Tigers Acquire Jose Veras

While the Tigers had been pegged by the media as buyers of expensive proven closers, Dave Dombrowski just ignored the high profile end of the relief market and found a much better value in Jose Veras, who they acquired from the Astros today for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later.

While he isn’t a big name, Veras has quietly turned into a very effective reliever. In 43 innings this year, opposing batters have a .265 wOBA against him. For comparison, hitters have a .266 wOBA against Yu Darvish, a .269 wOBA against Stephen Strasburg, a .270 wOBA against Adam Wainwright, and a .274 wOBA against Felix Hernandez. Sure, it’s easier to pitch in relief, so this isn’t exactly apples to apples, but it at least gives you an idea of the level that Veras has pitched at.

If you want a reliever-to-reliever comparison, well, how about this one?

Jonathan Papelbon 69.2 6% 28% 1.03 0.243 86% 39% 10% 1.81 3.16 3.24 0.9 2.0
Jose Veras 68.1 10% 29% 0.66 0.261 81% 46% 8% 2.50 3.05 3.36 1.0 1.6

That’s Veras and Papelbon, side by side, over the last calendar year. Papelbon’s long term track record is much better, but over the last 365 days, they’ve basically been equals.

That isn’t to say Veras is as good as Papelbon. He’s not. For one, he’s better suited to a right-handed setup role, as his command against lefties has always been a little spotty. He’s not a pure situational reliever, and he can get left-handers out, but the 14.5% walk rate against LHBs in his career is a little bit concerning. He hasn’t been as wild this year, but his K% against LHBs has also been way below the norms as well.

In many ways, Veras is similar to Octavio Dotel, and I’d imagine he’ll likely be used in a similar manner down the stretch. If they put him in situations where he’s going to face more right-handers than left-handers, he can be an excellent bullpen piece, and a nice compliment to the left-handed Drew Smyly in front of Joaquin Benoit. Neither Veras nor Smyly need to be lifted every time an opposite-handed hitter steps up, so having both can allow Leyland to mix and match in the 7th and 8th innings depending on what kind of hitters are due up in which inning.

Veras might not be as highly thought of as many of the big name relievers, but that doesn’t mean that those with sterling reputations were going to be that much more valuable down to the Tigers. In Veras, the Tigers get a quality relief arm without having to take on a significant contract, and thanks to a $3.25 million team option for 2014, they actually can retain him for next season as well, which should limit their need to overspend on a reliever in free agency this winter.

Veras didn’t come free, of course. They parted with toolsy outfield prospect Danry Vasquez, who Marc Hulet rated as Detroit’s #8 prospect heading into the season, but he’s a 19-year-old in low-A ball who is more potential than performance. It’s certainly possible that Vasquez eventually develops into something valuable, but he’s nowhere close to the big leagues, and he’s the kind of prospect that flames out more often than not.

Given that the Orioles gave up Nicky Delmonico to rent Francisco Rodriguez for the stretch run, getting a better, younger, under-control pitcher like Veras for a lesser prospect seems like a relative steal. Of course, the PTBNL could change that calculation, but right now, this seems like a very nice little upgrade for the Tigers.

And, of course, the Astros need a solid relief pitcher less than any other team in the sport, so flipping an asset for a young player with upside is exactly the type of move they should be making. Houston keeps doing what they’ve been doing, turning short term pieces into longer term upside. This move keeps the Astros headed in the right direction, but also gives the Tigers a bullpen upgrade at a reasonable price. Looks like a win-win to me.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

27 Responses to “Tigers Acquire Jose Veras”

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  1. Jamee says:

    This is a good opportunity for Jose Veras’ nickname – “The Truth” – to really take off.

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  2. What I really like here is that Veras has dropped his BB% in a big way this season, and it seems pretty sustainable considering a huge increase in First Pitch Strike%.

    The #s are on his stat page, but if you want to check out a graph, I’ve got one here. http://newenglishd.com/2013/07/29/tigers-pull-the-trigger-grab-veras-for-vasquez/

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  3. Shawn says:

    Spec Save vultures grab ? in Houston?

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  4. Bryrob58 says:

    Agree that this is a win-win. However I’m very interested in seeing if Leyland can use Veras properly. Still having flashbacks of Phil Coke as temporary closer after Valverde’s post-season implosion.

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  5. Ryan D. says:

    Trader Jeff keeps on stocking up the Astros minor league system. I like it.

    I’m sure Bud Norris is next.

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  6. Paul says:

    We seem to keep getting weird takes on prospects in these deals. Delmonico is not some great prospect. He has some name buzz for whatever reason, but is a middling offensive player at A+ at an appropriate age, and a lot of people think he’s bound for 1B eventually.

    I’m not sure that Veras is any better than Rodriguez, but I’d bet 8 out of 10 scouts tell you a 19 yo toosly Vasquez and a PTBNL is a better return than Delmonico. Maybe the inherent bias against Dombrowski is behind the mis-evaluation of the prospects. The truth is that the Tigers dominate both the deadline trade market, and trades in general. And they do so because they don’t look to “win” every deal. They are confident in the guys they like and give up very good value in order to get them.

    Texas folded down the stretch last season because they refused to go get Greinke or Sanchez and give up real value. They didn’t up anything in the Garza deal either, and clearly need more help. Will they actually give up valuable prospects in their next deal (a desperately needed DH), or miss the playoffs? I’ll bet on the latter. Dave Dombrowski is easily the most under-appreciated executive in baseball, maybe all sports.

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    • Jim Price says:

      Yeah for a while I thought he was getting lucky on these deals where most of the players he gets have outperformed the ones he sent but when it keeps happening it ain’t luck. The only real clunker he pulled off was Renteria (OK, Huff and Washburn were bad too but I don’t even remember what the Tigers gave up). He’s made the blockbuster trades and made the small moves to plug holes and basically never been burned badly.

