Top 6 Closer Options for the Detroit Tigers to Replace the Shaky Bruce Rondon
The Detroit Tigers steadfastly refused to consider acquiring a closer this offseason.
They apparently reserved the right to change their mind.
They've gotten a good look at Bruce Rondon, the Venezuelan fireballing right-hander that throws 100 MPH. Rondon was the man whom general manager Dave Dombrowski thought was a "rare talent" and one who could be closing games for the Tigers this season.
Rondon might be rare, but major league hitters are hitting him like he's well done.
Rondon has posted a 7.36 ERA thus far, failing to even register a clean inning. He's walked five batters in 3.2 innings, a problem that was also seen in minor league ball. Rondon has walked 60 batters over 93 innings in the past two seasons.
Now, the Tigers are stuck. With the free-agent market essentially void of top closers, the Tigers would have to enter the trade market to find their man.
Here are six candidates who could serve as the Detroit Tigers closer in 2013.
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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello tossed four scoreless innings against the Houston Astros on Monday, allowing just three hits and striking out six.
Porcello is in a battle with Drew Smyly to win the final spot in the starting rotation. However, on Monday another thought about Porcello's future with the Tigers was bandied about.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, in a session with reporters, was asked about the possibility of Porcello becoming a closer.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Leyland said, "I don't know that that's necessarily a wild thought."
Leyland has previously stated that Porcello would likely wind up in the bullpen if Smyly were to win the final starting spot. In addition, Porcello's name has been floated about in trade speculation for months. Numerous scouts were in attendance to watch Porcello's start on Monday.
Porcello is the least likely candidate to close for the Tigers. In fact, Dombrowski could easily use Porcello as a chip to lure a closer to Detroit.
Carlos Marmol: Chicago Cubs
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The Chicago Cubs have already tried to trade closer Carlos Marmol once. They wouldn't hesitate to try again if the right team came calling.
Marmol was nearly a member of the Los Angeles Angels last November. A deal was in place for Marmol to be sent to Anaheim in exchange for starting pitcher Dan Haren. The deal fell through at the last minute because the Cubs were scared away by Haren's health issues, specifically a hip condition.
The Cubs also went out and acquired Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, who notched 220 saves during his time with the Hanshin Tigers.
Marmol is in the final season of his three-year contract and is set to make $9.8 million this season. The Detroit Tigers would have no issue with acquiring Marmol, allowing prospect Bruce Rondon another year of development in the process.
Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com said that according to league sources, the Tigers are among several teams taking a hard look at Marmol, who bounced back with a terrific second half last season (1.52 ERA, 12 saves) after a horrible first few months.
This is a deal that would make sense for the Tigers. The Cubs would be interested in starter Rick Porcello, and the Tigers could use Marmol as a bridge to Rondon.
Rafael Betancourt: Colorado Rockies
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Over the past two seasons, reliever Rafael Betancourt has come into his own as a closer for the Colorado Rockies. Betanourt posted a 2.81 ERA and 31 saves last year for the last-place Rockies.
Betancourt is also in the final season of his contract with the Rockies holding a mutual option for the 2014 season. They traded for Houston Astros closer Wilton Lopez this offseason, presumably to someday take over for Betancourt.
Betancourt's name hasn't been floated out there, but the Rockies do have extra relievers. Betancourt could yield the Rockies some starting pitching, a commodity that's definitely in demand in Denver.
Francisco Rodriguez: Free Agent
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Francisco Rodriguez will be pitching for his native Venezuela starting this weekend in the World Baseball Classic.
K-Rod is also still looking for a job in the majors.
It's a safe bet that the Detroit Tigers will be monitoring Rodriguez as he attempts to help Venezuela win the WBC. Rodriguez had served as the setup man for John Axford in Milwaukee for the past one-plus seasons, posting a 4.34 ERA with three saves last year.
With 294 career saves to his credit and the holder of the single-season saves record, Rodriguez certainly has the resume. The question is whether Rodriguez still has enough left in the tank to be that great shutdown closer once again.
Andrew Bailey: Boston Red Sox
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A former Rookie of the Year Award winner is now languishing in Boston, stuck behind another closer on the depth chart.
Andrew Bailey burst onto the MLB scene with the Oakland A's, saving 26 games in his first season and walking away with the ROY Award in 2009.
Traded to the Boston Red Sox last year, Bailey tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb before the start of the regular season. Bailey came back in mid-August but never got it going, posting a 7.04 ERA in 19 appearances.
The Red Sox went out and acquired closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason, moving Bailey back into a setup role.
The Red Sox could very well move Bailey if the Detroit Tigers presented a deal that was agreeable. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com said that the Tigers have yet to reach out to Boston, but that certainly doesn't mean the Tigers aren't interested.
After averaging 25 saves per season with Oakland, Bailey certainly has the qualifications, and at $4.1 million this year he won't break the bank for the Tigers, either.
Heath Bell: Arizona Diamondbacks
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Heath Bell averaged 44 saves a season in his final three years with the San Diego Padres. Bell suffered through a miserable existence in Miami, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 saves in his lone season with the Marlins.
Bell is now the setup man for closer J.J. Putz and the Arizona Diamondbacks. General manager Kevin Towers engineered a deal with the Marlins in which Arizona pays only $10 million of the $18 million remaining on Bell's three-year deal.
Bell could be on the radar for the Detroit Tigers at this point. While there hasn't been any speculation or rumors reporting any Tigers' interest in Bell's services, they have to be keeping all options open at this point.
The problem in acquiring Bell is the contract. The Tigers likely don't want to be stuck with an extra season, especially if Bell's performance is anything like last year.
Bell is an option, but not an attractive one.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.