The Tigers are willing to listen to offers for both Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, reports FanRag blogger Jon Heyman. For that matter, Heyman says, the Tigers are “willing to discuss” Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Victor Martinez, and probably anyone else you can imagine.
The Tigers are not saying they are rebuilding, but rather suggesting they are “charting a new course.” In any case, they are trying to cut payroll by about $27 million, from the current $216 million to just under the current luxury tax threshold of $189 million, if they can.
To be certain, it’s not going to be easy to make a deal, which alone makes one less likely to occur. Cabrera and Verlander both have 10-and-5 rights, meaning they’ve been in the league for 10 years and have spent the last five of them with the same team, so they can block any trade they don’t want to happen. That gives them some power, and takes away the Tigers’ ability to negotiate somewhat. It’s no longer Team A vs. Team B, so much as Team A vs. How Badly Detroit Wants To Deal. That might not be much: Heyman notes there isn’t a mandate to cut.
So what are they worth?
In attempting to find Verlander and Cabrera’s trade values, Craig Brown noted at Fangraphs recently:
Detroit has competed at a high level for over a decade, and that’s difficult to maintain for any franchise. It might feel better to hold out hope for contention with an average squad, but the bill for that sustained contention is coming soon. Detroit might be in for an ugly, Phillies-like run for 2018 and beyond if they don’t start moving now.
His solution was to move both Cabrera and Verlander at the same time. He suggests a place like Boston — where former GM Dave Dombrowski happens to reside — would make sense. It might even be palatable enough for the two players to allow the deal to go through, knowing they’re going to a big market, with former teammates, with a chance to win multiple World Series titles. Other suggestions were Texas and Seattle.
All of that seems rather unrealistic, though a fun thought experiment. But it does seem possible a business-minded, competitive player like Verlander would accept a deal that sent him to a contender in a big market like Los Angeles, where he owns a home. A Cabrera deal seems less likely, however.
Shit or get off the pot
In any case, once the Tigers start trading off parts, they’d best dive 12 feet into a 6 foot pool to get the job done right. I wrote today in the Detroit News the Tigers should just be all-out sellers if they’re not going to be all-in on the 2017 season. That’s because the one thing you do not want to be is caught in the middle. Be good. Be bad. Don’t be mediocre, because it’s completely unrewarding, and doesn’t do anyone any good:
Not the star players who deserve better chances at World Series championships, not the ownership investing a lot of money in a team with sinking attendance, and not the fan base shrinking by the year.
The longer the Tigers remain around a .500 team, the longer they’ll push back the true rebuild they need to do to build the next competitive roster. Meanwhile they value of their most expensive players — like Verlander and Cabrera — will only decline. Ripping the bandage would turn off the fans for a while, but it’s looking more and more necessary. The fans will be back when the team starts to win again.
Like it or not, listening to offers to get a feeling for what kind of return Verlander or Cabrera might net is a wise first step by the Tigers’ front office.