The Detroit Tigers spent most of the offseason insisting they didn't need a closer, but after one blown save on a botched play in the outfield it appears that Jose Valverde is coming back.
According to the Tigers' official Twitter, Valverde and the Tigers agreed to a minor league contract that will bring the former All-Star closer back to Detroit.
OFFICIAL: The #Tigers have signed Jose Valverde to a minor league contract. He will report to Lakeland.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 4, 2013
Like most relief pitchers, especially closers, Valverde has endured a number of ups and downs throughout his career. He has been able to rack up a lot of saves, whatever you think those are worth, over the last six seasons.
But in terms of overall performance, Valverde has left a lot to be desired. He had a "perfect" season in 2011 with the Tigers, converting all 49 of his save opportunities, but his strikeout rate dropped a little bit from 2010 (9.00 to 8.59) and he walked a tightrope more often than not.
According to Tom Gage of the Detroit News, the veteran is going to have to prove his worth to the Tigers' major league club:
#Tigers Dombrowski on Valverde"If he progressed,he could come back and pitch for our big-league club. We're not just signing him as a favor"— Tom Gage (@Tom_Gage) April 4, 2013
Things unraveled for Valverde in 2012. He did finish the season with 35 saves, but his strikeout rate plummeted to 6.26 per nine innings pitched, his batting average on balls in play went from .247 in 2011 to .264, and his average fastball velocity (per Fangraphs) was 93.4, his lowest since 2007.
What is more likely to happen in 2013?
On top of all that, Valverde's ERA increased from 2.24 in 2011 to 3.78 last season. Things got so bad for Valverde in the postseason last year, as he blew back-to-back save chances against Oakland and New York, that Jim Leyland only used him mop-up duty during the World Series.
The Tigers enter the 2013 season with plenty of hope of optimism in a very weak American League Central that they should run away with over the summer. They are clearly not making a significant financial investment, nor is there any guarantee that Valverde will make it to the big leagues, so why not roll the dice?
At the very least, Valverde gives Leyland another arm with some history of success to use out of the bullpen, even if he isn't the pitcher he was in his prime with Arizona and Houston.