The Detroit Tigers have backed themselves into an awkward place. Sitting on a 46-46 record, the Tigers are 9 1/2 games behind in an AL Central division that they have owned for the past four seasons. They are four games out of the second AL wild card spot, which seems like a small miracle given the state of their pitching staff. With Dave Dombrowski at the helm and an ever-impatient Mike Ilitch watching from above, common sense would dictate that the Tigers will be aggressively looking to improve their roster before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline.
This may not be the case, though. On Monday evening, Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reported that the Tigers "are going to surrender and be sellers" this July. With David Price and Yoenis Cespedes nearing free agency, the Tigers could look to move both players to a contender desperate to improve their roster. Recent trade deadline deals have netted a prosperous return for selling teams, and the Tigers could bolster a barren farm system in just a few short days. These moves, combined with wrapping Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in bubble wrap during the winter, could help the Tigers come back stronger in 2016.
This may not be the case, though. A source close to the Tigers said that they are "all in" and will be looking to buy at the trade deadline. With the top-end talent up and down their roster, the Tigers could be one or two savvy moves away from storming back into the playoff hunt. There are only two teams between them and the current wild card holders, both of whom are outperforming preseason expectations. If the Tigers can find a way into the playoffs, their biggest weaknesses -- the back of the rotation and middle relief -- can be marginalized if their stars come through.
Contention may not be the only motivating factor behind a trade deadline buy. The Tigers have had one of the highest payrolls in baseball for several years, and their excellent attendance numbers have helped support the payroll. However, with attendance slipping this season as the team falls into a malaise, the Tigers brass could be discouraged to sell, as it may have an even greater negative impact on the number of fans coming to the ballpark. Television ratings, which have stayed high thus far, will also play a role.
What should the Tigers do? The fanbase seems to be divided down the middle, though the respective size of the "buy" and "sell" camps seems to be directly related to whether the Tigers won or lost their last game. This morning? Sure, buy! Go all in! If Shane Greene gives up six runs tonight? Sell everything! We are all irrational beings, and wasting pages of words on a bunch of grown men playing a game in funny costumes.
Dave Dombrowski is known for holding his cards close to his vest during trade season, so anyone saying they know for sure what the Tigers are doing is talking out of an orifice other than their mouth. They could buy, they could sell, or they could make us all angry and do nothing. Such is life during trade rumor season, and we're all just along for the ride.