We're one week into July, just past the halfway mark of the season, three weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline, and less than a week before the season shuts down for the All-Star break. The Tigers find themselves on top of the AL Central in what has become a ménage à trois with those damned Twins and the despised White Sox.
We're deep enough into the season where it's become obvious the Tigers are playoff contenders, not pretenders. They'll be buyers, not sellers, at the July 31st trade deadline.
With the Tigers generally being thought of as buyers, the guessing game has begun as to what the Tigers might do, what position (or positions) they may target. But the most often mentioned areas in need of improvement are...
- Starting pitcher
- Relief pitcher
I'm throwing this out to the BYB hive mind. What position do you think the Tigers' brain trust is going to target?
The need for a shortstop is a given, as the Tigers can't be happy platooning a pair of players they consider utility men, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth, at such an important position. Short term, they're OK stopgaps. Long term, the Tigers desperately need someone better.
Adding another starting pitcher has long been thought to be a need, even more so considering the constant juggling the Tigers have had to do with their rotation over the past 3 months. The only 2 pitchers who have not been removed from the rotation for injury, ineffectiveness, or a combination thereof are Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. Max Scherzer has stepped up big time since returning from Mud Hens exile, and the just sent down Armando Galarraga has had his moments, but the only starter who has an ERA under 4 is Verlander.
At catcher, Alex Avila's bat is starting to show life, but he's still only hitting .222. Gerald Laird is battling mightily to get his average above the Mendoza line...but is failing miserably at .188. The Tigers somehow finding a catcher who can hit more than his weight would be the equivalent of manna from Heaven. Unfortunately, finding a big league ready catcher on the open market is about as rare as finding a Dodo bird. It's not going to happen.
With Joel Zumaya's season coming to a scary and untimely end, finding a bullpen arm may have become the most pressing need. Sure, Phil Coke has been very, very good. But we're still not sure if Ryan Perry is ready to become the full time 8th inning setup man, Daniel Schlereth still looks as if he needs more seasoning, and the remainder of the pen arms tend to be middle to long reliever types.
According to Lynn Henning's latest at the Detroit News, the Tigers will try to address these needs. But in his opinion, the Tigers will go in one specific direction.
Reliever makes most sense
Another possibility, this one the most likely of all scripts: The Tigers will trade for a relief pitcher to protect them against all the arms they've lost in 2010.
Dave Dombrowski is walking a fine line between contending this season, and remaining one for years to come. Meaning players like Diamondbacks' shortstop Stephen Drew and Mariners' starting pitcher Cliff Lee may be thought of as too costly in terms of the major league ready prospects needed to make such a deal.
It's unlikely, but it's entirely possible the Tigers will do nothing. They've made into first place this deep into the season despite all the roster churn, so why couldn't they continue to juggle the roster for couple of months more?
Personally, I'd love to see the Tigers add a shortstop with some pop...but it's a pipe dream.
It wouldn't be the most glamorous of moves, but I have to agree with Henning. The most likely addition(s) to the roster will be a bullpen arm(s).
But that's my opinion. What's yours?