DL for elbow soreness:

The Tigers announced this afternoon that they have recalled Rondon and placed Octavio Dotel on the disabled list.

The second surprise move of the afternoon was that the Tigers officially signed former closer Jose Valverde to a one-year deal. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the closer:

The team announced they signed the relief pitcher to a 1-year major-league deal shortly after their game with the Kansas City Royals tonight was postponed. He will be available out of the bullpen Wednesday as the team’s closer if there is a save situation, manager Jim Leyland said.

While Valverde‘s struggles in the 2012 postseason are well documented, it is a surprise that Valverde is the Tigers’ new closer, especially after the Tigers said they wouldn’t re-sign Valverde in Oct. 2012. 

When Rondon, who was the odds-on favorite to be the closer in 2013, struggled in spring training. When he was shipped to Toledo, there wasn’t an immediate replacement on the roster.

Since the beginning of the season, the Tigers have gone with closer-by-committee, but no one has claimed the closer job.

Then on April 4 the Tigers signed Valverde to a minor-league deal, which was a low-risk move and appears to have paid off.

According to Tony Paul from the Detroit News, Valverde has pitched brilliantly and the Tigers decided to bring him up:

Valverde, 35, has thrown in several games, a combination of extended spring games, scrimmages, and Single A Lakeland games.

The Tigers, late last week, sent front-office officials to see him in person, including assistant GM Al Avila and Al Kaline. The reports, across the board, have been so glowing that the Tigers decided to skip his plan cameo at Triple A Toledo.

Whether Valverde or Rondon are successful in Detroit remains to be seen, but this is a smart gamble by the Tigers.

Rondon hasn’t allowed a run in 7.2 innings with nine strikeouts and only two walks for Toledo. If Rondon has finally mastered his control, the Tigers might have two strong choices for closer after not having any to begin the season. 

According to the Paul, Brayan Villarreal was optioned to Triple-A to clear the bullpen spot for Valverde:

To make room for Valverde, the Tigers optioned struggling right-hander Brayan Villarreal to Triple A Toledo.

Regardless how fans feel about Valverde or Rondon, it is good to see the Tigers willing to make changes and not standing put.

*All statistics are as of April 23

**All statistics are from baseball-reference.com

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Detroit Tigers Sign Jose Valverde to 1-Year Deal

The Detroit Tigers chose not to bring Jose Valverde back to the team after the 2012 season, but fate has a strange way of bringing two sides together. 

Valverde will sign a one-year deal to return to Detroit, as confirmed by the Tigers’ Twitter account, and he will take over as the team’s closer when he gets to town:

After a 2012 season that included 35 saves and a 3.78 ERA, the two sides were not close to a deal this offseason. In fact, there weren’t many teams interested in the 35-year-old closer, and he took a minor league deal with the Tigers after the 2013 season began in an attempt to work his way back to the bigs. 

That strategy paid off handsomely. 

After a shutout inning for the Single-A Lakeland Tigers on Friday night (h/t MLB.com), the plan was for Valverde to continue to stomp through minor leaguers until Detroit felt comfortable bringing him back on board. 

After three blown saves to start the season and Octavio Dotel going on the disabled list, that time frame had to be moved up considerably to help the Tigers keep pace in the American League Central. 

A 10-year veteran, Valverde has a career 3.11 ERA and 277 career saves, but fell off the wagon somewhat during the 2012 postseason—characterized best by Raul Ibanez’s game-tying, Game 1 home run in the 2012 ALCS.

In four total appearances over the three rounds that the Tigers participated in, Valverde gave up nine earned runs, and his ERA over the final two rounds of the postseason was an astronomical 54.00—a big reason why Detroit was comfortable allowing Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and other prospects to anchor the pen.

The Valverde-Detroit marriage has certainly been a strange story, but the Tigers are in desperation mode after some of their early season struggles in the bullpen, and there are few closers in baseball who have had more success than Valverde over the past six seasons. 


