MLB trade rumors: Tigers' top trade chips

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski makes a call to express interest in a player, here's who the other team will ask for first.

Group 1: Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos, 3B, MLB: Castellanos, the Tigers' top prospect for the last few seasons, is no stranger to trade rumors. Now playing regularly with the big league club, the probability that the third baseman gets dealt is certainly lower than it was in previous years, but the chance still remains. Dombrowski will only move the youngster if he gets back a huge return that would either be a current star at the hot corner or a package than included a big name talent at another position and lesser known third baseman who's good as if not better than Castellanos. Finding a short-term upgrade over Castellanos wouldn't be necessarily difficult, however, since most of Castellanos's value is tied to what the Tigers think he'll do in the future rather than his current exactly league average stat line and below average defense.

Group 2: Major league ready starting pitching

Robbie Ray, SP, AAA: If a team is interested in minor league pitching from the Tigers, they'll certainly ask for Robbie Ray. Acquired in the Fister deal, Ray has been impressive this year and appears to be the Tigers plan if they are unable to resign Max Scherzer. Since Dombrowski gave up one of the better pitchers in major league baseball to acquire Ray, it stands to reason that the return for Ray would need to be another impact player who's cost controlled for a couple more seasons, potentially a big bat in the outfield.

Drew Smyly, SP, MLB: If Dombrowski refuses to part with Ray, he could offer current fifth starter Drew Smyly. Depending on if the Tigers believe that Ray is ready right now, a return for Smyly may have to include a veteran inning-eating fifth starter. Just like Castellanos, Smyly has already made it through a few trade deadlines as the club has chosen Smyly over names like Jacob Turner, so that may bode well for Smyly's chances of remaining with Detroit. However, service time is one reason why the Tigers could opt to trade Smyly over Ray since Smyly is currently in his third season in the big leagues.

Group 3: Low level, high ceiling

Derek Hill, CF, R: Hill, the Tigers' first round selection a month ago, will likely sit atop Tigers' prospect rankings once Ray has graduated to the big leagues, if the Hill hasn't done so already. Detroit gave the center fielder an 80 defensive ranking going into the draft, and in 12 career minor league games the 18-year-old is sporting an on-base percentage close to .500. Since he was just drafted, Hill would have to be included in any deal as a player to be named later.

Jake Thompson, SP, A+: The Tigers' second round but first selection in the 2012 draft, Thompson has progressed steadily and was selected to participate in the Futures Game on July 13. The big 20-year-old Texan right-hander currently sports an ERA of 3.08 while striking out almost a batter per inning and keeping his walks under control.

Jonathon Crawford, SP, A: The 20th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Florida, Crawford is the quintessential Tigers' draft pick. So far this season, his ERA is similar to Thompson's but his peripherals are less impressive. Crawford could be someone the Tigers prefer to trade if they don't think he'll stick as a starter.

Group 4: The hitters

Devon Travis, 2B, AA: Travis, the Tigers' minor league player of the year last year, is proving that 2013 wasn't a complete aberration. Everyone's favorite diminutive second baseman may be a prime trade candidate now that Ian Kinsler is in Detroit.

James McCann, C, AAA: A defense-first catcher, McCann carries enough of a bat to give himself the chance to win a starting job in the majors one day, and McCann is at worst a valuable backup. With Alex Avila and Bryan Holaday in Detroit, the Arkansas product may need to go elsewhere to find that opportunity.

Steven Moya, OF, AA: Moya, the other Tigers prospect to be playing in the Futures Game, has all the power and potential in the world. The 6'6" corner outfielder already has 18 home runs and a surprising 12 stolen bases, but he is only walking 2.8% of the time and consequently has an on-base percentage of .283. The Tigers could trade away Moya thinking it unlikely that he ever puts it all together, but if he does, the club could really regret it.

Daniel Fields, CF, AAA: The U of D Jesuit alum seemed to put it all together last year, but Fields is currently on the disabled list and has been limited to 34 games. The high school shortstop is the definition of "toolsy" but has struck out almost 30% of the time.

Group 5: Heralded relievers

Bruce Rondon: RP, MLB: A top-100 prospect going into 2013, Rondon has lost his 2014 to Tommy John surgery. The Tigers seem likely to hang onto the Venezuelan flamethrower since they'd be otherwise selling low.

Corey Knebel, RP, AAA: Knebel, who tied Houston Street's single season record for saves (19) his freshman year at Texas, was the second player to reach the majors from the 2013 draft after being drafted by the Tigers at 39 overall. Knebel did return to Toledo, but everything about Knebel suggests that he'll be a rock at the back end of somebody's bullpen for years to come.

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