MLB Trade Rumors: Is Leo Nunez the Tigers' Key to AL Central Crown?

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJuly 22, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 30:  Leo Nunez #46 of the Florida Marlins pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 30, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Among other places, NBC Miami is reporting that the Florida Marlins have a strong interest in acquiring Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge.

With Inge sporting a .177 batting average right now, I'm not sure what they expect to accomplish with the 34-year-old nailing down the hot corner—they're already five games under .500 and in last place in NL East.

It's the "other" part of a potential deal involving Inge that I think is far more interesting—Marlins closer Leo Nunez:

According to, the Marlins might offer closer Leo Nunez for Inge. Nunez has been involved in a number of trade rumors recently, and the Tigers are looking to bolster their pitching staff.

The actual post at that link doesn't exactly make that connection, but it implies a potential deal might involve the two players.

The Tigers don't really have a huge hole in the bullpen. Jose Valverde is leading the American League in saves with 25, hasn't blown a save all year and is averaging a strikeout per inning.

More to the point, reliever Joaquin Benoit has 14 holds and the rest of the bullpen has been pretty solid as well—only once since May 20 (17 appearances) has Al Alburquerque come into a Tigers game and failed to deliver a scoreless effort.

But Nunez is a pretty good reliever in his own right. Fifth in the NL with 27 saves, he actually has more than Valverde. Still, it's not the stats that suggest Nunez would be a key addition to the Tigers down the stretch.

He's been a full-time closer for three years now, which means he knows how to pitch routinely under pressure. The rest of the Tigers bullpen (after Valverde) doesn't have that type of experience.

Jim Leyland can keep Valverde in the closer's role, make Nunez the setup man and trust Benoit and Alburquerque, along with one of their three lefties, to bridge the rest of the gap.

Besides, if the Tigers can pull off the deal with one of the pieces going the other way being a 34-year-old who is currently 23 points below the Mendoza Line, it's probably not a bad move.