With the struggles that the Washington Nationals bullpen has had this season, they decided to bring in one more arm on a low risk, high reward deal by signing former Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor league contract. Here is the latest by FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, who were first on this story:
Valverde, who is now 37 years old, is well known for his great 2011 season that he had as the closer of the Tigers. During that season, he was a perfect 49-for-49 in saves, but had a 7.36 ERA in the postseason that year. Detroit would go to the ALCS and lose to the Texas Rangers in six games.
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His decline began in 2012 when his ERA jumped from 2.24 in 2011 to 3.78. He did save 35 games, but his strikeout rate went down from 8.6 to 6.3. He was with the Tigers until the middle of the season. His 5.59 ERA made Detroit release him in August of that season.
Valverde was with the New York Mets for 21 games last season, but he gave up 13 runs in 20.2 innings of work. His last appearance in the major leagues came on May 26 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While Valverde isn’t what he was in 2011, the Nationals bullpen needs all the help they can get at this point. One of the things they have struggled with this season is finding relievers who can hold a lead in the middle innings to get the ball to their closer, Drew Storen.
If you look at the ERA of the Nats bullpen as a whole, its not terrible. Right now, it’s at 3.39, which is 13th in Major League Baseball, but it is eighth in the National League. However, if you look at the eighth inning in particular, Washington has a 5.14 ERA as a team, which is the third worst in the NL, ahead of the Padres and Braves.
Valverde was at spring training with the San Diego Padres this March, but failed to make the team. In nine appearances, he went 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA. However, he did only walk one batter in the spring.
If Valverde can show good command even with a fastball at about 93 mph last year (according to Fangraphs) and have that dominant splitfinger that he had in 2011, the Nationals may have a good find here as Mike Rizzo has had to use all the options he can to try to piece together a young bullpen.