The Detroit Tigers have been actively scouting relievers across the major leagues as the July 31st trade deadline looms. Detroit isn’t necessarily in need of a true closer but could certainly use the services of a lock down late-inning arm.
The ongoing problems from Phil Coke might even push the Tigers into looking at both a righty and lefty arm to add to the mix. Can you honestly imagine Jim Leyland throwing Coke into the playoff fire with how he’s pitched this year? Drew Smyly has been fantastic but Leyland needs another lefty he can trust and Coke and Darin Downs haven’t been thriving of late.
Below I will rank the right-handed relievers the Tigers should be targeting:
Jose Veras, Houston Astros – Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has been masterfully building his roster since taking over as the man in charge of bringing Houston back to prominence. One key piece he can deal this trading season is Veras. He has been acting as the closer all year and has pitched good baseball. Veras, a 32-year old righty, has saved 17 games in Houston with a 3.29 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 41K’s in 38.1 innings. He has dominated righties and been very respectable against lefties as well. He is an ideal fit.
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers – The Crew couldn’t be happier with the way K-Rod has resurrected his career. They should get tremendous value from him at the deadline and the Tigers have been watching him closely. Frankie is 9 for 9 in save chances since rejoining the Brewers with a 1.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He has a 25:8 K to walk ratio in 21.1 innings. His killer changeup has neutralized lefties to the tune of a .111 batting average against.
Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins – One of Dombrowski’s most common trading partners has been the Marlins and their closer is on the block. The 27-year old right-hander has 17 saves in 19 chances with a 2.75 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 38 K’s in 39.1 innings for the lowly Marlins. He has good splits against both lefties and righties but my concern here is that elevating the pressure situations that he pitches within might set his production back a notch. Pitching for the pennant-contending Tigers with 40,000 championship-starved fans staring on is a whole different animal when compared to pitching in front of 12,000 disinterested fans in Miami. Tread lightly here, Mr. Dombrowski.
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers – Axford has fallen in and out, in and out, and back in the favor of the Brewers over the past few seasons. Lately he has been tremendous as he recently had a streak of 23 straight scoreless appearances snapped but has since rattled off 3 more. Axford got off to a miserable start but has once again harnessed his power arm. His 3.76 ERA and 1.43 WHIP might help the Tigers get an impact arm at a cheaper price. Yet another Brewer, Jim Henderson, would also make for a nice addition to the Tigers’ pen with his 2.43 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Luke Gregerson & Huston Street, San Diego Padres – The Padres will be in sell mode and both of these guys should be on the market. Gregerson has been a very consistent setup man since his rookie year of 2009 and Street is an accomplished closer but might be starting to decline. Of this duo, the Tigers should lock in on Gregerson and let someone else take the sexy name in Street and deal with the consequences.
Next up we’ll look at some of the lefty bullpen arms that might fit the Tigers’ wish list.
To receive an email each time a new Tigers article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form
[Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]