Troy Percival wanted a few things when he entered this offseason as a free agent. First, he wanted a fair deal on a 2-year contract. Second, he wanted to stay a closer, regardless of where he went. And third, he wanted to get the agreement done with quickly.
Dave Dombrowski stepped to the plate and was aggressive with the 35-year old closer, and once they agreed on terms 1 and 2, term 3 came into fruition as the Tigers signed Percival to a 2-year deal worth $12 million.
Percival just completed his 10th season of big league service, all with the Anaheim (or California) Angels. Percival has spent the last 9 of those as the team's closer, including being the club's closer when they won the World Series in 2002.
Last season, Percival went 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA, including converting 33 of 38 save opportunities. Percival had served the organization well, but became expendable with the emergence of Francisco Rodriguez, or K-Rod as he has come to be known.
While his stats on the surface look as strong as ever, there were some signs of decline in 2004. It was just the second season in his big league career that he allowed a batting average of over .200 (.230), and he only struck out 33 batters in 49 2/3 innings of work, a far cry from the 10.43 K/9 innings Percival has averaged throughout his career. Despite these statistics however, Percival still proved to be very effective as the team's closer, and should be able to stay effective for at least a couple more years.
The move also brings up an interesting dilemma that the Tigers now face – what to do with 2 closers on the roster? On top of Percival, the Tigers just recently exercised their $4 million option on closer Ugueth Urbina for next season. The Tigers will probably attempt to trade him, but the market could be thin at least now, while there are still other free agent closers available on the market. Plus, there will be the lingering questions of Urbina's still unresolved family situation back home in Venezuela, as well as his decreased velocity in 2004 (both possible reasons why the Tigers elected to add Percival).
It was a big first signing for the Tigers, but don't expect it to be the only one. The Tigers (even if they don't immediately trade Urbina) will probably look to add another reliever, on top of a frontline starting pitcher, and either a Third baseman or Centerfielder.
But for now, the Tigers have gone out and made another splash in the free agent market – and this time around, they've got a new closer.