Valverde, Tigers agree to terms
Deal is for two years plus option; stabilizes back of bullpen
DETROIT -- The Tigers have signed the veteran closer they hoped to add this offseason. They agreed to terms on Thursday with Jose Valverde on a two-year contract with an club option for a third.
The deal, originally pending a physical, was formalized on Tuesday. Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the deal, said the pact is worth $14 million plus a $9 million option for 2012.
By signing the Type A free agent, the Tigers gave up their first-round pick in this summer's First-Year Player Draft, which would be the 19th overall selection. It will be the first time since 1991, after the Tigers signed Rob Deer, that Detroit has given up its first-round Draft pick. However, the Tigers have two compensation picks coming at the end of the first round for losing relievers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon to free agency.
For the Tigers, whose most experienced closer was Joel Zumaya and his four career saves, the first-round pick was a fair price to pay for Valverde, the National League saves leader in 2007 and 2008 who is regarded as one of the top closers in the game. He will turn 32 years old this year.
Valverde's 116 saves over the past three seasons tie him for fourth in the Majors in that span with Jonathan Papelbon, trailing just Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero. The right-hander had 25 saves and 45 games finished last year, but his supporting numbers were basically as strong as usual. He scattered 40 hits over 54 innings, struck out 56 and allowed just five home runs as part of a 2.33 ERA.
Valverde has never pitched in the American League. He spent his first five seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks before he was traded to Houston after the 2007 season. His save totals last year suffered in part with the Astros' slow start, but he went 19-for-19 in saves from July on. In the process, he held opponents to a .206 batting average and .580 OPS while posting a 1.67 ERA.
Ironically, the Tigers were responsible for Valverde's last blown save. Brandon Inge's ninth-inning homer off him on June 28 at Minute Maid Park sent Detroit to a 4-3 victory.
Rodney led the Tigers with 37 saves in 38 chances last season, but took a two-year, $11 million contract with the Angels. Lyon, who had a borderline dominant second half setting up for Rodney last year, signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Astros last month.
Not only did Houston get Lyon, they'll get the Tigers' first-round pick for losing Valverde. The Astros offered arbitration to Valverde last month, but he turned it down, looking to get a multiyear contract.
That decision seemed destined to haunt him as he lingered on the market through the holidays. In the end, though, he received the multiyear security he wanted. His $7 million annual average will sit just below the $8 million salary he earned last year.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.