Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, on a “personal guess”, thinks Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is “scared stiff” about relying on Bruce Rondon in the closer’s role:
A personal guess is Leyland is scared stiff his kid closer isn’t ready. Minus an Opening Day closer he can trust, the Tigers could be in early trouble. In that dark scenario, Dombrowski will either be obliged to trade for a stand-in fireman, or borrow from the stable of seventh- and eighth-inning relievers in a community effort to finish games the Tigers should, on many days, be leading when that ninth arrives.
It’s going to be a white-knuckle month, however this issue plays out.
Rondon, just 22 years old, struck out 66 and unintentionally walked 24 last year with a 1.53 ERA in 53 innings of work between Single-A Erie, Double-A Erie, and Triple-A Toledo. Dombrowski joins an ever-growing list of general managers to toss out older baseball orthodoxy — relying on veterans with experience — to maximize value out of younger, cheaper players who are just as capable. 2012 saw only six players age 29 or younger post 30 or more saves, but it was down from a whopping 12 the year prior, the highest total of the 2000’s.
Should the Tigers feel Rondon isn’t a fit for the role yet, they can hand the ninth inning to Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, or Octavio Dotel.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.