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Tigers trade rumors: Braves interested in Phil Coke

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With less than a week left until the non waiver trade deadline, rumors surround the Tiger bullpen. Could they add by subtracting Phil Coke?

Al Messerschmidt

With plenty of rumors swirling around the Tigers as major league baseball's non waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, most gossip indicates that the Tigers are looking to add a veteran reliever to their bullpen. But one rumor has the Atlanta Braves interested in acquiring a veteran reliever from the Tigers- none other than lefty Phil Coke.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Braves&amp;src=hash">#Braves</a> checked in on <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23tigers&amp;src=hash">#tigers</a> Phil Coke in their LH reliever search, but nothing came of it. Cokester having a down year.</p>&mdash; Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) <a href="https://twitter.com/jcrasnick/statuses/359757193437904896">July 23, 2013</a></blockquote>
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The Braves are looking for some left handed relief help in their bullpen. The Tigers have reduced Coke's time to almost strictly that of a left handed relief specialist, a true LOOGY in that he faces as many left handed hitters are coming up and then is taken out. With fellow lefty Darin Downs, who is on the 15 day disabled list, about to begin a rehab assignment, and Coke about as low on the bullpen's totem pole as one can be, perhaps the Tigers think things go better without Coke. The Braves search is further indicated in this tweet from Jim Bowden of ESPN

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Braves continue pursuit of LH relievers including: Oliver Perez SEA; Mike Dunn MIA, Glen Perkins (unlikely), Scott Downs and James Russell</p>&mdash; JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) <a href="https://twitter.com/JimBowdenESPNxm/statuses/359462990883459074">July 23, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Reaction to Crasnick's tweet was predictably entertaining.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/jcrasnick">@jcrasnick</a> What else did Detroit have to give up to get him off the roster?</p>&mdash; Tim Diemer (@TimDiemer) <a href="https://twitter.com/TimDiemer/statuses/359763396159213568">July 23, 2013</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/jcrasnick">@jcrasnick</a> If down year means awful and should be DFA&#39;d, then yeah, he&#39;s having a down year. He can sprint all the way to Toledo.</p>&mdash; Jay Minard (@JayMinard) <a href="https://twitter.com/JayMinard/statuses/359759341345185792">July 23, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Another lefty reliever whose name has come up more than once in trade rumors is that of the Angels' Scott Downs (no relation to Darin), who is making $ 5 million this season and is due to be a free agent after this year. I had suggested that the Tigers offer Coke for Downs when I profiled the Angel lefty for BYB. Peter Gammons says that the Halos, who are tied with Seattle 11 games out of first place and 8.5 games out of a wild card spot, aren't selling.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Teams asking on Scott Downs. 29 straight scoreless outings. Likely Nyet</p>&mdash; Peter Gammons (@pgammo) <a href="https://twitter.com/pgammo/statuses/359985488239005696">July 24, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Coke earns $ 1.8 million this season, or about $ 600K for the rest of the season, and is eligible for arbitration for the third and final time this coming winter. He could be a non tender candidate if he's still on the roster by December. Coke does have an option left, which can be used without his consent until he accrues five years of major league service time. Unless he is optioned first, that ceremony is due to take place on August 22nd, 2013.

Exactly what the Tigers could get for Coke from Atlanta is unclear. I wouldn't bet on them getting the late inning reliever they desire, although Atlanta has a bevy of good right handed relievers in Craig Kimbrel (possibly the best reliever on Earth), hard throwing Jordan Walden, and righty David Carpenter, and more. They have catchers Evan Gattis and former Tiger Gerald Laird, who is hitting a cool .308 for the season. For anything substantial, the Tigers would have to part with more than just Coke.

The Tigers aren't likely to let Coke go for little or nothing, although the value of a LOOGY is about as low as you can get on the value charts, salary considerations notwithstanding. Even if they were not interested in keeping Coke on the roster this year, he could be optioned, or just kept in a low profile role in the hope that he regains his form by next spring. Besides, everyone knows that Phil Coke's best asset is his brain!

(Brain image by the brilliant Samara Pearlstein)

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