The Detroit Tigers chose not to bring Jose Valverde back to the team after the 2012 season, but fate has a strange way of bringing two sides together.
Twice baked potato. The #Tigers have signed RHP Jose Valverde to a one-year deal. In corresponding move, Villarreal optioned to Toledo.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 23, 2013
Valverde will be with the club in Detroit tomorrow and manager Jim Leyland says he will be the team's closer.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 23, 2013
After a 2012 season that included 35 saves and a 3.78 ERA, the two sides were not close to a deal this offseason. In fact, there weren't many teams interested in the 35-year-old closer, and he took a minor league deal with the Tigers after the 2013 season began in an attempt to work his way back to the bigs.
That strategy paid off handsomely.
After a shutout inning for the Single-A Lakeland Tigers on Friday night (h/t MLB.com), the plan was for Valverde to continue to stomp through minor leaguers until Detroit felt comfortable bringing him back on board.
After three blown saves to start the season and Octavio Dotel going on the disabled list, that time frame had to be moved up considerably to help the Tigers keep pace in the American League Central.
A 10-year veteran, Valverde has a career 3.11 ERA and 277 career saves, but fell off the wagon somewhat during the 2012 postseason—characterized best by Raul Ibanez's game-tying, Game 1 home run in the 2012 ALCS.
In four total appearances over the three rounds that the Tigers participated in, Valverde gave up nine earned runs, and his ERA over the final two rounds of the postseason was an astronomical 54.00—a big reason why Detroit was comfortable allowing Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and other prospects to anchor the pen.
The Valverde-Detroit marriage has certainly been a strange story, but the Tigers are in desperation mode after some of their early-season struggles in the bullpen, and there are few closers in baseball who have had more success than Valverde over the past six seasons.