Top 5 Closer Options for the Detroit Tigers in Free Agency

Sean RinehartContributor IIINovember 19, 2012

Top 5 Closer Options for the Detroit Tigers in Free Agency

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    After Jose Valverde's historic collapse during the postseason, where he accumulated a ridiculously high 30.38 ERA, the Detroit Tigers are currently in the market for a new closer.

    While recent reports suggest that the Tigers will stay in-house with their closer, there is plenty of reason to think that Detroit would make a deal with the right pitcher if the opportunity presented itself.

    The closer market may be small, but there are plenty of good options available if the Tigers decide to take the free agency route.

5. Jonathan Broxton

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    One of the available closers who will definitely be ready for Opening Day in 2013 is Jonathan Broxton.

    Before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the middle of the season, Broxton was 23-for-27 in save chances with a 2.27 ERA and 25 strikeouts. After joining the Reds, Broxton took on the role of a setup man for the hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman. In 22.1 innings, he totaled a 2.82 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only three walks. 

    While this is not the same Jonathan Broxton who closed for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, he would still upgrade the Tigers' bullpen significantly. 

    If given the opportunity, Broxton could thrive in spacious Comerica Park as the team's primary closer.

4. Francisco Rodriguez

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    While he may be coming off the worst season of his career, Francisco Rodriguez still has a lot left to contribute to a contending team. 

    One issue that many teams would have to look past would be his legal troubles. Rodriguez was arrested in September for a domestic violence incident, and he has incurred past legal troubles as well. 

    During the 2012 regular season, Rodriguez had a career-high 4.38 ERA in 72 innings pitched. It is also important to note that he was primarily used as a setup pitcher in order to help John Axford, the MIlwaukee Brewers' closer.

    At one point in Rodriguez's career, when he was the main closer with the Los Angeles Angels, he accumulated 62 saves and a 2.24 ERA, all of which occurred in 68.1 innings pitched. Even though those impressive numbers were four years ago, there is still a possibility that Rodriguez wants to return to that closer role with another team.

    It is a long shot that the Tigers would consider Rodriguez's services, but he is a dominant pitcher and will help any team that signs him. 

3. Ryan Madson

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    During the 2011 season, Ryan Madson put up impressive numbers as the closer for the Philadelphia Phillies, notching 32 saves in 60.2 innings with a 2.37 ERA. Madson also has some impressive postseason numbers—through 35 total innings, Madson has a 2.31 ERA, 43 strikeouts and only 10 total walks. 

    After 2011, however, Madson signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds only to find out that he would need to have season-ending Tommy John surgery. Any team that decides to take a chance on Ryan Madson will have to realize that he may not be able to return to the field until late May or early June. 

    It has been reported that Madson wants to become a closer, and since he is only 32 years old, he will be able to contribute at a high level once he returns.

    Detroit would have to choose between Dotel, Benoit, or Coke as their closer until Madson was able to return to the lineup, but there is no doubt that Madson is hungry to prove his doubters wrong. 

2. Joakim Soria

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    Another intriguing possibility for the Tigers is another closer who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, Joakim Soria. However, just like Ryan Madson, Soria may not be available to close until the middle of the summer. 

    While most believe Detroit is not willing to wait that long, the 28-year-old right hander would be a great addition to the Tiger bullpen. 

    Soria has spent his entire career with Kansas City, and enjoyed his best season as a professional only two short years ago in 2010. In 65.2 innings pitched, Soria has accumulated 43 saves, an impressive 1.78 ERA, 71 strikeouts and only 16 walks. 

    Along with all of this, he was voted to the All-Star team and had his name mentioned among the best during the Cy Young conversation.

    Soria's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating was an impressive 3.2 during 2010.  This means he contributed 3.2 more wins to the Royals than the average Triple-A closer would have provided. 

    While that is not a lot of wins to most people, that can often be the difference between playing in the postseason and watching it at home. 

1. Rafael Soriano

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    As of right now, the No. 1 option for the Tigers would be Rafael Soriano.

    During the 2012 season, following Mariano Rivera's season-ending injury, Soriano put up impressive numbers. In 67.2 innings, he earned 42 saves in 46 chances, a 2.26 ERA and 69 strikeouts. Soriano also posted an impressive 2.6 WAR rating.

    After years of having hit-or-miss closers, it is important for Detroit to find one that is consistent.

    While Bruce Rondon, a closer in Detroit's farm system, is obviously an option after his impressive 2012 campaign, the Tigers should seriously look at signing Rafael Soriano. He no doubt showed his ability following Rivera's injury and he would automatically give Detroit one of the more impressive bullpens in the American League.