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Tigers Den Roundtable: Did standing pat at the trade deadline cost the Tigers in 2016?

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The BYB staff looks back at Al Avila’s decision to hold onto his prospects in July.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

With all of the new voices now on staff, we have a lot of people with very different (but very excellent) opinions on the Detroit Tigers. In order to better make use of all this talent, we will be producing a weekly roundtable on a given hot-button topic. Potential questions can be sent to us on Twitter, on Facebook, or in the comments below!

As we all (hopefully) know by now, the Tigers did not make the playoffs. We have taken a stab at determining just how and why they missed out on the AL Wild Card, but a lot of them have centered around the last few weeks of the season. The rest have pointed the finger at Al Avila for a few botched deals last offseason. However, maybe the biggest deal he flubbed on was one that never actually materialized. The Tigers infamously stood pat at the non-waiver trade deadline in July, much to the dismay of many fans on either side of the buy/sell camp.

This week's question: Did inactivity at the trade deadline cost the Tigers a shot at the playoffs?

Eye of the Tigers: I do not think that inactivity at the trade deadline cost the Tigers a shot at the playoffs. I think that while there were a few improvements that could have been made, the biggest thing that cost us was the flurry of injuries. Nick Castellanos got hurt three days after J.D. Martinez was re-activated off the disabled list. Two to three-fifths of the starting rotation was either hurt or ineffective at any given point in the season. While there are a couple of things the Tigers could have done, such as acquiring Rich Hill or Hector Santiago, I don't think they would have made enough of a difference to be worth it.

Ashley: I think there were limited options with real value for the Tigers at the trade deadline. A lot of players who might regularly fetch a good price were slumping. The Tigers could have dealt Ian Kinsler, but he was the only player performing above expectation at the time and the market wasn't rife with demand for a second baseman. They should have considered different options for replacing Anibal Sanchez, or adding an arm to the bullpen, but I don't think there was much they could have picked up that would have made a huge impact. A lot of the problems with the lineup were injury related, and trading would have been a temporary solution that might have done more to hurt them in 2017 than help them in 2016. In my opinion they did the right thing not making any major moves.

Nolan: There's a solid argument to be made that inactivity cost Detroit a chance to go to the playoffs, but I'm even more sure that inactivity hurt the organization in general. As we saw prior to the deadline, teams were very interested in acquiring Justin Wilson. The going theory on relievers is to always sell high, and Detroit had the opportunity to do so with Wilson and Francisco Rodriguez at the deadline. In fact, there's a pretty good chance the Tigers would have been better off in 2016 trading those two and promoting their bullpen from within or via trade, but that is hindsight. The moral of the story is that Detroit did not sell of the valuable assets that they could contend without, while at the same time not making a move to improve their own team via trade. Jeremy Hellickson was available at some price, Brandon Guyer was cheap, and there was probably another fairly effective reliever the Tigers could have gotten if they were intent on holding all their pieces, since relievers are everywhere. The bottom line? The trade deadline is an opportunity to upgrade your team both for the present and the future, and the Tigers had a unique opportunity to improve in either or maybe even both aspects. They chose not to, which is a mistake.

Justin Wilson Photo credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Les: With the benefit of hindsight and knowing the Tigers ended 2.5 games back of the wildcard, would Al Avila have been able to deal for a marginal increase of 2.5 WAR, accumulated over two months, over the current roster?

Jacob: I do think that the inactivity at the deadline cost the Tigers a shot at the playoffs, but I do not blame Avila at all. Hector Santiago would have been a good pickup, but there was no way to foresee the need for him. Jordan Zimmermann was coming back, and he was supposed to be dominant. Not only that, Avila really doesn’t want to scrap prospects for spare parts. Unfortunately, Santiago was really cheap and the starting rotation was really bad. In realty, if Avila had jumped, he could have gotten Santiago for cheap. The Twins gave up Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer, an uninfluential piece. The lack of a trade cost the Tigers the playoffs, but it was no one’s fault.

Kurt: I don't think the Tigers could have made a great splash at the trade deadline. Using the rear-view mirror, we see issues that arose later. But the biggest of those were Castellanos being injured in early August and previously reliable bullpen members melting down randomly. And you don't want to sacrifice the future on what in July would have been a long shot. We see too many former Tigers prospects making a difference for teams already. So I believe holding pat as they did was the better choice.

Ron: No, the Tigers inactivity at the trade deadline did not cost them a playoff spot. While there were a few options available at the deadline, the Tigers had plenty of talent, and none of those options included anything that wouldn’t cost them down the line in prospects. It was the mis-management of the current talent and injuries to the talent that cost them more than not acquiring anything. The offense was one of the best in baseball. They had a good rotation of starters when it didn’t include Mike Pelfrey or Anibal Sanchez, and the bullpen was above league average. The bullpen was the biggest concern down the stretch, but when you continue having Mark Lowe in a seven man bullpen whose 2nd half ERA was over 4, instead of a guy like Joe Jimenez, you cannot expect good things to happen. Castellanos’ and Zimmermann’s injuries were also hugely detrimental to the team’s success in the second half, something we couldn’t have foreseen at the deadline.

Kyle: No, inactivity at the trade deadline did not cost the Tigers a shot at the playoffs, but it certainly would not have hurt. The Tigers were in the race until the very end, but it was not just the last week of the season that cost the team. Following the trade deadline, the Tigers continued to use sub-optimal starters when every game was important. Sanchez saw 10 starts down the stretch! An injured Zimmermann made a few as well, and Mike Pelfrey and Buck Farmer also received spot starts. Better use of the arms already in-house could have been enough to get the Tigers into the playoffs. However, if the team was too afraid to overuse Michael Fulmer or rely too heavily on Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris, they should have brought in an additional starter at the deadline.

Peter: I don’t think it did. To me, you have to look at what they were focused on acquiring, and the target was starting pitching. The trade market for starting pitching was very underwhelming. Names like Rich Hill, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson were frontline names commanding upper system prospects in return. As we heard from Al Avila after the deadline, the trade discussions kept revolving around names like Norris, Fulmer, and Boyd. While the goal of picking up a starter would have been to get guys like Pelfrey and Sanchez out of the rotation, you would have lost the young guys that ended up stepping up in a big way. So you have to look at what the Tigers would have lost by sending one of those young kids away compared to what they would have gotten in return, and I think that Tigers came out ahead. If you look at how the starters traded at the deadline did with their new teams, the only two who were markedly as good as or better than Fulmer, Norris, and Boys were Hellickson and Hill. Hellickson compares to the Tigers’ young three, and while Hill pitched significantly better, he didn’t make his first start for the Dodgers until late August. Keeping the young kids and their control beyond this year for a marginal upgrade was a definite win for the Tigers and not the reason they missed the playoffs.

Actually I think you could make a better argument that the losses of any of Devon Travis, Hernan Perez, or Jefry Marte cost the Tigers more of a shot at the playoffs. If one of those three had been around to either take the spot of Mike Aviles or Casey McGehee that might have offset the black hole those two were just enough to getone or two more wins.

Jeff: I think the real question is would mortgaging the future be worth it to get into the playoffs this year? The Tigers could have traded Norris, Boyd, JaCoby Jones, and Joe Jimenez to get over the hump and made it, but would it have been worth it if they had fallen short again? We have seen players like Eugenio Suarez and Devon Travis turn into real ballplayers after leaving Detroit. Then again, Steven Moya and Dixon Machado have been flops so far and their trade value has gone down so much that you can't get anything useful for them now. Ultimately, the Tigers didn't do enough in the offseason and didn't have enough to work with at the deadline to make up for it. Putting faith in players like Mike Pelfrey cost them.