As a free agent following a respectable, but not dominate 2012 season (35 saves, 3.78 ERA in 71 appearances), veteran closer Jose Valverde drew very little interest on the open market over the winter. The interest was so minimal, in fact, he eventually had to swallow his pride — imagine how difficult how that was — and settle on a minor-league deal to remain with the Detroit Tigers.
Aside from an opportunity to prove he still had some gas left in the tank in extended spring training, nothing was guaranteed to Valverde. However, it wasn‘t but three weeks into the season that Detroit made the call after their closer by committee approach with Phil Coke, Bruce Rondon and Joaquin Benoit failed to net productive results.
On April 24, Valverde made his season debut and was thrown right into the fire, earning a save in Detroit’s 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals. That was the beginning of a 12-game stretch in which the 35-year-old right-hander converted six out of seven save opportunities while allowing only one earned run (0.75 ERA).
That gave some hope that Valverde may be able to hold the job down, at least until Detroit could acquire a stronger option over the summer, but the wheels fell off quickly. Over his next seven appearances, Valverde posted a 13.50 ERA with six home runs allowed. As we learned on Friday, there won't be a next appearance, at least not anytime soon, because the Tigers elected to designate Valverde for assignment.
The transaction immediately frees up a spot on the 40-man roster and means the Tigers now have 10 days to trade, release or place him on waivers. As James Schmehl of MLive is reporting, though, Detroit would actually like to keep Valverde in the organization if possible. Here's a little more from Schmehl's piece:
In order for that to happen, Valverde needs to clear waivers and accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo — an offer Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski extended Valverde early Friday.
"Our goal, if he did accept it, would not be to keep him there for an extended time," Dombrowski said. "It would be more a matter of getting him fixed, and see if we can get him back to throwing the ball well, try to get him back here."
Clearing waivers seems likely since the claiming team would have to place him on their 40-man roster. Getting Valverde to accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo, on the other hand, might be tricky if he decides there's a quicker path back to the big leagues elsewhere.
Under any circumstance, the best he could hope for is another minor-league deal for a team desperately seeking an experienced arm. He can forget the idea of stepping right in as another team's closer, so it'll be interesting to see how the proud and eccentric veteran of 11 years plays his options. I wouldn't be at all comfortable saying we've seen the last of him in the big leagues, but that might actually hinge more on what type of role he's willing to accept as opposed to his overall performance.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Blue Jays rally for ninth straight win
• Colin Kaepernick unleashes an 87-mph fast ball in San Francisco
• Biogenesis probe brings hardened, over-the-top stance from Bud Selig, MLB