Roundtable: New Setup Man?

With Joe Nathan done for the year, what would you do to fill the open setup man role?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

After last year, there were a number of fans that wanted to see the bullpen blown up and for the club to start over. They took the opposite approach and instead doubled down on the same cast, only adding guys like Alex Wilson and Tom Gorzelanny in the mix. The hope was that a solidified role for Joakim Soria, a reinvigorated Joe Nathan and a healthy Bruce Rondon would provide a more than capable 7-8-9 punch, and hope that one or two others step up to fill in when needed. Instead, while Soria has been outstanding, Rondon is on the shelf again, and Nathan is done for the year. However, at this point, no other reliever has stepped up to warrant consideration for a late inning role. Joba Chamberlain probably inherits the role by default to start out, but Rondon is probably the only arm in the bullpen with the ability to hold down the role. If he continues to make progress and returns to action soon, the job should be his to keep, if he performs. If he's not healthy, or doesn't prove capable, the Tigers are going to be forced to look outside the organization again for relief help, if they hope to contend for a World Series again.

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

Fortunately for the Tigers, last summer's trade for Joakim Soria mitigates any desparate need to do something drastic in the season's early going. Soria's presence gives the Tigers a more than viable late inning arm that can close down games and secure wins for the club. That said, the pitchers tasked with getting the ball to Soria have now been thinned by his defacto promotion. Right-handers like Joba Chamberlain and Al Albuerquerque are going to be tasked with handling higher leverage innings than their results may suggest they should be given, and Bruce Rondon's status remains up in the air as he works his way back from yet another injury. All of that doesn't even include left-handers like Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Krol, and Blaine Hardy who may not be equipped for larger high leverage roles. The Tigers are goign to need to do something this season, but they can likely rely on their starting pitching and their offense to carry them through the first 80-90 games before a move is truly necessary. During that time, it is possible that pitchers emerge to capture roles and solidify the late innings in advance of Soria's trip to the mound; it happens all the time across baseball as unknown relievers emerge to contribute to a team. The Tigers could have that happen this year with any number of hard-throwing arms scattered on rosters from Detroit to Erie, and if that does not happen, they can always make a move for a setup arm in July. The bottom line here, the Tigers truly don't need to do anything in the short term and have the luxury of time to evaluate in-house alternatives before making trade deadline decisions.

James Chipman, Senior Correspondent

With Joe Nathan out for the season, Joakim Soria has done a great job quietly closing out games for the Tigers. To answer your question, there's honestly not much Detroit can do at this point in regards to the eighth inning. It's April, there's no need to panic! While it may cause some of you to cringe, their best bet at this point in time is to evaluate their in-house options by continuing to give Joba Chamberlain and Angel Nesbitt some run late in games. Argue all you want, both Chamberlin and Nesbitt are the best internal options, while Al Alburquerque sorts out his sinus issues and sudden loss of velocity. Keep a pulse on the market, and when the calendar gets closer to June or July, make a move to bolster the 'pen.

Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst

There may very well be some useful relievers available come July, but the Tigers need to think about a solution prior to that and I'd be interested in seeing what Buck Farmer could do in relief. He's striking out a lot of people in AAA and can probably get away with limited polish if he's only facing hitters once a game rather than three times. He has the stuff and with a little bit of luck, he could wind up as the second best reliever on a team that is in desperate need of reinforcements in that department. There's some risk that it could affect his development, but I typically like easing pitchers into the majors and this is a perfectly fine way to do that, even if it's a little ahead of schedule. Give him a few weeks pitching in low leverage spots and if he succeeds, dial up the intensity and let it ride. It's not like they have a lot of better options.

Chris Brown, Staff Writer

This is a really difficult question to answer, and one that I suspect wasn't pondered by the vocal fans who simply wanted Nathan gone. The bullpen was a huge question mark coming into the season, and no one outside of Soria has proven to Ausmus that he can be relied on at all. Angel Nesbitt has solid stuff, but he's young and unproven, and probably profiles best as a 7th-inning guy. Alex Wilson also seems more like a middle reliever, and while Tom Gorzelanny has pitched well, he doesn't have the stuff you'd expect from a setup man. Al Alburquerque has been quite bad so far, and his stuff is disturbingly lacking. Blaine Hardy hasn't proven to be much more of a guy than a GUY, and Ian Krol has serious issues against right-handed hitters. That leaves Joba Chamberlain, who hasn't really been good since the middle of 2014. Joba probably gets the job by default, for now, though I suspect Ausmus will mix and match a little. I suspect the Tigers themselves are hoping for the return of a healthy and effective Bruce Rondon, but it seems most likely that the future setup man for this team currently resides in another organization.

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