By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Bruce Rondon and his struggles have definitely been the biggest topic of conversation this week, well before he was mercifully sent down to Toledo on Monday in favor of Joe Jimenez. It certainly adds an interesting twist in how our writers will answer this week’s Tuesday question.
Holly and Kurt have not shared their answers. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.
It’s very early in the season, but is it likely that KRod remains as the Tigers’ closer through the entire year?
There are 3 factors at play here and only one has to do with KRod himself. First is the overall concern with the BP and not having enough talent to stock it sufficiently. In other words, the Tigers may not have a choice but to keep him in that role, at least part-time.
The second issue is whether his presumed replacement, Joe Jimenez, will be ready. Much has been said about his physical skill set on the mound but no one has addressed the whole package that makes a closer successful. There is experience and also the mind-set that needs to be considered.
In an interview last week, Yadier Molina talked about Jimenez after having caught him in the WBC. He raved about his stuff but also mentioned that JJ is still a novice when it comes to in-game strategy. At one point, he said, he and the manager had to take over in calling the pitches.
But to expect Jimenez to take that gigantic leap all at once is a tall order. Molina mentioned that closers need to work their way up, starting with the 7th inning and then working the 8th before being anointed the closer. The 9th, after all, has the most pressure.
If you want to see what not to do with a promising potential closer, look no further than Dave Dombrowski’s announcement that Bruce Rondon would be the future closer 3 years before he even got called up to the majors.
As for KRod himself, he has reached that age of 35 and one of the Tigers’ oldest players. His velocity continues to dip and his K/9 from 2016 is a concern. More than a couple of his most important stats have been trending downward over the past 2-3 years.
But I believe the Tigers understand he is on borrowed time and picked up his option knowing he may not finish out the year with them if all goes well and as they have planned.
Ironically, as I write this, news just broke that Joe Jimenez was brought up from AAA which confirms my suspicions that the Tigers are probably banking on his transition into the role come late summer. Because by the end of July, the Tigers are hoping that they will trade KRod to a team desperate for bullpen help while in the mix for October baseball and get a “younger and leaner” prospect or two for their depleted farm system.
Don’t forget, after this year, KRod does not have a contract for 2018 and they will get nothing in return for his departure.
I believe the Tigers took a risk by bringing him back in the first place. There are no guarantees that KRod will be effective enough to the point where they can get anything of value for him at or near the trade deadline, if things don’t go well for the team.
Coming off a season where he was still very much effective, he had shown, even with some decline, that he still had more to give. So it was prior to this season where they may have gotten more value than what they received in the Maybin deal. The Tigers got very little for Maybin. The prospects for receiving better talent for KRod certainly were in the cards. But who would close? I am sure they asked themselves that question long before the decision had to be made.
Of course, given the goals the team has for this season, and how driven they seem to be to give this another go, the Tigers are going to give KRod every opportunity to be part of the mix. He will have to realize a complete collapse before any change will be made.
The Tigers should have learned a great deal from Bruce Rondon’s coronation into the closer’s role as a rookie. We know how that turned out. They won’t make the same mistake with Joe Jimenez. However, I do believe bringing Joe in now is important to the Tigers’ future. Whether he is destined to someday be the closer or not is not something that would be considered any sooner than July 31st. And even then, 2 things would have to happen.
The Tigers would need to be out of the playoff race to the point where they would deal KRod and of course, there are no guarantees that Jimenez won’t be back in Toledo. This is his opportunity now, but Bruce Rondon’s continued struggles have caused the Tigers to be a little bit desperate, or shall I say, show a sense of urgency.
KRod is the closer until he can’t close any longer. Hopefully that won’t happen until after his career with the Tigers is over. But replacing him with someone else prior to him leaving will be an example of another very desperate move by the Tigers.
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– Tons of video on all the top Tigers
– In the batting cage with Nick(olas)
– More CF shopping rumors
– Good news on Bruce Rondon
– Jones imitating Kinsler
– Updates on all the news and injuries hours before the newspapers report it
– JV’s killer commercial
– What JV and Lolich have in common
– The New Kaline mural
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– McCann’s interview evaluating all the young pitching talent