July 1, 2013 at 1:00 am

Kurt Mensching

Tigers acquiring Jonathan Papelbon would be an expensive mistake

Jonathan Papelbon is owed more than $32 million on the life of his contract, with a player-friendly vesting option likely to add $16 million more on top of it. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Looking for a relief pitcher with proven closing experience? Jonathan Papelbonís your man.

How about a pitcher with postseason experience? Papelbonís still your man. He closed out Game 4 of the Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in 2007, a postseason in which he finished six games without allowing a run.

How about a pitcher who isnít going to cause walk a bunch of batters? Papelbon fits that bill, too. He has issued five walks in more than 30 innings this year.

Simply put, Papelbon would appear to be the perfect target for the Tigers as baseballís buyers and sellers get together to think about their futures.


The Tigers need help in their bullpen. Obviously.

But investing everything into a closer would be like putting a fancy hood ornament on a rust bucket.

Make no mistake, Papelbonís going to be costly. Heís owed more than $32 million on the life of his contract, with a player-friendly vesting option likely to add $16 million on top of it.

Despite the contract, donít expect the Phillies to give him away.

Theyíre likely going to start the conversation with Nick Castellanos. If that happens, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski should probably just say thanks, but no thanks.

And, despite outward appearances, Papelbon actually is human. He blew four saves the past two weeks.

The Tigers have Joaquin Benoit in the ninth ó and thatís fine. Thereís no reason to think he canít do the job most nights.

But if Al Alburquerque and Bruce Rondon donít settle in soon, adding a couple right-handers elsewhere in the bullpen might be in the teamís best interest.


Astros closer Jose Veras is an intriguing name ó and shouldnít garner a great haul in return.

Veras continues to show a high strikeout rate and get his walks in check. In his eighth season, he could add experience in an eighth-inning role while and be capable of picking up a few saves when Benoit needs a day off.

Or, the Tigers could get the Brewers on the phone. Where do you start with them?

Beyond Francisco Rodriguez, theyíve got a bullpen stocked with intriguing relievers. John Axford and Michael Gonzalez have closing experience. Gonzalez continues to walk a few too many, but strikes out more than 30 percent of the batters he faces.

Even former Tigers farmhand Burke Badenhop could be interesting if theyíre willing to move him. He doesnít strike out all that many, but he doesnít walk many or allow home runs.


Look around and you probably can find a dozen players who would make the Tigers better without costing a prospect.

Those may not be the kind of moves that create excitement, but they can help shore up a broken bullpen without breaking the bank.

Sure, Papelbon would be more exciting. Itís always fun to make a big splash.

But donít let a big name distract you from the fact the World Series is the real goal.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com

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