The Detroit Tigers have parted ways with Jose Valverde, their closer of the last three seasons. After two stellar seasons in Detroit, Valverde’s 2012 season was not phenomenal, and ended with an epic, unforgettable postseason collapse. With Valverde gone, the Tigers are now forced with the choice to promote a reliever to the closing role, bring up prospect Bruce Rendon, or acquire a closing pitcher from another team or free agency.
Rafael Soriano is one of the biggest names in the 2012 MLB free agency class. The relief pitcher is also the best closing pitcher on the market, and the Tigers may make a play for the former New York Yankee. After signing a $35 million three year contract in 2011, Soriano has decided to opt out of the final year of the deal. Reports indicate Soriano wants a long term deal, rather than the one year the Yankees would have given the pitcher.
The Tigers already have one of the best rotations in all of baseball. The team is led by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on the mound. The middle relief along with closing pitching has been one of the team’s weaknesses. With a huge opportunity to sign Soriano, the Tigers need to take a good look at the former Yankee before passing. This is a Tigers team that was four wins away from winning the World Series. It would be unwise to bring up a rookie or move a relief pitcher unfamiliar with closing, if the team wants to return in 2013 to the World Series.
In the 2012 season, Soriano served as the Yankees closing pitcher after regular closer Mariano Rivera suffered a torn ACL. Rivera, the all times save leader, is expected back for the Yankees in 2013, leading to Soriano’s ultimate exit. Soriano started as a setup man for the Yankees, but proved his capabilities in the closing role. Soriano had 42 saves on 46 attempts during the season. The Yankees pitcher posted a 2.26 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 67.2 innings pitched.
Before the Yankees, Soriano pitched for the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners signed the Dominican Republic player as an outfielder, and later converted him to a pitcher.