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MLB trade rumors: Tigers’ Justin Wilson drawing heavy interest

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Trading Justin Wilson seems crazy at first glance, but could pay off for the Tigers.

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We’re now just a week and a half away from the MLB trade deadline, which makes this the middle of rumor season. The Detroit Tigers are likely to be less active than they have been in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they will be out of the market entirely. As Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports, Detroit is in the market for a starting pitcher. This kind of comes as a given, considering the injuries to Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris.

However, Heyman notes that Detroit is determined to keep their top prospects and to keep their payroll close to its current level. This likely takes them out of the running for pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, so look for them to be connected to cheaper rental starters (Heyman suggests Rich Hill and Andrew Cashner) in the next few days.

The other nugget of info that Heyman leaves is interesting. Teams have been inquiring frequently on the availability of reliever Justin Wilson.

The Tigers are getting lots if hits on lefty reliever Justin Wilson (43 strikeouts, six walks), but he’s not very available at the moment.

Wilson is having an incredible season in the Detroit bullpen. His 3.31 ERA belies a 1.68 FIP, and his 1.4 fWAR is already the most by a Tigers reliever since Drew Smyly in 2013. He was acquired in the offseason from the New York Yankees in exchange for Luis Cessa and Chad Green. Expect any asking price from Detroit to be far higher than that modest cost.

Wilson is in his arbitration years and is under team control through 2018. This explains Detroit’s hesitancy to deal him, since he’s the biggest building block to achieving a totally dominant bullpen over the next few years. However, if the Tigers pick up Francisco Rodriguez’s 2017 option (they will) and Shane Greene stays in the bullpen, the team could probably afford to lose one of their bullpen arms without being dealt a critical blow.

How much would Wilson bring back in a deal? Think back to the 2014 trade deadline, when Detroit sent Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson to Texas in return for Joakim Soria. Wilson could conceivably be worth more, since he has another year of arbitration eligibility, is better than Soria was that year, and is in a market with more buyers and fewer sellers.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Tigers are willing to part with such a valuable asset. They should certainly consider it, though, if the right offer comes in as the deadline approaches.