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Detroit Tigers Should Not Bring Jose Valverde Back as Closer

Earlier in spring training, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland spoke about his surprise that last year’s closer Jose Valverde is still a free agent. According to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland became emotional this morning, saying that he is “totally shocked and brokenhearted” that Jose Valverde has not found a job as a closer.

“I can’t believe it,” Leyland said. “This guy was absolutely fantastic for us. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever managed.”

At the time on February 14, no one thought too much about Leyland‘s comments, since rookie Bruce Rondon was targeted to be the Tigers’ closer in 2013.

Fast-forward to March 2 and Bruce Rondon has yet to prove he can successfully handle the closer duties in three spring training appearances.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman posted a series of tweets this morning about Rondon:

Following those comments, Sherman posted a jaw-dropping tweet saying that Leyland is interested in bringing back Valverde.

After how Valverde was removed from his closer spot in the ALCS because of a disastrous 2012 postseason, could the Tigers actually be considering bringing him back?

Valverde, 34, looks like his best days are behind him. While he saved 35 out of 40 games during the 2012 season, he was abysmal in the postseason.

Valverde appeared in four games, pitched 2.2 innings and had a 30.38 earned run average. For a team with World Series aspirations this season, he does not inspire confidence in his teammates.

While Sherman didn’t state a source regarding Leyland‘s interest, he is very connected throughout baseball and is a trusted columnist.

Also keep in mind that Leyland being interested in Valverde and Valverde actually returning to the Tigers are two separate things.

The Tigers would be making a huge mistake if Valverde does come back. The potential of the fans at Comerica Park constantly booing him is a real threat.

Regardless, with one simple tweet, Tigers fans could be wishing that Todd Jones was returning as closer rather than seeing Valverde.


*All statistics are from baseball-reference.com and espn.com

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MLB Free Agency: Latest Talks on Top Players Still Available

Although spring training is just under way, there are still a number of quality free agents available who could have a big impact with a team.

The latest news yesterday was the huge contract that Michael Bourn signed with the Cleveland Indians. Bourn is one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in baseball, and in spite of a relatively down year for him, he still hit .274 with 42 stolen bases. Bourn was perhaps the top free agent still available, and his signature arguably turns the Indians into serious contenders for their division.

Even with the signing of Bourn, there are many talented players still unsigned, primarily with pitching.

Here are the latest talks on a few of the top players: 

Kyle Lohse

Lohse had an incredible 2012 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, 109 WHIP and 211.0 innings pitched.

Lohse turned down the Cardinals’ qualifying offer of $13.3 million to become a free agent.

However, as recently as early January, Lohse had not received a single offer from a team. But he is still far and away the best free agent available, and one of the top pitchers in this league.

The lack of an offer is, in large part, because a team that signs him would lose a valuable first-round draft pick to the Cardinals.  Lohse is in amazing form, but at 34 he cannot be expected to pitch this well for much longer. He is also a Scott Boras client and he will want Lohse to command top-dollar.



There were recent soft rumors of the Boston Red Sox making a move,  but according to a major league source, that is highly unlikely.

One team that remains an option is the division rival Milwaukee Brewers.  GM Doug Melvin stated recently that there is a chance the Brewers could pursue Lohse, and the loss of their first-round pick (No. 17) is not as big a deal for them as it is for other teams. 

The most intriguing destination is the Washington Nationals.

One of the names included in the highly publicized Biogenesis PED records was ace pitcher, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez Tweeted in response to his inclusion, strongly denying any association whatsoever.

But if found guilty, he could face a 50-game suspension, and the Nationals would need to quickly replace their ace and the player who finished third in the Cy Young voting.

Enter Lohse.

The Nationals were linked to Lohse soon after the recent allegations. Even more, the team already forfeited its first-round pick to sign Rafael Soriano. They are already serious contenders, and the addition of Lohse would only add to that recognition.

