With MLB trade deadline action finally starting to heat up, plenty of eyes have turned to the Detroit Tigers. We have seen conflicting reports in the past week on whether the Tigers will buy or sell at the trade deadline, but the unanimous opinion among baseball minds is that they need to do something.
Owner Mike Ilitch will likely encourage his front office staff to buy at the deadline in hopes of making another playoff push, but many would argue that this may not be in the franchise's best interest. Friday's 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox dropped the Tigers to 47-49, five games out of the second AL wild card spot. The AL Central race is an afterthought at this point, and the Tigers have two teams to jump before they even catch the current wild card leaders.
If the Tigers decide to sell, they have some considerable assets they can move for younger, cost-controlled talent. David Price is one of the very best pitchers in baseball, and could make a huge difference for any team that picks him up at the deadline (he did last year). Yoenis Cespedes is having an All-Star worthy season, ranking eighth among MLBoutfielders with 3.2 WAR. Joakim Soria, Alex Avila, and Rajai Davis are all pending free agents. Even veterans like Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez could be on the move for the right price.
There are no shortage of teams willing to buy at the trade deadline, especially with two wild card slots up for grabs in both leagues. But first, a quick refresh on the Tigers' trade chips' latest numbers.
*Editor's Note: Between the time Danny first created this table and now, Kinsler has raised his average by 20 points and gone from a 99 wRC+ to 112. "En fuego" doesn't even begin to describe him right now.
Playoff odds: 88.5 percent
Needs: Starting pitching, second base
The Yankees, four games up in the AL East, will be buyers. A top-three rotation of David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda would be fearsome in October. In recent years, general manager Brian Cashman has built the farm system up to the point where he has the pieces to acquire anyone he wants, but top prospects right-handed pitcher Luis Severino and right fielder Aaron Judge may not even be on the table for a half season of Price.
An interesting target for the Yankees would be Ian Kinsler. The Yankees have gotten league-worst production from their second basemen (-1.8 WAR). With 3 years and $35 million remaining on his contract, Kinsler is neither an expiring nor unmovable contract. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder would be an interesting return for the Tigers. He has never been thought to have the greatest tools but has put up wRC+ figures between 136 and 173 at five minor league stops between Single-A and Triple-A since 2013.
With starting outfielders Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, backup Chris Young playing well, and former first round pick Zachary Heathcott ready for the big leagues, the Yankees don't figure to be too interested in Yoenis Cespedes. Same with Joakim Soria, with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller both striking out more than 14 batters per nine innings in the back end of their bullpen.
Playoff odds: 33.8 percent
Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, outfield
Toronto owns the best offense in baseball but one of the worst pitching staffs. Mark Buehrle and his 12.3 percent strikeout rate is the Blue Jay's "ace," while Drew Hutchinson and his 5.19 ERA leads Toronto starters with 1.6 fWAR. The Blue Jays are loaded with advanced pitching prospects in the upper minors. If they were to make Daniel Norris available, the Tigers might just give them Price, Cespedes, and Soria. Toronto has been searching for bullpen help for a while has has been linked to the Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon. Soria would give them a big name closer to finish games.
If Toronto really wanted to take the idea that an extra run scored is as good as a run prevented with pitching, they could look to acquire Cespedes. Blue Jays leftfielders have combined for 0.6 fWAR on the season. Potentially complicating matters are reports that Toronto cannot take on much salary in trades. Then again, if the Tigers pay someone like Price's salary for the rest of the season, they could receive an even better prospect.
Playoff odds: 90.1%
Needs: outfield, starting pitching, second base
If the Royals ever decide to go all-in on one year, a trade for a player like Price would be the way to do it. They won't ever pay $200 million for an ace in free agency, so if they want a Madison Bumgarner performance on their side, they either have to wait and hope for Yordano Ventura or trade for a rental.
Beyond an ace, their biggest concern will be a corner outfielder to fill in for Alex Gordon for six weeks then replace Alex Rios. Cespedes would immediately walk in and be one of the Royals' best hitters, but Davis could be a perfect platoon partner for Jarrod Dyson.
The Royals' worst performer has been former Tiger Omar Infante (-0.5 fWAR). He has two years remaining on his deal, but Kinsler could be a massive upgrade.
And to those that say the Tigers shouldn't trade within their own division: if the Tigers are selling this year, they don't care that they're making their division rivals better this year. By taking prospects away from the Royals in a trade for a rental, they would be making their division rivals worse in future years.
Playoff odds: 25.3 percent
Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching
It seems counterintuitive to trade with your biggest competition for a playoff spot, but if the Tigers are truly punting on the 2015 season, they shouldn't refuse to deal with Minnesota, who has a loaded farm system. The Twins have gotten above average production from their starting rotation so far this season and recently "added" Ervin Santana, who served an 80-game suspension for PED use.
However, Santana is ineligible for postseason play, and the Twins could stand to upgrade their bullpen by any means necessary. Joakim Soria would provide a big lift, and they could always deal for a starter and move one of their current rotation pieces to the pen. The Twins have the necessary prospects to deal for an ace like Price, but it remains to be seen if they want those players beating up on them in the AL Central for the foreseeable future.
