Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Theory suggests that a team doesn't need a true closer, that a collection of relievers can combine to be an effective bullpen, or that a competition amongst relievers can result in a candidate "winning" the job. Unfortunately, there is no example of that working yet in practice. Do the Tigers have pitchers that could be a closer? Absolutely. Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya both have closer's "stuff", and Zumaya even appears to have the closer mentality. But Rodney has proven ineffective, and Zumaya hasn't been able to stay healthy. The simple fact is that the Tigers need to have a reliable pitcher for the ninth inning, and going into 2009 with the same group that tried (and failed) in 2008. The Tigers need a lot of help for their bullpen, but it all has to start with a closer.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
The popular opinion would be that the Tigers absolutely must have a defined and experienced closer prior to the start of the season. I'm not quite as convinced. The Tigers do need additional quality arms for the bullpen, but I'm not sure they need a closer, so to speak. There seems to be an over-inflated weight given to experienced closers, when in fact I'd suggest they are made by circumstance, more than anything else. In the current manner in which teams use closers, I believe the Tigers could simply hold an open competition with the best reliever taking the duties. If they do a good enough job accumulating potential quality arms for the 'pen, then they should be able to find one capable of handing them three simple outs at the end of the game. Whether that pitcher be Fernando Rodney, Nate Robertson, or even Casey Fien, I think the Tigers can make due with a colleciton of quality arms instead of spending money on a defined closer.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think the Tigers need to add a closer, plus a reliever or two to fortify their bullpen. Their is the possibility that Joel Zumaya may not be ready after getting injured last year, and Fernando Rodney had his own medical issues last year, so it would behoove the Tigers to not head into the season believing that they'll be the anchors of the bullpen when both of them are probable question marks.
My guess is that the Tigers will take a look at Trevor Hoffman and a few veterans that can bridge the gap and be mentors to some of the Tigers' young arms when they'll be ready to handle late-inning roles.
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