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 Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.