Rick Porcello is currently battling Drew Smyly for the fifth and final starting rotation spot but that hasn’t stopped the rumors from swirling around the closer position. With Bruce Rondon struggling to find his groove early in Spring Training the Detroit Tigers have at least began to explore their options for that role in case he proves not to be ready.
There are a few different routes that that can be taken. One of them is trading for a closer which would most likely mean dealing Porcello, who was involved in trade talks all winter. He’s been a hot commodity drawing some interest but no great offers surfaced for the Tigers. Another option is to sign a free agent which is my favorite option. Players such as Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Valverde are still on the market but will be shots in the dark. The upside is that signing a free agent wouldn’t cost the team prospects or even major league talent like a trade would.
The last option, of course, is dealing with the problem from within which is an interesting choice because there are several players with at least a little closing experience. Octavio Dotel has spent some time closing, but has fit nicely in his role in middle relief with the Tigers. Then you have Joaquín Benoit who has filled in for the closer in previous seasons when needed, but has been a pretty nice set up man for Detroit. You could also add Phil Coke into the conversation after his performance last year in the playoffs, where he did very well in a jam after Valverde collapsed.
That’s where Porcello comes in. There have been talks about adding his name to the long list of options. Manager Jim Leyland was asked about that option and he said it wasn’t the craziest idea but still not likely. I think people may be getting a little ahead of themselves here, we have to remember that he could still end up as a starter.
Not only do the Tigers see him as a starter I’m not sure he would be a great closer anyway. He’s a primarily pitch-to-contact pitcher mostly relying on the defense to make plays behind him, which isn’t the best recipe for a closer. He also doesn’t have a “put-out” pitch that he can go to when he needs a strikeout, something that bothers me greatly.
I think that the best option is signing a free agent, but I also wouldn’t mind taking care of it from within. Wilson could bring a nice dynamic to the team and could be a crazy and funny character that Detroit really needs. As for a player that’s already on the roster that could take over, I like Coke because he showed some great poise last year in the playoffs, but I think he is an unlikely candidate. Be assured the rumors will continue to surface until there’s a move made.