The AL Central returned from the All Star break and after one week there was only a bit of movement in the favor of the Detroit Tigers as the Cleveland Indians posted a 2-4 week that saw their offense manage a meager eight runs in the four losses. The Tigers were able to right themselves after dropping two one-run games to open the second half in Kansas City by reeling off four straight wins to get to a season high 12-games over .500 before dropping a game in Chicago. Detroit's 1.5 game lead at the break has therefore grown to 3 full games going into Friday's action.
The Royals were the "hot" team of the week going 5-2 on their homestand with series wins over the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles. The question flying around the Royals blogosphere is whether the hot streak is fool's gold to convince GM Dayton Moore to make a stand and go for it this season instead of selling off assets to ready themselves for a better run in 2014.
With the trade deadline looming let's take a look at what each team ought to consider prior to August 1st.
Detroit Tigers 56-45, 4-3 on the week
Injuries are starting to pile up in Detroit and it will be of interest to see if GM Dave Dombrowski makes a move to stockpile some depth for his major league roster in addition to the much anticipated move of bolstering the bullpen.
Dombrowski's bullpen has not been the nightly crisis it had seemed to earlier in the season. The move of Joaquin Benoit to the 9th inning to compile the save and the greater emphasis of getting Drew Smyly into high leverage spots has calmed some fan anxiety to this point. Bruce Rondon throwing more strikes and looking functional is also a bright note that bears more watching.
However the Tigers are almost certain to add some more depth for Jim Leyland to utilize down the stretch. Benoit's 36th birthday was just celebrated and Leyland's own comments that you can't wear out Benoit would both be good indicators that the Tigers know another veteran option is needed. With Francisco Rodriguez now in Baltimore, the market for available relievers has started to move and you can be sure the Tigers are involved in many discussions.
Some combination of Tigers prospects from Drew VerHagen, Tyler Collins, Dan Fields, and James McCann (no, not all of them, pick two. Take it easy "prospect hoarders"!) should be able to procure the pitching the Tigers feel they need. Miami's Steve Cishek would seem a great fit however the Marlins are supposedly not selling. CBS Sports Danny Knobler tweeted a great point on Thursday however. Knobler noted that Doug Fister was "not available" for the Tigers several times in 2011...until he was available. So don't write off Cishek. The Marlins don't need a Closer to finish 5th and they need to realize the burn rate on relievers is high enough to make Cishek a goner now while there is a market.
Luke Gregerson from San Diego is another option. (or as our BYB friend "Singledigit" calls him, "A Petco Warrior". Buyer beware of arms from that pitcher's cavern.) Gregerson is known for absolutely stoning right-hand batters and is probably an attractive candidate at his price-point. I doubt there was ever a "Rick Porcello for Luke Gregerson" offer on the table from the Tigers back in the Spring...but I do believe that the Tigers have had their eye on Gregerson for some time. Expect either Gregerson or Cishek to be on a plane for Detroit next week.
The injury to Omar Infante is lingering a bit longer than many figured. Miguel Cabrera is hobbled by a hip issue and Torii Hunter has at least some kind of an Achille's issue. If the Tigers decide to add a bat however, it seems like the kind of move that can wait until the August 31st Waiver Trade Deadline. Bats can be found during August if the injuries put the Tigers in search for depth in the stretch run.
There there is the elephant in the room. Will Jhonny Peralta be suspended due to his involvement in the Biogenesis Scandal? My personal hunch is that he will not miss time this year either due to escaping punishment or delaying his penalty via appeal into next season. However...if he does get tagged by Bud Selig and decides to serve it out now, it comes down to how long the suspension is. At 20-games or less it's probably an issue the Tigers just ride out until his return. If Peralta gets the 50-game stint, then Dombrowski will likely be seeking out middle infield help desperately before August 31st.
Cleveland Indians 53-48, 2-4 on the week
The Indians received a great start from Scott Kazmir against the red-hot Mariners where he tossed eight shutout innings of 1-hit baseball. Kazmir is holding up a bit better than I would have ever assumed and, to be honest, the only starter in the Cleveland rotation that has an elevated ERA is Ubaldo Jimenez.
Two questions leap to mind. While the rotation looks functional overall, is "functional" good enough to overtake the Tigers? Also, which of these 5 current occupants would start Games 1 and 2 of a playoff series that really concerns the opposition? It seems the answers to both of these questions probably require the presence of a pitcher not currently on the Indians roster.