Playoff odds: 84.8 percent
Needs: outfield, starting pitching, catcher
Despite having the best player in baseball, the Angels weren't a popular preseason pick to win the AL West. They sit one game ahead of the upstart Astros despite having many holes, including a gaping one in left. Angels left-fielders have tallied -0.5 fWAR on the year, and Cespedes would be the type of splashy, big-power corner outfielder that fits the Angels and old-school manager Mike Scioscia.
If the Angels don't want to pay the price for Cespedes, Rajai Davis could be a terrific platoon partner for Matt Joyce. Joyce is having a terrible year by his standards, but has been a 123 wRC+ hitter against righties for his career (81 vs. righties. -8 vs. lefties this year).
The Angels have six competent starters after Andrew Heaney impressed filling in for Jared Weaver, but since Garrett Richards and C.J. Wilson are the team's best two, Price could be an upgrade. The Angels paid for an ace rental a few years ago when they acquired Zach Greinke at the deadline.
The Angels have seen just 0.1 fWAR from their catchers on the season. Righty starter Chris Iannetta has a 143 wRC+ against lefties and a 56 wRC+ against righties, so he would be a fantastic platoon partner for Avila.
Playoff odds: 85.8 percent
Needs: starting pitching, outfield
Say it with me: The Houston Astros are not giving up six years of Lance McCullers for eleven starts of David Price.
But that doesn't mean that Price wouldn't do wonders for Houston's hopes at making a playoff run. A playoff rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Price, McCullers, and Collin McHugh would be very imposing. Like Kansas City, Houston won't spend $200 million on an ace in free agency, so that may be one reason to spend the prospects to rent one, like Oakland did with Jon Lester a year ago. Even without McCullers and fellow rookie Vincent Velasquez, the Astros have the prospects in the upper minors to get a Price deal done.
With second-year right fielder George Springer out with a wrist injury, the Astros are rumored to be looking for a bat. Cespedes is one of the best outfielders on the market, but the Astros could target a player with a higher on-base percentage to set the table for their power threats.
Playoff odds: 90.6 percent
Needs: Relief pitching
If the Nats buy anything, it'll likely be a player like Ben Zobrist, who can play all over depending on who's injured at any given time. Alas, the Tigers were unable to resign Don Kelly this offseason, or else they could likely flip him for Lucas Giolito.
With Jayson Werth on the mend and Michael Taylor filling in admirably, Washington doesn't need Cespedes or Davis. Their rotation is beyond stacked.
They've been rumored to be looking for late inning bullpen help, but they are still seventh in bullpen fWAR on the season. Both Soria and current closer Drew Storen have experience pitching in the eighth and ninth innings.
Playoff odds: 99.6 percent
Needs: Relief pitching
The Cardinals are quite similar to the Nats, except St. Louis has the fifth highest bullpen fWAR instead of the seventh. Still, Carlos Martinez won't be coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs this year, and everyone can always use bullpen help, and Soria would be a weapon Manager Mike Matheny could deploy in the highest-leverage innings with Trevor Rosenthal locked into the ninth.
Playoff odds: 92.6 percent
Needs: Starting pitching, outfield
Fourth starter Jeff Locke has only been worth 1.1 fWAR this year, and he would look much better as a fifth starter than either Vance Worley or Charlie Morton currently do. A playoff rotation of Price, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, and Francisco Liriano would be nasty, and since the Pirates are projected for 90 wins -- five less than division rival St. Louis -- acquiring Price to pitch in the Wild Card game would be worthwhile.
Price would be a luxury, but Pittsburgh needs to find someone to play right against lefties. -0.8 fWAR is the third-worst mark in baseball among all right fielders, so Cespedes would be a splashy acquisition, but just Davis might do the trick since current starter and former top prospect Gregory Polanco has a 100 wRC+ vs. righties but just a 4 wRC+ vs. lefties.
Playoff odds: 56.9 percent
The Cubs need to get Rizzo and Bryant some help, but their two biggest holes are right field where Jorge Soler is entrenched, and shortstop where any upgrade would first require moving the befuddling Starlin Castro. Chris Coghlan has actually been the Cubs' top outfielder at 1.7 fWAR, but he holds a 23 wRC+ against lefties so acquiring Davis could be a low-cost move that improves the Cubs' offense this year without costing them anything big.
With Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks in the rotation, it's unlikely the Cubs move a piece of their future for Price when they're this early in their window.
Playoff odds: 95.2 percent
Needs: starting pitching
The Dodgers have the best chance in baseball at winning the World Series, per Fangraphs. That, combined with the fact that Kershaw and Greinke are their only two starters that aren't synonymous with the phrase "back of the rotation," gives the Dodgers a great reason to go rent Price. Julio Urias and Corey Seager will be off the table in Price talks, but their farm system is still deep enough to make a quality package.
The fact that the Dodgers are one of the few teams who definitely can afford to resign Price is another reason why he's a good fit. With Greinke likely to opt into free agency, Los Angeles could resign Price and have the top two left-handed pitchers in baseball.
Playoff odds: 44.5 percent
Needs: Relief pitching
With Nori Aoki set to return soon and Hunter Pence recently activated, the outfield isn't the problem it was a month ago. Soria would be a welcome addition to a bullpen that hasn't been as dominant as it has been in recent playoff runs. But with a less than two-percent chance at winning the World Series, the Giants may not be buyers.