By Ashley Dunkak
The Detroit Tigers worked to shore up their inconsistent bullpen as the 2013 regular season unfolded, and now that it has ended, the search for better relief pitchers has kicked into high gear.
MLB insider Jon Morosi of Fox Sports writes that the Tigers want to bring in either Joe Nathan from the Texas Rangers or Brian Wilson from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
For the most part, the Tigers never had a true closer this year, although converted set-up man Joaquin Benoit filled the role admirably when called upon several months into the season. One of the most reliable arms in the bullpen, he pitched well throughout the season but struggled in the postseason.
Benoit, now a free agent, may or may not return to the Tigers, but if he does, it will ideally be in the set-up role. Whether he stays or goes, the Tigers need a dependable, experienced closer.
Nathan, 38, saved 43 games for the Rangers and recorded a 1.39 ERA in 67 appearances this season. It was the fifth time in the last 10 years Nathan has finished with an ERA below 2.00. The only season in which Nathan’s ERA was above 3.00 was 2011, his first season returning from Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss all of 2011.
Wilson, 31, has come back from two Tommy John surgeries, the first in 2003 and the most recent in April 2012. He pitched just two games before having surgery in 2012 and came back to make 18 appearances for the Dodgers in 2013. In that small sample size of 18 appearances, Wilson only allowed eight hits and one run, making his ERA a stellar 0.66. In 2010 Wilson finished with an MLB-high 48 saves as he helped the San Francisco Giants win a World Series.
Morosi also reported that Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski plans on 24-year-old Drew Smyly, used as a reliever this season, having a spot in the starting rotation. As Morosi points out, Dombrowski’s statement seems to suggest either Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer will be traded away.
Scherzer, who will likely win the AL Cy Young, started the All-Star Game and worked as Detroit’s number one starter in the postseason. He won 21 games and recorded a 2.90 ERA this season. Porcello, the last man in the starting rotation who got some work out of the bullpen in the postseason, recorded a respectable 4.32 ERA and won 13 games.