The Detroit Tigers signed free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan to a one-year contract on Thursday, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The deal is worth a guaranteed $1 million, with a chance to earn $3 million with performance incentives, per USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale.
The move didn't come as much of a surprise given the Tigers' struggles out of the 'pen this season and their reported interest in Hanrahan, who will likely assume the setup role once he returns to action after fully recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Right off the bat, the reactions to the deal appear to be positive, for the most part. In signing Hanrahan, the Tigers took a much-needed first step toward improving an abysmal bullpen, and Hanrahan was certainly the best reliever out there. Prior to the deal, here's what seanheyboer of Bless You Boys wrote about Hanrahan and his likely role with the Tigers:
Although he has been a closer -- and a pretty damn good one -- in recent years, Hanrahan would most likely occupy the set-up role were he to land in Detroit. After the injury to Bruce Rondon, the Tigers have been using a set-up by committee. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus may decide that he has more effective alternatives for the eighth inning, but at the very least he would be another option late in games. He could also spell Joe Nathan for an occasional save if needed.
Catherine Slonksnis, also of Bless You Boys, reported on what Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski had to say about Hanrahan's recovery from Tommy John surgery, while also providing a loose timetable as to when Hanrahan is expected to return to action:
The general consensus among experts is that the Tigers made a good decision with the signing, even with the obvious injury concerns. ESPN's Buster Olney weighed in on the matter on Twitter:
Joel Hanrahan is a good signing for the Tigers: They need him, and he can rebuild his value as he works his way back from elbow surgery.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 2, 2014
Olney's fellow ESPN writer, Jerry Crasnick, showed why the Tigers went through with the deal, also via Twitter:
MLB.com's Jason Beck also pointed out that a primary reason Detroit's bullpen arms aren't completely worn down is the team's light schedule thus far, which has seen the Tigers play just 23 games on the season:
Though the Tigers signed closer Joe Nathan in November, the bridge between their standout starting pitchers to Nathan hinged a lot on Rondon's healthy return and Chamberlain's rebound from the command issues that marked his final year with the Yankees. They've gotten what they wanted and more out of Chamberlain, but Rondon's surgery left a hole that has been felt the rest of the way through the bullpen order, leaving manager Brad Ausmus to mix and match in some innings to get to the eighth or ninth with a lead.
Detroit's bullpen had issues in the middle and late innings at different points in April, resulting in a 5.37 team ERA for relievers that currently ranks 29th out of 30 Major League teams.
The Tigers have avoided wearing down their bullpen arms through a combination of strong starting pitching and a sputtering schedule that has left them with just 23 games played so far this season, the lowest total in the Majors. Al Alburquerque (13) and Chamberlain (12) have both pitched in more than half of those games. The schedule picks up in the coming weeks.
To add to the positive reactions to the Hanrahan signing is the right-hander's contentment with a setup role, according to the Detroit Free Press' George Sipple, which bodes well for the Tigers:
Reynolds said Hanrahan was more concerned with being in a winning environment than having a closer’s role this season.
"It’s about him going back and performing at a healthy level," Reynolds said. "We felt it didn’t matter if he threw seventh or eighth inning, because he’s got a great resume."
Hanrahan saved 76 games in 2011-12. He has a career 3.85 ERA with 100 saves and a 1.40 WHIP across 404.2 innings.