Tigers look at Isringhausen, Lyon

Tigers look at Isringhausen, Lyon

DETROIT -- The Tigers are one of the few teams left at this point in the offseason still scouring the market for a closer. One way or another, they could get some closure on that matter within the next week or two as free agents Jason Isringhausen and Brandon Lyon move closer to having decisions to make.

Detroit is one of four teams in the mix for Isringhausen, whose agent is in the process of talking with clubs about potential contract parameters. Whether there's a match to come out of their interest remains to be seen, but if Isringhausen and the Tigers can find one, it could fit a late-inning piece into Detroit's bullpen.

With 293 career saves, 22nd on the all-time list, the 36-year-old Isringhausen is the most experienced closer in that category left on the market and has more saves than any active closer his age or younger. More than half of those saves -- 151 -- came with the Cardinals in a four-year stretch from 2004-07. He pitched 248 innings over the course of 259 games in that span before injuries limited him to 42 games and 12 saves last season. His 5.70 ERA in 2008 was more than two full runs above his 3.61 career mark before he underwent elbow surgery in September.

Isringhausen has been on a normal offseason program since early December, according to agent Dan Horwits, and he's expected to be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training four weeks from now. While that doesn't forecast how he'll hold up or pitch when he gets there, it puts him squarely in the conversation among available closers.

Hot Stove
All four teams in consideration for Isringhausen have closer needs, Horwits said, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee Isringhausen a closer's job before he takes the mound in camp. It does, however, advance him from a couple weeks ago, when up to a half-dozen teams were in discussions heading out of the holiday season.

Once the current process plays through, it'll be up to Isringhausen to whittle down his list, eventually choosing a destination where his career opportunity and comfort level mesh. That decision could come as soon as next week.

A similar timetable seems to be developing for Lyon, currently weighing interest from four or five teams. Some of that interest, agent Barry Meister said, has come from teams looking at the former Diamondbacks closer as a setup man, while the 29-year-old right-hander has also been eyed as a combination reliever who could handle the eighth or ninth inning. The Tigers and Meister have talked recently.

Lyon saved 26 games last year for Arizona, 19 of them in a solid first half to the season before the D-backs traded for Jon Rauch down the stretch and Lyon shifted into a setup role. He finished with a 4.70 ERA and .301 batting average against. A year earlier, however, Lyon was one of baseball's top setup men, racking up 35 holds and two saves while blowing just three save situations behind then-closer Jose Valverde.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.