By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today’s Tuesday topic comes from a loyal reader and it revolves around pitching.

If you haven’t noticed, the Tigers need some; and once again, their pitching needs will require a closer. But they cannot by any stretch of the imagination, dump a big bag of money on the most popular guy.

They have to be smarter than ever before pulling the trigger. So let’s talk, shall we?

1. Jonathan Papelbon appears a likely candidate to be gone from the Nationals and possibly a bargain. Should the Tigers acquire him?  (Topic submitted by Pat F.)

Kurt – Nope, not interested.

As much as I like passion and cockiness backed up by performance, Papelbon didn’t show me much with his attack on Bryce Harper in the Nationals dugout in September. It’s OK for a player to question a teammate’s effort, but for Papelbon to make it physical and violently and dangerously grab the throat of a teammate and slam him against the wall? Not sure I want that guy. Not to mention he risked injuring the best player on the team.

We got a taste of that in our own dugout and since have questioned the character of our shortstop.

All in all, it would be very easy for the Tigers to acquire a seasoned 9th inning guy who has won a World Series. But we need a guy on the rise not on the way down, someone below the radar.

So, the Tigers need to steer clear of Mr. Papelbon, regardless of the potential “bargain.” The Nationals will have to find another sucker.

Holly – Absolutely not for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that he doesn’t fit the corporate culture and would probably upset the team apple cart. The Tigers have always been notoriously concerned with obtaining players who fit into the team dynamics and are reserved in their public statements. We’ve seen what happens when players became outspoken or behaved badly – they were traded away shortly thereafter.

Also think how busy Papelbon would be grabbing Tiger teammates around the throat who didn’t run to first base. When would he find the time to pitch?

But, seriously, the other issue is salary – he’s not cheap. There’s an $11 million contract for next year, some of which the Nationals would most likely pick up, but they would also want a player in that deal. They gave up a good one to get him and they’d want one in return. The Tigers can’t afford to trade away what little farm talent they currently have.

2. Is Al Avila more likely to go after an expensive proven closer or acquire someone with potential and a lower profile?

Kurt – It will be a challenge, but the Tigers sound like they will be looking for a guy who has a closer’s makeup, not necessarily one who closes games right now.

There are a number of teams out there with 8th-inning guys who have effectively slid into the closer role pretty seamlessly when needed. They would be more cost-effective and would certainly give us more options to entertain. We need a lot of pitching help, so we really need to watch the bucks so we get as much quantity as possible, along with quality.

They have two starters to acquire and at least 2 bullpen arms.  And those 2 arms may not even include closer. So it would be prudent for them to really do their homework on guys who have a closer’s mettle. Remember, it’s our feeling that this team is building for 2017, so actual patience will be important, not just blatantly offering gobs of money to “the best closer on the market.”

And remember this: Just because the Tigers are not touting the “win now” approach as much, doesn’t mean they can’t win with the right choices. Ineffective starters have fortified bullpens all over the league; Wade Davis is one case in point.

Holly – Not sure we’re ready for a Nathan reprise which appeared to be a move of desperation by Dave after the Tigers were once again done in by their bullpen. Bullpens are notoriously fickle and it’s more common than not that the best closer one year has a hard time putting it all together the next.

But the first consideration needs to be starting pitching. The Tigers need a lot – at least two, maybe even three. That will suck up the majority of available payroll cash. So it stands to reason that Avila will go after some younger arms, solid and with indications that their stock is rising. Hopefully, the new analytics department will help them find the right bodies much better than Dave’s antiquated system did.

Spending a lot of money on a guy who pitches a couple of innings each week is a horrible allocation of money. When you look at the top 5 closers in the game, 3 of them are making league minimum. Let’s just hope Al doesn’t continue to pin the team’s hopes on an untested rookie.


  1. In complete agreement regarding Papelbon. Consider me all in with the “expanded” analytics group. I believe that the expansion of that group was Al Avila’s biggest announcement thus far. More fiscally responsible free agent acquisitions and under the radar player trades may be among the largest roles that the analytics group will play for the Tigers.


  2. “It’s our feeling we’re building for 2017.” Probably true but NOT according to Al Sr. The door swings both ways. Watching the playoffs shows just how far we are away from contender status. Do we keep holding on to Miggy, Ian, VM, JV as they get older? Ausmus and staff are wrong fit for NEW Tiger 2017 squad. Avila must make a more decisive decision for 2016 goal.


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