In 2007, the Tampa Bay (then) Devil Rays had an awful season, going 66-96. As everybody knows by now, they turned that around very quickly, going 97-65 last season and going to the World Series.
Two years ago, one of their biggest problems was their bullpen. What leads they did have could not be held. According to the numbers at fangraphs, the Devil Rays had a -7.84 Win Probability Added total, meaning they cost their team something on the order of 15 or 16 wins over the course of that season.
Enter 2008, now called the Rays, Tampa Bay's relievers, put up a +9.30 total, meaning they helped their team win 18 or 19 times over the course of the season. Without including the effect that an improved defense and rotation had on their improved late inning pitching, the Rays' bullpen accounted for a roughly 30 win turnaround. Let's look at this 2007 bullpen and see if any of these names look familiar:
Gary Glover 67
Al Reyes 61
Brian Stokes 59
Shawn Camp 50
Juan Salas 34
Scott Dohmann 31
Casey Fossum 30
Dan Wheeler 25
Grant Balfour 22
Ruddy Lugo 11
A good chunk of the Rays' improvement came from gutting this dreadful pen. Stokes, Camp, Dohmann, Fossum, and Lugo were gone before the end of the calender year. Juan Salas missed much of last season with injury and visa issues before being cut this offseason. Glover and Reyes were phased out of the Rays' plans over the course of last year before being released during the summer months. Only Wheeler and Balfour stayed on board, and both have admittedly pitched well since this awful season.
Apparently, the Tigers have looked at this formula and think the way to build a succesful bullpen is through picking up as many castoffs as possible from the worst ever bullpen. This started with Gary Glover and Casey Fossum last year. These are names that many Tigers' fans would like to file away with the likes of Lino Urdaneta and Brian Maxcy after having failed miserably with the team last year. Finally rid of the short term crappiness that was Glover and Fossum, the offseason, Ruddy Lugo was signed to a minor league deal to eat some innings in Toledo. This was an acceptable role for a guy who really isn't that good.
I thought this was a coincidence for a while, and then I saw rumors that the Tigers were close to acquiring Brian Stokes, the worst pitcher in the worst bullpen ever, for Ryan Raburn. Yes, Raburn is part of a roster crunch, but he does have an option. Unless he was claimed on revocable waivers (because his debut was more than three years ago), he can be sent to Toledo to alleviate a roster crunch. It certainly helps to have capable players down there. But this isn't about Ryan Raburn. The fact is that the Tigers were ready to give up something more than a bucket of swept up sunflower seed shells for a 29 year old pitcher with a career 79 ERA+ in yet another attempt to recapture some of that 2007 Devil Rays magic.
Like with Rich Aurilia and Carl Pavano, consider this bullet dodged.