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A Vivacious Valverde Vivisection

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What is it with the Arizona-Detroit connection? The Curtis Granderson trade brought in Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the desert, while Houston Astros closer Jose Valverde, formerly with the Diamondbacks, found his way to Detroit, thanks to $14 million over two years.

Going back to that Granderson trade, it was the most devastating offseason move Tigers fans had endured since maybe the Juan Gonzalez blockbuster. But even that one didn't tug at the heart and cause a coronary: everyone was just skeptical of giving up so much for him. The same applies to the '87 trade that brought Doyle Alexander to Tiger Stadium in exchange for minor leaguer John Smoltz: nobody really knew what they gave up before it was too late. In the city of Detroit, comparable transactions of perpetual sadness might include the Pistons giving up Chauncey Billups or the sudden retirement of Barry Sanders.

And once rumors materialized into official announcements about Granderson leaving town, the mantra in my mind remained steadfast: this helps the payroll today and the team later. It was a sleek two-for-four swap, albeit two All-Stars for four unprovens. Austin Jackson and Scherzer could end up being better versions of Granderson and Edwin Jackson, with Schlereth and Phil Coke acting as bullpen throw-ins. This might make their relief phalanx one of their strengths yet again, despite losing Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon. The returning cast of Ryan Perry, Fu-Te Ni, Bobby Seay, whatever's left of Joel Zumaya, and an opportunity for Casey Fien gives them seven solid options, although I would say they need more righthanders.

And suddenly, out of the primordial ooze, a deal is made where the payroll of the bullpen more than doubled. I thought I had figured out general manager Dave Dombrowski's blueprint, but signing Valverde just confounds me further. What exactly are they going for? To have a really, really strong bullpen and hope for the best that some minor league guys earn everyday jobs?

Right now there is no centerfielder or second baseman. One-year deals to some veterans seeking redemption (Rick Ankiel, Jeremy Reed) would make more sense than solidifying the closer's job, which — given the pitching Detroit has in the wings — has a better shot of being handled beautifully from within.

Having let off that steam, there is reason to be excited for Valverde. He strikes guys out (more than a batter per inning) and could be a 40-save guy. Now, is there anyone else they can pry from Arizona? Stephen Drew, perhaps?

(Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)

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  • Tony

    They have a good starting rotation but it is young so a great bullpen is crucial when regulating innings and keeping them healthy and strong over the course. These guys won’t go deep into games and maybe Leyland will handle Verlander with a little more sanity this season knowing he has some effective options in the pen.

    I understand that they have some major offensive needs but I don’t think the Tigers are planning on making a run this season. The team needs to be rebuilt piece by piece. With the strongest aspect of the teaming being the starting rotation, solidifying the bullpen makes sense.

    If you throw money at offensive players and have good starting pitchers but no ‘pen, the losses add up. The New York Mets are know this well.

    If they devote this season to creating a complete staff, top to bottom, they can work on improvnig the offense next season. Why not see what they’ve got with Jackson and some of the other youngsters first and then determine what positions actually need to be filled. At the very least, the defense will be better which is key to maintaining a good young staff.

    I don’t see the Tigers making the playoffs this year but I think — if Jose can pitch in the AL — the Tigers may finally be moving in the right direction, despite their blatant offensive issues.

  • With you on 2010 … I just don’t see justifying $7MM on a closer this season when you could spend that for a CF and a 2B.

    The only reason they could contend is because it’s the AL Central, the ACC of baseball.