Jim Leyland is the focus of Ken Rosenthal’s latest piece on FoxSports.com but it was a statement about the Tigers roster in general that got me thinking.
Rosenthal had this to say about the conundrum Mike Ilitch will face when deciding the fate of Jim Leyland as Tigers manager:
"Stick with Leyland, 66, or hire a younger, hipper Joe Maddon type to nurture the team’s young players. Right fielder Magglio Ordonez, 37, second baseman Carlos Guillen, 35, and closer Jose Valverde, 33, will be gone next season. The roster will skew even younger."
While this is the first time I have seen it suggested that Jose Valverde will definitely not be back with the Tigers in 2012, it is a decision that I have been hoping the Tigers will ultimately make since the season began. Let me be clear: I am not anti-Valverde, I am simply pro-Tigers.
Elias rankings updated through the end of May put Valverde in position to enter the off-season as a Type A free agent once the Tigers decline his $9 million team option. The Tigers would then need to offer arbitration, which Valverde would turn down in order to pursue a multi-year deal on the open market, and they will receive two compensatory selection in the 2012 draft.
Detractors will counter by saying that the Tigers have no candidate to replace Valverde as closer. I say, so what?
The closer is perhaps the most over-valued position in all of sports. Think about, why should the most highly paid member of the bullpen be the man whose primary role is to pitch one inning with the lead? It doesn’t take a SABR-minded leverage analysis to know that that situation is far less valuable than a man who enters a tie game with opposing runners on base. The “yeah, but I think…” crowd that relies on the old-school eyeball test can tell you that without even thinking about reaching for a calculator.
What is more valuable to the Tigers, a guy with a $9 million salary used in low leverage situations or first and supplemental round draft picks? This isn’t a Valverde versus no-Valverde discussion, it is a Valverde versus draft picks discussion. I like Jose Valverde, I just happen to have a philosophical disagreement with the role of the closer and would jump at the chance to spin one off into a couple high draft picks. The Tigers would be wise do agree.