But nothing will happen with the Nationals until the allegations with Gonzalez get resolved.


As it stands, the first-round compensation is the biggest obstacle for Lohse, much like it was with Bourn.

The Nationals and Brewers seem the most likely landing spots, but a team could certainly swoop in unexpectedly and sign him, just as the Indians did with Bourn. 

Jose Valverde

The normally dependable Valverde, who will turn 35 this season, finished 2012 with 35 saves and a 3.78 ERA for the Detroit Tigers.

Valverde had a solid year on paper but completely imploded during the playoffs and was eventually replaced as the closer by Phil Coke. He is seen as a player on the decline.

The market has been quiet for Valverde, until ESPNDeportes.com falsely reported that Valverde agreed to a one-year deal with the Miami Marlins. 

However, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the report was shot down by the Marlins. The Marlins would be wise not to sign Valverde, as they are rebuilding and also have a good closer in Steve Cishek, who had 15 saves, a 2.69 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 63.2 innings.


The false rumor, according to Spencer, was actually agent Scott Boras garnering attention for Valverde and trying to create a market that isn’t there. Boras rarely has done business with the Marlins.

The most likely option for him is the New York Mets.

If signed, Valverde would likely replace Frank Francisco as the closer, who struggled all last season with injuries and inconsistency. 

Valverde is also on their radar, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. He reports that a deal with the Mets would likely be similar to the one they gave Shaun Marcum this offseason, which was a one-year deal worth $4 million plus incentives. According to Spencer’s Miami Herald article, Boras is demanding about $4 million to $7 million for Valverde.

Valverde has not played himself into an enviable role, as he pitched terribly down the stretch last season. Although the Marlins rumors seem to be very false, Valverde does appear to have a good shot at being signed by the Mets.

They could very much use the bullpen help, but it is worth noting that the Mets rumor was published before the recent signing of Brandon Lyon.


Francisco Rodriguez

Rodriguez, who turned 31 in January, had a somewhat down year.

He finished 2012 with a 4.38 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 72.0 innings with the Milwaukee Brewers. But Rodriguez also recorded 31 walks and only three saves in 10 save opportunities.

His final record was 2-7. 

The market for Rodriguez has also been quiet due to a domestic abuse charge filed by his girlfriend in early November.

It is his second domestic violence arrest, but in this case no one appeared to testify against him, the charges were eventually dropped, and the girlfriend admitted Rodriguez did not cause the injuries.

Despite the dropped charges, Rodriguez has not been too hotly pursued.

Almost a month ago, a rumor went around that the Toronto Blue Jays were seeking a late-inning reliever and Rodriguez’s name was included. Jon Heyman of CBSSports Tweeted of the Blue Jays’ interest. The New York Mets are rumored to be interested in a potential reunion. Rodriguez had a successful two-plus seasons with the Mets before being traded, but Valverde seems the more serious candidate for the Mets.

K-Rod is also another Scott Boras client, and Boras will try to command as much money as possible.

The Mets have signed a flurry of cheap, low-risk relievers recently. Right now the market is quiet for K-Rod, but the Mets seem the most viable option of any teams.

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5 Free Agents the Minnesota Twins Should Splurge on

Unlike my previous articles which focused on the Pioneer Press‘ Tom Powers’ idea that the “Minnesota Twins need more useful players, not stars,” this article looks at a different side to Minnesota’s typical strict budget roster moves.

It is not normal for the Twins to rebuild by stacking their team full of proven stars.  However, after two horrible seasons, is it time to break this mold? The following article reviews five free agents the Twins should consider splurging on for 2013 (to rebuild their rotation and jump start the offense).

Note: All players were listed as Free Agents when this article was written, via BaseballReference.com and MLBTradeRumors.com.

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Tigers vs. Yankees: Jose Valverde Reacts to Raul Ibanez’s Home Run

Check out the reaction from Jose Valverde after giving up the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It looks like Valverde thought for a second that the ball might be caught, and his face when he realizes the ball has gone over the fence is priceless. 

