Now that it’s increasingly apparent that hard-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon might not be able to handle the job, the Tigers are reportedly trying to acquire a closer. While it’s interesting to see this much uncertainty in the late innings for a team which is built to win right now, lefty reliever Phil Coke doesn’t see what the fuss is all about.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Coke expressed confidence today that the Tigers will be fine even if they don’t have a clear cut option at closer to begin the season.
“No, I think we have three guys that have done it already,” Coke said. “We’ve got a guy that we’re working on to have him do it. And if he doesn’t end up being able to do the job, somebody’s going to be there to do the job.
“I don’t understand why there’s a panic button. We’re not going to die. We’re not all going to die if we don’t have a closer. If we go out there and we need to have a guy step into a situation, we will. If it’s a closer by committee, it’s a closer by committee. If [Rondon’s] the closer, he’s the closer.”
Coke only has six regular season saves to his name, but he made a big impression during the postseason after manager Jim Leyland soured on Jose Valverde, notching two saves while allowing just one run over 10 2/3 innings. However, since he’s left-handed, Leyland may prefer to use him in certain matchups. Right-handers Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit have also closed in the past while Al Alburquerque could be a possibility if he gets his control in check. Of course, this potential committee could all be rendered moot if something suddenly clicks with Rondon or the Tigers acquire someone to do the job.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.
Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.
Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”
He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.
If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.
“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”
Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.