The role of closer is something that is debated heavily in baseball circles. The “stats nerds” claim the best bullpen arm should be the guy first out of the pen to pitch in the highest leverage situation and the “traditional” (aka Tony LaRussa) type, believe teams need a pitcher to come in to start the ninth inning when their team is winning by three runs or less.
Whatever your personal belief, you can’t deny that watching some guys close out games is exciting. Seeing Jonathan Papelbon’s mean stare, Mariano Rivera’s calm demeanor or Fernando Rodney’s bow and arrow makes the game that much more fun to watch.
Sifting through a baseball magazine, I came across a picture of Jose Valverde, who today, remains without a job (I wonder if he has tried to get welfare checks? Woops, did I just say that?). Growing up a Diamondback fan, seeing his celebrations always got my blood boiling.
It made me wonder how he hasn’t gotten a deal yet this offseason. Yes, we all saw his postseason collapse but many players have had a bad playoff performance and still turned out OK.
One reason he might not have a job yet is because his stuff is slipping. Last season he struck out a career-low 6.3 batters per nine and his average fastball velocity was 93.4 (his lowest since 2005).
Scott Boras has come out and said he has thrown for scouts in his native Dominican Republic but has declined to say which teams.
Knowing Boras, he has something up his sleeves. Knowing his client likely won’t get a closing job at this point in time, it might be smart to wait for an injury. Another idea would be to have him sign a one-year deal and agree to be a mid-relief or set-up man.
In Baseball Prospectus’s 2013 Annual, Valverde is projected to have a 3.55 ERA, strike out about a batter per inning and have a 0.9 WARP. He has continually out pitched his FIP and teams may think that is due to change.
If I were a GM for a team needing pen help he’d be a great target on a one-year $4-5 million deal. Or if I am a team not likely to contend, it wouldn’t be a bad investment to sign him to the same deal mentioned above and try to flip him come July for a mid-level prospect and if that deal doesn’t come along, he’s gone after the season and not breaking anybody’s bank.
One thing is for certain, Papa Grande needs to be on the field and doing his over exaggerated celebrations because he truly is a performer like no other.