Tigers talking on bullpen help
The Tigers have been casting a wide net in their search for relief help, but they’ve run into a seller’s market — a lot of teams looking, not enough late-inning relievers available for all of them. With less than two weeks left before the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline, the countdown is on for either the Tigers or sellers to blink on asking price.
Detroit wants help for the eighth inning, and could use some support for the ninth just in case Joe Nathan has another bout of pitching problems, the kind he eventually worked through earlier this season. However, they’ve been insistent that Nathan is their closer.
The Tigers have been in touch with the Rangers on Joakim Soria, who set up for Nathan in Texas last year before taking over as closer this season. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reports that they’ve had ongoing discussions. However, the Rangers have reportedly been seeking two or three prospects in return, something the Tigers aren’t likely to do for a reliever — even Soria, whose contract includes a $7 million club option for next season.
Another target, Joaquin Benoit, was Detroit’s closer for most of last season, but set up for Jose Valverde for two seasons before that. He has been stellar again in setup for the Padres so far this season, allowing just 22 hits over 38 2/3 innings with nine walks and 45 strikeouts. He’s 16-for-16 in holds and 1-for-1 in saves. The Tigers have scouted the Padres heavily this summer.
Benoit’s contract, however, is guaranteed for next season at $8 million, along with an $8 million club option for 2016 that can be bought out for $1.5 million.
Astros closer Chad Qualls also has drawn the Tigers’ interest with solid numbers over the last couple years. The Tigers traded for last year’s Astros closer, Jose Veras, around this point a year ago, but got mixed results down the stretch before opting not to pick up his contract option.
With Joba Chamberlain holding down the eighth inning well, the Tigers can afford to play a waiting game until the end of the month. However, Chamberlain has already pitched in 41 games, four off his total last season, and has topped 50 games only once in his career. With the Tigers starting a stretch of 55 games in 55 days, including three doubleheaders, the Tigers’ reliance on three relievers for the bulk of their setup work — Chamberlain, Al Alburquerque and Ian Krol — will prove difficult to sustain without help.
— Jason Beck