Among the obvious needs by the obvious contenders this year, the Detroit Tigers’ need for bullpen help might be the most obvious. The roster, in all other respects, is absolutely stacked. But so needy were they for back-end bullpen help that they briefly brought back the man (Jose Valverde) who had so disappointed them as closer last year that they’d dumped him in favor of an endless quest for a replacement.
But they may have now made their bullpen move for the week. According to multiple reports, the Tigers today traded 19-year-old outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL to the Astros for Jose Veras. The latter has been fantastic for the Astros this year, putting up a 2.93 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP over 43 innings, striking out 9.2 per 9 along the way. The track record says he’s not quite that good, but he’ll cost the Tigers only a little less than $1 million in salary this year, and he comes with a $3.25 million option.
Vasquez was a top 5/10 prospect in the Tigers’ system coming into the season, but he hasn’t really emerged in his second go-around at Low-A (though he’s still just 19). For that reason, it’s tough to peg his value. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him regarded as “falling.” Depending on the PTBNL, though, this is still probably a nice return for the Astros.
The impact to the Cubs here, of course, is two-fold. For one, it probably takes the Tigers out of the market for Kevin Gregg, if they were ever in it. For another, it probably informs the kind of return the Cubs could get for Gregg, who offers similar value to Veras (though clearly less). Gregg is cheaper, but has no 2014 option. Gregg has been just about as effective in 2013, and he has a similarly mixed track record. Gut tells me Veras is a fair bit more valuable, though, and the Cubs won’t be getting a top 10 organizational prospect for Gregg, probably not even one on the downswing.
On the other hand, I’m not so sure the Tigers were ever really interested in Gregg, meaning that this could take a reliever off of the market without impacting the number of teams interested in Gregg. It could also spur an AL Central team like the Indians to want to bolster their own bullpen, perhaps with someone like Gregg.