Matt Garza would have been that guy but the Rangers beat teams to the punch and met the Cubs price for the talented righty. This would leave the Indians looking at Ervin Santana and Jake Peavy from their AL Central rivals or Bud Norris and Kyle Lohse from the National League. With Santana's contract currently expiring at the end of the year, the Royals shouldn't care that much if Santana is traded in the division. This would seem like a target that makes a lot of sense in Cleveland.
Kansas City Royals 48-51, 5-2 on the week
Seriously followers in the online world of the Royals are begging this club to "sell"...it takes only a short search to find the work of Rany Jazayerli or several others. These folks are probably right. The Royals, despite the hot streak, are seven games out in the division with two teams to pass plus seven games out of the second wildcard. With their offense looking fairly anemic all year and negative run differential the odds of them having a late summer rally into contention don't look at all that great.
There seems to be some speculation that Moore feels he needs a .500 record on his resume' this season to hold his job. If so, this is a horrible situation. A GM who is operating out of the desperation to keep his gig isn't the guy to make decisions for the long haul. The whispers that the Royals are looking to actually "buy" at this deadline seems like a real spit into the wind if that is hoped to revive the offense. Yes, Eric Hosmer is hitting great lately but after that its fairly hard to find bright spots for 2013.
No, the Royals need to see that they have a core group of talent and their window for pooling their talent and vaulting into contention isn't closing this September. 2014 has possibilities if they ready themselves now. With so few teams seemingly looking to "sell" a late entrant into the market with talent to sell may see that team cash in nicely.
Ervin Santana is a no-brainer to auction off with his impending free agency. He should be able to net a better package than the Royals would get through draft compensation if they held Santana and he refused their qualifying arbitration offer next off-season.
Greg Holland is another one as we've already spoken of the need for a big time Closer to finish in the second-division. As Jazayerli has pointed out via his twitter account (@jazayerli) the Royals only need to go back and ponder the offers they likely received for Joakim Soria. They held Soria, never contended, and then watched him get injury prone. Then he left. The Royals never cashed in. They shouldn't make that mistake with Holland.
Should they possibly sell James Shields? Most likely they should. But they won't. The blowback would be huge as it would admit that the Wil Myers trade was a mistake. However if you do believe they can contend with the right moves in 2014, holding Shields for that effort is certainly defensible. Shields would bring a pretty hefty return if he were dumped into the trade market today. There would be some very tasty offers.
Minnesota Twins 43-56, 4-3 for the week
The Twins should sell any player on their major league roster that could bring a useful piece for their future. Okay...Joe Mauer isn't for sale. Fine.
No one else should be off limits. For all the Closer-reasons listed above that absolutely includes Glen Perkins. He's a hometown boy and he's very good. The "hometown" thing needs to be forgotten. People don't buy tickets to see a relief pitcher. The fact that he's "good" shouldn't make them forget he's 30 and could regress at any time. Perkins, under team control at reasonable rates for a few more years, would bring at least one prospect that I believe would inhabit some "Top 75" lists and maybe another in the Top 150. Especially for young pitching prospects. That's a deal I'd make for a building club with all kinds of nice bats in the system.
Chicago White Sox 40-59, 3-4 for the week
It seems a completely foregone conclusion that Jake Peavy will be wearing a new uniform in Boston, Arizona, or Atlanta next week. The White Sox have to hope they can at least match the Cubs in what they received for Garza. They may even be able to beat that package since Peavy will be controlled by his new club through next season (albeit at a high cost).
That will be a good first step for the talent-challenged White Sox system. The White Sox probably need to absolutely blow it all up and sell anything that teams will buy in order to stockpile as much young talent as they can.
I personally wouldn't trade for Alex Rios, but if he can bring a Top 150 prospect you make that deal. Alejandro De Aza and Alexei Ramirez may also interest some teams. Ramirez may be a player that would clear waivers in August however due to his contract, so he may have to wait a few weeks.
Jesse Crain's injury is keeping him off the market. This is blow to the Sox. He was looking like an asset that would bring a very solid return in this market. That looks less and less likely due to his recent setback.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn should be extremely busy over the next 5 weeks until August 31st if he's doing his job. He has to see the overall state of his organization is a long way from a contending club. Yes, they were in contention merely 10-months ago before they blew the lead in September to Detroit. But things change fast...the Sox are bereft of talent and need to start the infusion of new blood now.