The offseason is still young and the winter meetings are a couple weeks away, but the Detroit Tigers appear to be asking teams to give up quite a bit of talent to get their stars. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Tigers’ price on their biggest assets is so high right now, some are wondering if they will be able to trade anyone. The lone exception may be J.D. Martinez, who seemingly could be had for a more reasonable return.
This in itself is not not all that surprising. In negotiations, you don’t start with your settling price. And when we’re talking about franchise cornerstones like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, asking for the moon is completely understandable.
This also seems to hold true for players like Ian Kinsler, who was rumored to be on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ radar. The Tigers are interested in Los Angeles’ top prospect, Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers’ financial problems add a wrinkle, but a deal is still possible. Detroit’s asking price may come down, or it may remain high depending on how willing they are to actually move players this offseason. It’s hard to get a read on exactly how willing the Tigers are to move pieces right now. General manager Al Avila has said several times that their plan to reduce payroll may take several years.
It is curious that Olney named J.D. Martinez as an exception to this rule. Martinez is only locked up for one more year and will hit the open market after the 2017 season. As such, the Tigers won’t receive as much value in return if they look to trade him. If other general managers sense that it might be unrealistic to extend Martinez this year, that would certainly lower his trade value. Plus there are plenty of power hitting corner outfielders on the market this year so with supply being high, demand is low, leaving the Tigers with little leverage in negotiations.
It could also be that rival GMs are taking a hard look at Martinez and have legitimate doubts about a corner outfielder with poor defense and high strikeouts, despite his power. Fans often overvalue their own players, especially the favorites, so this could simply be a bit of a reality check, just like what happened in the Cameron Maybin trade.
However, Martinez is no ordinary corner outfielder. He has hit .299/.357/.540 with 83 home runs over the past three seasons. His 143 wRC+ during that time ranks 13th among all qualified hitters, and he is tied for 21st in home runs. The only players in this stratosphere that are remotely available this offseason are Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, both of whom are looking for huge contracts. Martinez’s superior offensive production and affordable contract likely outweigh his defensive shortcomings.
This could just be posturing to set the stage for the Tigers to make serious deals later. Teams know very well how rumors work, so this could just be a bit of purposeful leaked information to try to get something moving, either by the Tigers or another club. The Tigers would be wise to try and maximize the return for anyone on their roster if they plan to compete over the next few years while simultaneously lowering payroll. Simply trading away valuable assets for the sake of saving money would not be a move received well by the fans and would hinder their goals of staying in contention or returning to contention in short order. But they also have to be reasonable about it.