By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Trading off some of the Tigers most valuable assets seems inevitable within the next 10 days. And one position in particular serves as the basis for a topic our writers will address today.
As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to the following topic; the best way for our readers to get the biggest bang for their buck.
Also keep in mind that our topic for Tuesday is chosen Sunday night, so if you see it somewhere else, check the date stamp! We are at the cusp of Tiger Nation!
Here is OUR topic!
Assuming Justin Wilson is traded, is the next Tiger closer on the roster? Who stands out as having the proper demeanor to take over heading into 2018?
The Tigers have learned a lot about their roster over the course of the season. And I believe they have learned a lot about their bullpen, where the strengths are, the weaknesses are and the sources of potential.
In a transitional year and off-season that should see many changes, Justin Wilson has too much value to not be dealt for prospects. So he is going to be gone, and you know, that’s the least of the team’s problems.
If there was ever a season where they would stick in-house and audition for the closer position from within, it will start late this season or next. A new beginning. A fresh start.
Remember the qualifications. Remember the raw DNA you need to possess to take on that ninth inning role. You need to be aggressive, fearless, durable and generally unflappable. Good stuff and a good fastball won’t hurt you either.
The list of guys that are not candidates begins with Bruce Rondon. He has been given plenty of time to earn the position, has all the physical tools, but lacks the intangibles mentioned above.
Alex Wilson does not appear to have the durability to take the role as he tends to struggle when overworked.
The wild card and certainly a pitcher who has a future down the road to take on the role is a highly-touted youngster. Joe Jimenez shows all the signs of being a dominant pitcher someday, but not just yet. He definitely will be part of the bullpen very soon, but will he be thrown right into the soup in the ninth? I’m not so sure.
So that leaves one guy and he’s someone who has settled in as an effective late-inning reliever, has great stuff, a good fastball and the intangibles to succeed.
Shane Greene is my candidate, and if given the opportunity, I see him seizing it and performing well, maybe even as soon as August.
If the patterns of this year continue, we will have to adjust our thinking about which parts of the team will be most important in 2018. For years now, the Tigers have had the star pitchers and firepower – but not the necessary bullpen to seal the deal.
Next year, the organization may be down a starter (or two) and with less offense given that JD Martinez will be gone no matter what. And with VMart another year older, it will be primarily up to Miggy and Upton to generate the runs scored.
What this now means is that the role of the closer may not be as important as it has been this year, and certainly not as crucial as in previous years. What this also means is that the Tigers will be under far less pressure to get it right mainly because the importance of a shut-down closer won’t be needed as much or as often. I do hope I am wrong.
But to name a successor, we first need to go back in history. I firmly believe that Al Avila’s strategy was to sign KRod for the 2 years while the hope was to groom Joe Jimenez as his successor. Al was hoping to time the departure of the old with the arrival of the new but KRod opted for early checkout and Jimenez was still too young and then he got injured.
We forget that Justin Wilson fell into the job of closer because he was the right fit at the right time. But we shouldn’t forget that Avila has already loaded the system with potential 9th inning guys.
There is good reason why Bruce Rondon was not terminated after multiple run-ins with the team. The Tigers still see him possessing talent while also being a potential fit with the team. And on Sunday, he was hitting the high 90’s and got 2 strikeouts and 1 pop-out in 4 batters faced. He even impressed Gibby.
Joe Jimenez has pitched to a 1.93 ERA in 20 games in Toledo but it’s known that he still needs to work on a third pitch. Ironically, he is also having some frustrations with the team like Rondon. In a series of tweets, since deleted, he expressed frustration over not being recognized enough for his hard work.
Maybe it’s a closer mentality that inspires these labor-intensive personalities.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers try out both guys next year (or even this year) to see which one can handle the pressure that comes with closing a game.