Tigers, Lyon expected to reach deal
Former D-backs pitcher would fill closer spot for Detroit
DETROIT -- After spending much of the offseason working on bullpen solutions, the Tigers are finally closing in on a closer.
Team officials were negotiating Thursday with the agent for Brandon Lyon toward what is expected to be a multi-year deal. An agreement should be reached as soon as Friday -- according to an industry source -- that would add Lyon to the Tigers' relief corps and add an experienced reliever to a group challenged by injuries and inconsistency last year.
"I think before it's all said and done, there'll be more of a veteran presence in our bullpen than people think," manager Jim Leyland said Thursday during a luncheon with local media at Comerica Park.
Lyon has not yet taken a physical, which would be the final step toward an agreement. Agent Barry Meister said negotiations are ongoing.
Lyon was weighing interest from the Tigers, Twins and Cardinals heading into the week, and had narrowed his choices to two teams within the last couple of days. However, St. Louis has moved on to other options for its closer vacancy. Minnesota, meanwhile, has reportedly turned toward free agents Eric Gagne and Russ Springer in its search for an experienced arm to set up closer Joe Nathan.
In Detroit, meanwhile, Lyon would become the top option to close, a role he held for much of last season with the D-backs. The 29-year-old right-hander saved 26 games for the D-backs last year and went 3-5 with a 4.70 ERA. He piled up 19 saves and a 2.43 ERA in the season's first half before a rough stretch in July and August prompted the D-backs to move him back to setup.
Two years ago, Lyon was one of baseball's most underrated setup men, posting 35 holds to go with a 6-4 record and 2.68 ERA in 74 innings. He allowed just six of 21 inherited runners to score that year. While that success made him attractive to teams as both an eighth- and ninth-inning option, it could also allow the Tigers to use him as a short-term closer and move him to setup should Joel Zumaya or one of their younger relievers emerge next year.
Since the holidays, after the Tigers couldn't pull off a potential trade for J.J. Putz and couldn't woo free agent Kerry Wood, they had engaged in talks with Lyon as well as free-agent closer Jason Isringhausen. Detroit also monitored the progress of Chad Cordero in his open workouts as he progresses back from shoulder surgery.
Another veteran relief signing could come shortly. The Tigers are reportedly working on a Minor League deal with Scott Williamson. The 32-year-old last pitched in the Majors with Baltimore in 2007, posting a 1-0 record with a 4.40 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 14 1/3 innings. After the Giants released the right-hander last spring, he spent last year at the Triple-A level with 15 appearances for the Braves' affiliate in Richmond, followed by three appearances for Seattle's Triple-A squad.
The Tigers extended a similar deal on Tuesday to Juan Rincon, another veteran right-hander.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.