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    • chuckb says:

      He’s indisputably a genius and the dolts who frequent all these fancy-schmancy saber blogs just don’t appreciate the genius that is Dave Dombrowski. Those who tell us all about how great the other GMs and their prospects arejust don’t know what they’re talking about. If there just wasn’t such an inherent bias against Super Dave then sites like this one would have more credibility.

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      • Paul says:

        Your sarcasm is noted, chuckb. But since I know you are a longtime reader, surely you are well aware of the accusation. I hate to use one egregious example, since it is almost like the #6org bit at this point, but the long case that was made against Dombrowski over the Cabrera deal a few years ago is pretty damning evidence by itself. I’m sure you remember it, and I could be wrong but I believe it was Dave that wrote what a dumbass Dombrowski was for trading off prospects like Maybin and Miller (who were having SSS success at the time and Migs was a drunk). I’m sure stealing Fister from the pre-eminent, all-kwowing Jack Z did not help. Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me that there is a bias. But it doesn’t stop it from being true either.

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        • Scraps says:

          pre-eminent, all-kwowing Jack Z

          I’m just going to say that you don’t know Dave’s writing in the last few years (here and elsewhere) if you can say that.

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  7. Aidan says:

    Dombrowski doesn’t put too much value on prospects when he trades, and that’s a system that seems to have worked for him in most cases (though we shouldn’t even count the Miller/Maybin swap for Cabrera and Willis). As a tigers fan, it’s like pulling a thorn out of your foot. your jerk reaction is to grit your teeth and wince, but it usually turns out for the best.

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  8. Fred says:

    Dave, I’ve bolded one clear error in this sentence: “Given that the Orioles gave up Nicky Delmonico to rent Francisco Rodriguez for the stretch run, getting a better, younger, under-control pitcher like Veras for a lesser prospect seems like a relative steal.”

    K-Rod DOB: 1/7/1982

    Veras DOB: 10/20/1980

    Do you have reason to believe K-Rod is actually older than Veras, despite their dates of birth as listed on FanGraphs?

    There’s also some question about whether Veras is actually better than K-Rod, considering Veras walked batters at a substantially higher rate than K-Rod in 2011 and 2012, with their numbers not being that different this year.

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    • Fred says:

      Veras being cheaper and under team control definitely makes him a more attractive trade piece than K-Rod.

      But, on that last point, both ZiPS and Steamer project K-Rod to have a slightly better FIP than Veras the rest of the way, with the K-Rod projections giving a FIP of approximately 3.70 and the Veras projections giving a FIP of approximately 3.90.

      I don’t think it’s indefensible to call Veras better, but I’m curious why you think he’s better given that statistical evidence that seems to weigh ever-so-slightly in K-Rod’s favor.

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  9. Toph says:

    K-Rod also has a long history of pitching better than his numbers indicate to a point where you’d think there is something to it, while Veras has not. I don’t really see how you can state so boldly Veras is a better pitcher than K-Rod.

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    • Colin says:

      Veras has a better SIERA and FIP with a lot more innings pitched than K-Rod this season. He’s also done that pitching in the AL. He’s certainly been “better” if only slightly. Younger I’m sure was just a mistake given that it seems K-Rod has been in the league forever.

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  10. atoms says:

    The acquisition of Jose Veras says nice things to Drew Smyly?

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  11. ToddM says:

    Solid trade all-around, although I wonder if the Tigers still need MORE bullpen help. Benoit and Smyly have been truly outstanding, while everyone else has been either mediocre or complete crap.

    Is three reliable (assuming Veras continues his success this season) relievers enough? I don’t think so. The Tigers need to get someone else or see some real improvement from Albuquerque to be set for the stretch run and playoffs. More meaningful innings from Coke, Rondon, Putkonen, or Downs is likely to be painful, and the division is far from wrapped up at this point.

    Maybe Dotel could be back for the last month and playoffs…

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    • ToddM says:

      Also, I suppose Porcello could be a bullpen guy in the post-season. If you need a ground ball, he’s a nice choice, although I’m not sure the infield is likely to field it.

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    • GoodEnoughForMe says:

      Porcello is a reasonable option in the postseason for sure, giving the Tigers 4 arms. Porcello’s problem for years has been how much worse he gets the 2nd and 3rd time through the order – it’s been more severe than most – so as a reliever he makes a lot of sense, especially with his K rate up this year. I dare say I’d still like to see him and Smyly swap roster positions next year.

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      • ToddM says:

        Man, the Smyly decision is going to be tough. A good starter obviously has a lot more value than a great reliever, but it’s hard to argue with the success Smyly as had as a long-ish reliever this year. He’s been amazing, and the team could be significantly worse record-wise if he hadn’t come through so well.

        I hope Smyly doesn’t go all Neftali Feliz on the Tigers next year and hurt himself or be mediocre if they choose to start him. I doubt there will be more than one rotation spot available for him or Porcello, and intertia is heard to overcome, especially for stodgy Leyland.

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        • The Party Bird says:

          He was very solid for the Tigers as a starter last year. I doubt he’ll Feliz it up.

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        • Paul says:

          But the blister problem is a tough one. Sometimes guys can get past it, but lots of other good pitchers had to go to the pen because they just couldn’t shake them. Jeremy Affeldt was one. He was progressing just fine as a starter but couldn’t ever shake the blisters. If I recall they caused Beckett lots of trouble and could have arguably kept him from reaching a bit higher level.

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  12. Jeremy B. says:

    Dave, you refer to Veras’ .265 wOBA against. Is there an easy way to locate this statistic on his player page? I know it’s on the Splits page, but I can’t seem to find it on his main page. Forgive me if I’m overlooking something obvious.

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