“The one area we wanted to address the most with our ballclub has been our bullpen.” — Dave Dombrowski
KANSAS CITY — The Detroit Tigers might be among the favorites to win the World Series, but their bullpen is among the worst in the majors.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is hopeful the addition of former closer Joel Hanrahan will help address the team’s glaring weakness.
The Tigers signed Hanrahan to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the 32-year-old right-hander will reportedly earn $ 1 million guaranteed with a chance to earn $ 3 million, according to multiple reports.
“We think this is a situation that is well worth the gamble for us,” Dombrowski said in a teleconference Friday. “We think it helps stabilize our situation in the back of the bullpen when he’s ready.”
Hanrahan would seem to be the logical eighth-inning setup man for the Tigers, essentially filling the spot in the back of the bullpen vacated by right-hander Bruce Rondon, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in late March.
However, the Tigers will take a cautious approach with Hanrahan, who has been sidelined since last May after tearing a flexor tendon that required Tommy John surgery.
Hanrahan underwent a physical in Lakeland, Fla. on Thursday and has been placed on the team’s 15-day disabled list. The Tigers will announce a corresponding move on their 40-man roster later today.
“I’m definitely excited to be part of the Tigers,” Hanrahan said. “This is a situation, at the beginning of free agency, I had them pinpointed as a place I’d like to play. I had a good recruiter in Torii Hunter. He’s a good friend of mine.”
The Tigers weren’t willing to offer a time frame as to when the two-time All-Star may be able to join the team, but Hanrahan’s agent, Larry Reynolds, is hoping for the optimistic end of a five- to eight-week time frame, which suggests a potential return in mid-June.
“If I’m ready at 30 days, that’s great,” Hanrahan said. “If it takes 40 days, I think we’re all on board that that’s what it’s going to take.”
For now, Hanrahan will rehab in Lakeland and will continue to throw bullpen sessions until he is cleared to face live hitters, which could come at some point next week.
“We’re willing to take our time in this situation because we realize he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and we need to be very careful,” Dombrowski said.
The signing comes less than a month after Hanrahan held a showcase for approximately 20 teams where he reportedly touched the low 90s with his fastball on a consistent basis.
“I was happy with where my velocity was when I did my showcase at 11 months, and I think the more I throw, the more my velocity will come up,” said Hanrahan, whose fastball once consistently touched 100 mph.
Hanrahan drew considerable interest from at least five teams, including the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Rockies, but the Tigers strongly pursued Hanrahan, intent on addressing a bullpen that currently ranks 29th in ERA at 5.37.
“The one area we wanted to address the most with our ballclub has been our bullpen,” said Dombrowski, who is confident Hanrahan can add stability as a late-inning reliever.
Arguably the best reliever available on the free-agent market, Hanrahan saved 76 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
“I felt like this was the best fit for me,” he said. “It was a great atmosphere in talking with Torii, and it’s a spot that I wanted to go.”