Todd Jones was more or less on the baseball scrapheap just nine months ago, signing a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins, with the opportunity to make the club out of spring training.
Not only did Jones make the club, but the 37-year old reliever emerged as the team's closer, where he saved 40 games in 68 appearances for the Marlins. But with the Marlins cutting costs at every corner, they had no way of retaining him on the open market after such an excellent season, in which he posted a 1.03 WHIP and a 4.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Jones though, wasn't the Tigers first choice. They were very interested in B.J. Ryan, but were soundly outbid by the Toronto Blue Jays. They wanted Bobby Howry, but he turned down the Tigers three year offer to sign for the same length (though reportedly less money) with the Chicago Cubs. Kyle Farnsworth then took a bit more money from the Yankees even though he wouldn't assume the closer's role in New York. Trevor Hoffman and Tom Gordon never expressed much interest in Detroit.
And so, the Tigers resorted to Jones, who at 37, is actually a year older than Troy Percival, who the Tigers signed last offseason to take over the closer role only to see his body deteriorate before the team's eyes, likely resulting in the end of his excellent career.
The Tigers though will wait until Thursday to announce the signing (which as reported by The Detroit News is expected to be for $10 million over the two years), after the arbitration deadline passes at midnight Wednesday night. Assuming the Marlins do not offer Jones arbitration, the Tigers will be able to sign him without surrendering a draft pick to the club.
So, for now, it appears as if the Tigers have taken care of one of their goals coming into the offseason, that being to find an answer to the closer's position. The Tigers though still hope to add a veteran starting pitcher to help anchor the club's rotation. Kevin Millwood and Kenny Rogers have been mentioned as possibilities, but as of Wednesday night, nothing appears imminent.
In other news Wednesday night, The Detroit Free Press has now reported that the Tigers will not offer arbitration to any of their four eligible free agents; pitcher Jason Johnson, outfielders Rondell White and Bobby Higginson, and infielder Fernando Vina.
The news was simply a formality with regards to Higginson and Vina, but both White and Johnson remained possibilities to return to the club. However, with the Tigers' outfield glut, there appeared to be little room for White. And because Johnson was insisting on a multi-year offer, the Tigers had limited interest in Johnson. He carried a 4.81 ERA while averaging just over 200 innings in his two years with the club.
So, regardless of where Jones might have fallen on the Tigers priority list, ‘The Rollercoaster,' as he was affectionately referred to in his time as the team's closer, will become the lead man once again at the back end of the Tigers ‘pen.