How Do You Solve a Problem Like Valverde?

It’s been more than 24 hours since Valverde did his latest hack job on a brilliant outing by a starting pitcher. And most of Michigan is still pretty furious. I immediately declared myself part of the “Anyone But Valverde” camp, and I stick by that. But now, someone has to figure out the “Anyone” part. The one thing we do know (or hope) is that the Tigers realize they can’t afford to use Papa Grande in the ninth inning ever again. Plenty of articles, blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts have given their opinions, so I might as well throw my two cents in. Here are the five in-house choices, in order from least objectionable to most heinous:

1. Joaquin Benoit: The good news is he’s here, he’s pitching well, and he has closing experience. The bad news is he has a history of bouts with longballitis. Then there’s the fact that he’d be vacating the 8th inning slot.

2. Drew Smyly: He’s young, versatile, pitching well, and has a much better repertoire than the usual closer. The problem with him is similar to the problem with Benoit: vacating the role he currently holds. Not to mention the fact that it could delay and/or harm his development as a closer (although a similar move didn’t seem to hurt Chris Sale). If Benoit gets the nod as closer, Smyly could be be the 7th-8th inning guy.

3. Bruce Rondon: He’s dominating AAA hitters, but he’s still having control issues. the best course, if they bring him up, may be to put him in the 7th-8th inning roles and let him work his way into the closer role, with Benoit or Smyly keeping the spot warm for him.

4. Putkonen/Downs: Neither is the prototypical closer, but both have been effective in long-relief stints at times.

5. Phil Coke: Coke’s 2013 struggles, especially against right-handers, have been well-documented. He’s not the answer any more than Valverde was.

Of course, there’s always the chance that Dombrowski could trade for a closer, or another bullpen arm who would free up one of the above for the role.

My favorite trade targets would be San Diego’s Luke Gregerson or Washington’s Drew Storen. Neither of these is probably realistic. Washington has the depth to trade Storen, but why should they? They’d ask for a lot. Same with Gregerson. He’s young, cheap, and probably San Diego’s closer of the future after they trade Huston Street.

Street is probably available but would cost significant talent, and he’s not having a great year either. Plus, he’s currently hurt.

Jonathan Papelbon might be available, but he’s getting stupid money for the next three years. Of course that money could keep Philly from asking for top prospects (read: Castellanos or Garcia) for him. The other problem is I can’t stand him. But he’d be just what the Tiger bullpen needs.

Brian Wilson‘s name occasionally floats into the conversation, but no one is sure how healthy his arm is. Not to mention that he’s an attention-craving loon.

The other closers or possible-closers that the non-contenders may offer up would surely cost the cream of the farm system crop.

So we’re back to the question of who will close for the Tigers. The only answer anyone (except Leyland) is sure of is “Anyone but Valverde.”

I wonder if Todd Jones is busy…

When the Tigers made the score 6-1 and the end of the fifth inning rolled around, I started to hope the rain would start up again. And I NEVER want a game to end early, especially when I’m listening at work. I’m sure the hearty fans who were there today agreed with me. But I’m also pretty sure the reason was completely different. They wanted to be able to feel their extremities again. I wanted to avoid an appearance by the Tigers’ bullpen.

I waited a bit to write this, so I could calm down some. But I’m still steamed. Toronto wrapped this one up in a bow and handed it to the Tigers, who promptly said “No, really. You’re too kind. We can’t accept this.” Villareal continued his hate-hate relationship with the strike zone and walked the only three batters he faced, all of whom scored on Mark DeRosa’s double. He was allowed to walk the bases loaded because the rest of Leyland’s bullpen has been, to put it nicely, inconsistent. Dotel took over and decided that batting practice fastballs were the way to go. Although he did make what will no doubt be a highlight show staple with his five-hole play on a comebacker. At least he didn’t break his arm.

The bullpen issues, like the ones in Minnesota, could probably be attributed to the crappy weather conditions. It sure looked like Toronto’s pitchers were affected as well. I really want to reserve judgement on this crew until there’s a bigger sample size and more baseball-conducive weather. But I’m a fan. And I’m angry, and right now I want Villareal sent as far from a major league pitcher’s mound as possible.

Porcello pitched well, but needs to start finishing off his good outings. And I hate to harp on it, because they scored six runs, but the offense once again squandered chances to cash in on seemingly ripe RBI situations.

I know it’s early, and since they left Minneapolis, they’ve played pretty well, but games like this one reminded me too much of last year’s early-to-midseason struggles, and I really don’t want to go through that again.

I wonder if Todd Jones is busy…