It is no secret that the Detroit Tigers are looking to shore up their bullpen at the trade deadline. Recently, reports have suggested that the Tigers are not in the market for a “pure closer,” but rumors that the team might have an interest in Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon have remained nevertheless. After Joe Nathan‘s latest meltdown against the Cleveland Indians last Saturday night, anything could be possible.
For some, this may bring back memories of when Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending knee injury in Jan. of 2012, and there was speculation that the Tigers would try to replace him by bringing in someone such as Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, Hideki Matsui or Casey Kotchman. Instead, they pulled off a shocker and signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract. Could the Tigers go big or go home once again?
They shouldn’t. The 33-year-old Papelbon might be having one of his best seasons to date, posting a 1.34 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP through 40.1 innings while racking up 23 saves, but there are better, more inexpensive options for the Tigers. Papelbon is making $13 million this season, $13 million next season, and there is a $13 million vesting option for 2016. In other words, he is not cheap and he would be liable to cost the Tigers one or two of their most prized prospects.
Then there is also the obvious question of what would happen to Nathan, who the Tigers inked to a two-year, $20 million deal in December, if the Tigers were to acquire Papelbon. It is nearly impossible to imagine that Papelbon would be satisfied with anything but the closer’s job, and it would be hard to see Nathan replacing Joba Chamberlain as the Tigers’ eighth-inning man, as Chamberlain has been one of the few bright spots of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2014.
Therefore, the Tigers would probably have to consider releasing Nathan and eating the money that they still owe him, or making him an incredibly well-compensated mop-up man.
The Tigers would be wise to stick to the original plan of getting someone such as Joakim Soria, Joaquin Benoit or Steve Cishek. Any one of the three could slide right into a setup role, but also close games if pressed into duty. They all come with more reasonable price tags than Papelbon as well.