The Detroit Tigers entered the 2011 MLB season with one glaring weakness, and manager Jim Leyland told anyone who asked that he was scared to death of his bullpen. While he had the utmost of confidence in closer Jose Valverde, Leyland knew that bridging the gap to get to Valverde in the ninth inning would be difficult at times.
Needless to say, Leyland would prefer to not have to go through the 2012 MLB season with that same sort of anxiety.
Kerry Wood could help reduce the anxiety level of Leyland and Tigers’ fans alike.
Detroit will be without Al Alburqueque, who served as the set up man to Valverde at times last season, until at least the All-Star break in July after undergoing surgery. Joaquin Benoit will be back, and his season just got better and better as the year progressed, so the Tigers will also be counting on a big return campaign from him to help the team get to Valverde in the final inning.
But if Valverde and Benoit can perform as well as they did down the stretch last season in Detroit, if the Tigers could ever add Wood, then a lead after six innings would be very difficult to overcome for opponents’ of the Tigers this season.
Kerry Wood should have his pick of contenders in 2012.
Unfortunately for Detroit, they will have some competition in signing Wood. While his days with the Chicago Cubs appear numbered, although his first choice is to remain pitching within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, many contending teams seeking late game relief are reportedly after Wood’s services.
The Philadelphia Phillies may be the likeliest suitors for Wood, as the end of their bullpen has undergone an extreme makeover this past offseason. Brad Lidge will no longer close for the team and is expected to sign elsewhere, and Ryan Madson signed with the Cincinnati Reds to replace Francisco Cordero as their closer.
But the Phillies expected to lose both pitchers, and that is why they jumped the gun in anticipation and signed former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon back in the end of November. They are awaiting word on whether or not Jose Contreras is healthy enough to return to form as a set up man. If not, then expect the Phils to go hard after Wood.
And of course we can never count out the Los Angeles Angels this offseason. After all, they signed almost everyone else in the biggest spending spree in franchise history. Clearly, they are going for broke in 2012.