With a veteran-laden roster and a significant amount of money tied into franchise cornerstones Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera for the foreseeable future, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Detroit Tigers become sellers at the trade deadline. The Tigers have been behind in the AL Central race in previous seasons during their four-year reign atop the division, and team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski has gotten increasingly aggressive at the trade deadline in hopes of stocking his roster for a run to the postseason.
So, barring a major collapse in the next few weeks, the Tigers will almost certainly be buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.
What do the Tigers need, though? They have one of the most talented rosters in the league, and the individual performances they have gotten thus far have largely been better than their 35-34 record suggests. There are five Tigers with a legitimate shot of making the AL All-Star team, while a sixth (starter Alfredo Simon) was on the fence prior to his last start. Other players, such as Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Victor Martinez, have struggled through rough patches and injuries, and won't be replaced anytime soon. Where can the Tigers make upgrades?
While it may not be the easiest position to upgrade, it is probably the one most likely to receive attention from the Tigers' brass. Shane Greene has struggled so far in the major leagues, and he left his last start with the Toledo Mud Hens early due to a hand injury. Alfredo Simon has pitched at a high level so far this season, but he did the same thing last year with the Cincinnati Reds before falling back to earth in the second half. Finding an upgrade over Greene is arguably the most glaring need the Tigers have this July. If Greene suddenly sorts things out, the Tigers can always push Simon back into the bullpen, a role he thrived in with the Reds in 2012 and 2013.
Many people expected Nick Castellanos to break out in his sophomore season with the Tigers, but his offensive game has not progressed in year two. In fact, he is actually hitting worse than in 2014, with a .594 OPS and a 61 wRC+ in 255 plate appearances. Castellanos has improved defensively, but that has not been enough to offset his poor offensive numbers. He has been worth -0.7 WAR so far, the second-worst WAR total on the team. Unlike Victor Martinez, who is sitting at -1.0 WAR, Castellanos doesn't have a gaudy track record of production to fall back on. Don't rule out the Tigers trading him either, as it could bring back an upgrade if a seller values Castellanos' club-controlled salary more.
The Tigers have been reluctant to part with utility infielders Hernan Perez and Josh Wilson at times this year, instead choosing to option outfielder Tyler Collins to the minor leagues. We don't know what exactly the Tigers are prioritizing here, but a trade could shuffle the roster enough that a decent bench bat could fit into the fold. The Tigers could benefit from another left-handed bat, particularly if that bat can handle third base duties alongside Castellanos. Even a low-cost addition in the Aubrey Huff mold -- don't hate, it was a good idea at the time -- could be an option.
There are a few useful pieces in this year's bullpen, but the Tigers could always find room for one or two more solid arms. Joakim Soria has struggled lately, but has handled the closer role quite well, so the Tigers could go in any direction with an addition. They could use another lefthander to pair with Blaine Hardy, though the organization still seems heavily invested in Ian Krol. Bruce Rondon has looked solid in his last couple outings with the Mud Hens, and one of the right-handed starters may get shoved into long relief, so this could actually be the least likely option of the four at this point.
What do you think the Tigers should target at the trade deadline?