Tigers exercise $9 million option on closer Jose Valverde

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UPDATE: It’s official.

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Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Tigers are expected to exercise their $9 million option on closer Jose Valverde, which is no surprise after he went 49-for-49 converting saves in the regular season.

Valverde didn’t pitch quite as well as the perfect save  percentage would suggest, posting the lowest strikeout rate (8.6 per nine innings) of his career at age 33 while walking 34 batters in 72 innings.

Toss in the abundance of quality veteran relievers on the free agent market this offseason and Valverde may not have gotten a long-term deal at $9 million per season on the open market, but for a one-year commitment that salary is much more palatable.

And while the save percentage may overrate Valverde some he’s still a damn good pitcher, with a 3.02 career ERA and marks of 2.24, 3.00, 2.33, 3.38, and 2.66 during the past five seasons. Detroit also has Papa Grande’s primary setup man, Joaquin Benoit, under contract for $5.5 million in both 2012 and 2013, so the back of the bullpen is locked in and the Tigers have an in-house replacement for Valverde should he walk after next year.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.