Good job, good effort, Valverde

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Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers : Team Grades from ALDS Game 1

Of the four Division Series matchups, this one probably featured the most different teams.

The Athletics exceeded almost everyone’s expectations with rookies and other youngsters, while the Tigers were on the outside looking in for most of the season despite their high expectations with superstars like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on the roster.

In Game 1, pitching ruled the day. Justin Verlander bounced back from a shaky beginning to strike out 11 in seven innings and Jarrod Parker gave up three runs in six and a third in his first career postseason start.

Both bullpens were effective and the Tigers earned a nail-biting 3-1 victory in the first game of the best-of-five Division Series. Here are Game 1 grades for each team.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon Should Be Next on Trading Block

It is Jonathan Papelbon, not Cliff Lee, whom the Phillies should be trying to move via waiver trade this month.

All indications now are that Lee is not going anywhere in 2012.  ESPN has reported that waivers on Lee expired over the weekend, and CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted today that the Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the teams that Lee could block a trade to.

But the Phillies are still eleven games under .500 and on a slow boat to nowhere with a little more than a month and a half to go.  This is not a time for the front office to idly count days passing.  This is a time for creativity, and action. 

The “trade deadline” has passed, but teams are still able to make deals.  The complication for the Phillies in trading Papelbon now (and for any trading partner) would be that Papelbon must clear waivers.  Explanations of the waiver trade process are abundant—a good one was provided recently by FoxSports.com.

Why trade Papelbon?  It is not his fault that his team has not had as many wins to save as anyone expected.  His numbers—3-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 24 saves, three blown saves—are in line with expectations given career marks of 26-23, 2.39 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 243 saves and 32 blown saves.

Which is exactly why the Phillies should try to move Papelbon, now.

It is patently obvious that the forces that convinced the Phillies to sign Papelbon to a four-year, $50M contract this past offseason have proven ephemeral.

Papelbon’s signing, while costly, was justifiable under the assumption that the pitching-rich, hitting-challenged Phillies would be playing a lot of close games and would have many slim leads to protect.

Unfortunately, the hitting turned out to be not just challenged, but largely non-existent—as of this writing, the Phillies are 19th in Major League Baseball in both runs scored and slugging percentage, and they are 21st in on-base percentage.  That kind of production will not normally keep a closer busy…

…unless he is being asked to pitch in non-save situations, which Papelbon has done seventeen times so far in 2012.

The Phillies will need to be open to the idea of paying at least some of Papelbon’s contract if they hope to move him.  But while the idea of paying someone not to pitch for you is never appealing, the truth is that the Phillies as presently constituted are simply not the sort of team that can justify holding onto an eight-figure closer.  The sellout streak is over, you know.

Fortunately for the Phillies, there are some teams with serious postseason hopes, deep pockets…and iffy closer situations.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have settled on Ernesto Frieri as their closer, whose performance thus far has been spectacular.  But he got the job on May 23.  He was in San Diego to start the season.  Is that who the Angels want to take the ball with a playoff series on the line?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have tabbed Kenley Jansen to close their games.  But he has six blown saves so far, compared to 21 games saved.  The Dodgers have made it clear that they will be aggressive and will spend money.  They could decide that Papelbon is the last piece of the puzzle in 2012.

And the Detroit Tigers have walked the high wire with Jose Valverde closing games.  He has 21 saves against four blown saves…but his ERA is 3.63, and he has only 33 strikeouts against 20 walks.  Surely the Tigers would feel more confident giving the ball to Papelbon in a big spot.

At some level, it almost seems unfair to be targeting Papelbon as a player to move.  Like Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino before him, Papelbon would thus be punished for the shortcomings of his teammates, despite having a representative season in his own right.

But if the Phillies are serious about freeing up money to build around Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in 2013, the time to slip out of the knot that is Papelbon’s contract is now.

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