Jason Beck reports that the Tigers have some interest in signing free agent closer Jose Valverde, who has pitched for the Houston Astros the past two season. This is surprising since the Tigers have been reluctant to spend money this off-season and it was thought that they would not pursue any costly free agents. Buster Olney says via ESPN Insider that Valverde is asking for $8 million per season. It would also likely require a multi-year deal to get him.
Valverde posted a 2.33 ERA and 56/21 K/BB ratio in 52 games last year. He was 25 for 29 in save situations in 2009 and 116 for 134 (87%) over the last three years. According to The Bill James Handbook, he had 41 clean outings in 52 games last year. A clean outing is any appearance in which a reliever does not allow a run or an inherited run to score. His 79% clean outing percentage compared favorably to Fernando Rodney (70%), Brandon Lyon (69%) and the MLB average (64%) in 2009.
The Tigers have a number of young relievers - Ryan Perry, Joel Zumaya, Daniel Schlereth, Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weihardt - who have the potential to close this year or in the near future. However, they have no proven option, so Valverde would cetainly improve the bullpen.
Beyond finances, the downside to signing Valverde would be that the Tigers would have to surrender a first round draft pick as compensation. One has to question whether it would be a wise move for an apparently re-tooling team to give up a draft pick for a 32 year old reliever. On the other hand, he would be a valuable trading chip at the deadline if the Tigers are not in the race.