While Scott Boras surely will try to tempt GM Dave Dombrowski to invest in Rafael Soriano, the Tigers are inclined to see if rookie Bruce Rondon has what it takes to be a closer. Dombrowski says that Rondon's fastball averages 100 and can hit 103, and he can throw his breaking ball when he's behind in the count.
He sounds a lot like the pre-injury Joel Zumaya, but Dombrowski says he might be better, as the ball comes out of his hand with less effort. He said he has been inundated with calls from teams asking about the 21-year-old, who had 29 saves at three levels last season, holding opponents to a .172 batting average. He believes he could be a semi-instant success, like Bobby Jenks for the 2005 White Sox.
"I'm not worried about (a lack of experience),'' Dombrowski said.
Valverde was 84-for-89 in save chances the last two seasons but the lasting impression of him was being pulled from his role in the playoffs. His value would seem to have plummeted.
Not unemployed long: Tim Kissner landed on his feet in a hurry after the Cubs decided not to renew his contract as their West Coast cross-checker. He was hired last week as the Mariners' director of international operations, replacing Bob Engle, a scouting legend.
"The Mariners have always been very active internationally, and I've always thought highly of the way they did things," Kissner told the Seattle Times. "My vision is to step in with the staff in place and keep moving forward. … With the new CBA and limits on dollar spending, I'd like to be able to out-scout our opponents."
In addition to going head-to-head with scouts from the Cubs, Kissner will be trying to "out-scout'' Engle, whom the Dodgers hired. If it seems the Dodgers are hiring more than their share of guys lately, that's not a misconception. New owner Mark Walter and Guggenheim Baseball guys from Chicago are continuing to spend big after buying the team along with Magic Johnson last season.
Job well done: The best thing about the Dodgers might be a piece of the franchise that was already in place when the new owners took over. That's 24-year-old ace Clayton Kershaw, who last week was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian work in Africa.
Kershaw has spent only four seasons in the major leagues but that didn't stop him and his wife Ellen from stepping forward to help high-risk children in Zambia. They not only have provided funding for schools and an orphanage but also have been hands on during several trips there.
Kershaw admits it is humbling to be recognized with an award that usually goes to older players. The Dodgers have to be thrilled to have a young gun this mature. He's two years away from free agency, set to hit the market at the same time as Verlander. The price to keep them off the market will be huge.
The last word: "The Giants had a great year. They won the games they needed to win. I think in 2013 the LA Dodgers are going to be the team everyone wants to beat, tries to beat.'' — Brandon League, who signed a three-year deal to be the Dodgers' closer.