Thank goodness the Tigers took our minds off the bullpen by distracting us with their sloppy error-filled games this past week. Ah, but not so fast Front Office. This pen is soooo bad (ok, everyone, you know you want to ask that infamous question) that whenever we walk past a dumpster fire, we automatically think of the Tigers relievers.
In case you were wondering, the bullpen has totally bottomed out now and hit the very bottom of MLB teams in the majority of categories. Through the first 21 games, they have a collective 6.72 ERA and 1.73 WHIP.
Yet, the bullpen remains relatively the same. No fresh names or faces. And KRod will remain the closer until hell freezes over. But despite their constant “pay no attention to the kerosene and box of matches on the mound” spiels, all of those responsible for this mess know exactly what is going on. They aren’t ignoring it despite their Mel Brooksian excuses. And they really, really want to do something about it.
But in reality, they probably can’t.
Let’s look at the warm bodies. Logically, if the Tigers had someone capable in the minors, that person would have been brought up by now. Their best prospect, Joe Jimenez, arrived and it’s now apparent that he is not yet ready.
KRod remains the closer despite his 6.23 ERA, 1.85 WHIP and mind-blowing 87.5% ability to allow inherited runners to score. (We won’t even touch the subject of whether or not he should remain the closer – a subject that will take at least a week’s worth of blogs, several bottles of Grey Goose and an experienced shrink.) But the scariest point is a comment published indicating that he would remain the “9th inning guy” simply because, logically, there was no other place to put him.
Anibal Sanchez is still warming a seat in the pen. That’s the good news because when he gets up, that’s when the problems start. Fans universally feel that he should be released. They point to the sunk cost and a body taking up a roster spot. But truth is, he is still there because he still remains valuable in some capacity (still largely unknown) to the team.
The same with Bruce Rondon. A guy who goes through surgery, gets sent home due to his work ethic, gets into fights and shows up hugely overweight to spring training. Yet, he’s still with the team.
Sense a pattern here?
The reason these guys are still drawing breath wearing the Old English D is in part because the Tigers have no one else to replace them. Blame much of it on Dave Dombrowski who ransacked the minors system for trade chips but now, add Avila to the mix. He did nothing to improve the pen after another horrible 2016 year.
But as Deep Throat infamously said, “Follow the money.” It always goes back to the dollars in the end. The Tigers have already released Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe to the tune of $14 million.
Add in Sanchez’s $22 mill, KRod’s $6 mill and $1 mill to Rondon. Dumping 5 players to the tune of $43 million is, for some teams, half their payroll. And then there’s the issue of new payroll of some level to replace these lost souls. It would be a headline-grabbing move that would publicly make the organization look foolish and inept. And for some employees, enough to get them fired because someone will have to take the fall for a mistake of this magnitude.
Add to the argument supporting finances and lack of personnel is a new one. Chris Ilitch. Maybe the reason why Avila was unable to revamp the pen was because he was given no payroll. Maybe the reason why these under-performing players have stayed is because Chris won’t sign off on their release.
And that, right now, will be the biggest question going into the summer. A summer considered to be the last possible hurrah for this core before the team is forced to go into rebuild mode.
If the pen remains the same in personnel and performance, it means the priority for winning is no longer there because the focus has been put on the money.
And that’s because the team and its books are being prepped for sale mode, not playoff mode.