Ausmus expects Tigers to seek closer in offseason
CHICAGO -- Five different pitchers served as closer for the Tigers over the course of the season. Just two were still on the pitching staff in Sunday's series finale. Most likely, next season's closer isn't on the staff yet.
Though manager Brad Ausmus repeated over the final week that they haven't yet discussed how to go about reconstructing the bullpen for next year, he expects a closer to be big part of the discussion.
Alex Wilson, who has had brief closing opportunities in his breakthough season, might be the safest reliever on the squad going into next season, but he's expected to serve in a different role. Bruce Rondon, the Tigers' closer of the future since 2013, was sent home a week and a half ago for effort level. Neftali Feliz, signed in July, has had stretches of success, but has largely struggled in the closer role.
That leaves the Tigers in a familiar spot.
"I would think investigating closer opportunities would be high on the priority list," Ausmus said. "It's a lot easier to say it's high on the priority list. It's a lot harder to do."
Detroit has gone to the market for a closer since Fernando Rodney left as a free agent in 2009. Jose Valverde had success in 2010 and 2011 before struggling the next two seasons. Joe Nathan had a disappointing Tigers tenure, ending with an Opening Day save and an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery soon after.
Going back further, Todd Jones, signed as a free agent after the 2005 season, was quietly one of the keys to Detroit's 2006 resurgence. The Tigers signed him, however, because Troy Percival -- signed a year earlier -- suffered a midseason forearm flexor injury that cost him a year and a half.
If recent deals have shown anything, it's that success in the bullpen isn't just about finding the right relievers, but grabbing them at the right time.
"You have to get lucky with relievers," Ausmus said.