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By going with a rookie closer, the Detroit Tigers saved money, allowing them to re-sign pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Bruce Rondon is arguably the biggest reason why the Detroit Tigers have improved themselves from a year ago.
By anointing a rookie as a lead candidate to close in 2013 so early in the offseason, it provided the Tigers with options that they may not have had been able to afford otherwise.
On Oct. 30, 2012 Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski spoke in his end of season press conference about the faith they had in Rondon (via Chris Iott at MLive.com):
"This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer," Dombrowski said. "Normally you're not going to thrust that in a young guy's hands and say automatically, 'That's your job,' but it would not surprise me if he earned that job."
If the Tigers didn't trust that Rondon could handle the closer role in 2013, then they probably would have signed a free agent closer who has experience in the major leagues.
The Tigers were linked to veteran closers this past offseason because the media and fans were surprised that the Tigers would entrust a rookie with such an important role on a World Series contending team. The team had been connected to free agent closer Rafael Soriano throughout the offseason until he signed a two-year deal Jan. 17 with the Washington Nationals.
If the Tigers had signed Soriano, they would have needed to invest a sizable amount of cash, plus forfeit their first round pick to the New York Yankees.
By not having to sign a closer, the Tigers redistributed the money they saved and in turn got to re-sign pitcher Anibal Sanchez, as well as sign free agent outfielder Torii Hunter from the Los Angeles Angels.
While the Tigers' budget wasn't made known, who knows if the Tigers could have afforded Sanchez if they needed to sign a closer. At the beginning of the offseason, many fans thought that Sanchez would be too expensive for the Tigers to re-sign based on other needs.
By re-signing Sanchez, the Tigers' pitching staff is formidable and potentially the best starting rotation in the AL. They are also better defensively with Hunter in right field.
Heading into the 2013 season, the Tigers are a stronger World Series contender than they were a year ago and it is because of Rondon. This pro is the most important aspect to consider when judging Rondon this season, as the financial benefits of having him close will ultimately allow the team to strengthen other weaknesses.
*All statistics are from baseball-reference.com