Tigers Sign Brandon Lyon to a One-year Deal

Posted by Bob Biscigliano in , ,

Rumors had been floating around for the past few weeks about the Tigers getting close to signing former-Diamondback's reliever, Brandon Lyon. Today the Tigers finalized a deal with him, inking Lyon to a one-year contract.

By signing Lyon, Tigers did something they weren't able to do last year when they failed to pick up a free agent closer to help bolster the bullpen. As a result, the Tags blew 28 saves last season. Obviously not wanting the same results, the Tigers can feel a whole lot more comfortable going into spring training with the addition of Lyon as he appears to be the front-runner for the closer's job.

Lyon didn't really find success in the major leagues until 2006 when he threw nearly 70 innings and finished with a 3.89 ERA in a set-up role for Jose Valverde and the Diamondbacks. He followed that season up with a 2.68 ERA season as one of the majors' best set-up men.

2008 was different for Lyon because he came into spring training with a different role: the new closer. The first half of the season went swimmingly as he started right where he left off the year before. Unfortunately, he tanked in the second half of the season, ultimately losing his job. He never regained his form after the all-star break. Many coaches believed his pitching mechanics were altered and they continued to change for the worse throughout the second half of the season. He ended the season with a +4 ERA and 26 saves.

I think this is a great signing for the Tigers. By signing him to a one-year deal, we hold no extended commitment to him if he does not correct the problems he incurred at the end of last season. At the same time, he knows he will be a free agent again after the season and he could very well be playing for the last good contract he may ever receive. Surely if he tanks again, no one is going to want to spend any money on a soon-to-be 31 year old who hasn't established any consistency at the MLB level. At 29, he's not getting any younger and this may be his last chance to prove himself before pay day.

Also, it's not like he has any more pressure on him this year than he did going into last year. Last year he was taking over for 40+ game saver Jose Valverde. In Detroit, he is taking over for a gaping hole at the closer's position and a team that blew 28 saves. Any improvement is a plus.

All in all, this may have been a risky signing, but I think it goes nicely with the Tigers' 2008-2009 off-season theme.

Last year they went out and bought/traded for any big name guy they could get their hands on at the expense of their farm system and their pockets. This off-season the Tigers have been economically efficient while filling holes with risky, yet high reward type guys. The Tigers have put a huge focus on shoring up their holes on defense and in their bullpen, something they were not able to address last off-season.

Imagine if everything comes together. The Tigers could have one of the better bullpens in the major leagues. Let's assume Rodney and Zumaya regain 2006 form, Lyon regains 2007 form, Rincon turns it around as pitching coach Rick Knapp predicts, and Ryan Perry comes up from the minors and pitches this season. That, in addition to Bobby Seay and Miner/Robertson/Willis, sounds like a pretty lethal bullpen. If that's how things shape up, I would watch out for the Tigers in 2009.

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