The bullpen wheel of destiny has been spun by Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and it's landed on veteran Jose Veras of the Houston Astros. The Tigers have acquired Veras from the Astros in exchange for prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later.
Relief pitching has been a bit of an issue for the Tigers this season after Bruce Rondon, the preseason favorite for the closer's job, and Jose Valverde, last year's closer that wasn't re-signed until after the season began, have both struggled. But veteran Joaquin Benoit has taken hold of the closer's role lately, and is a perfect 10/10 in save opportunities this season while also posting a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings. Drew Smyly has also been dominant coming out of the pen, logging 61 innings (all in relief) while pitching to a 1.77 ERA. But the Tigers haven't gotten much aside from those two, as in addition to the struggles of Rondon and Valverde, Phil Coke and Al Albuquerque have both also struggled.
Adding Veras to the mix seems like it will help a little bit, though he does come with numerous caveats. The 32-year old is 19/22 in save chances this season, and his 3.14 strikeout to walk ratio is far and away the best mark of his career. Veras also has a 2.93 ERA, also his best mark. In the past, he's been plagued with control issues (as his career 4.68 walk rate will attest to), and his velocity has also dipped this season.
But the price they paid for Veras, who is making just $1.85 million this season and has a $3.25 million club option for 2014, seems to be a bit steep. Vasquez was a top five prospect in the Tigers organization this offseason (fourth by MLB.com, fifth by Keith Law, sixth by Baseball America), and he's just 19-years old. In A-ball this season, Vasquez is hitting .281/.333/.390 in 96 games. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 by the Tigers for a $1.2 million bonus, and 2013 is his first year in full season ball after splitting last season between the New York-Penn League and the Midwest League. He's been described by BA as having an advanced approach at the plate along with good pitch recognition and explosive bat speed, but he's a below average runner that is still learning how to take proper routes in the outfield.
Essentially, the Astros picked up a young hitter with potential for a reliever who was signed on a whim this winter to be traded at the deadline. That's a pretty solid return for Houston, and you have to think that this is just going to be the first domino that falls for them with Bud Norris still being dangled on the trade market.