On Tuesday morning, ESPN’s David Schoenfield posted an article outlining the player each team should be least willing to deal as this season’s trade deadline approaches. For contenders likely to be buying at the deadline, he focused on top-end prospect talent they should retain for the future — like the Indians’ star outfield prospect Clint Frazier. For teams likely to be selling, he focused on established major-league players they should hang on to — like Jose Quintana for the White Sox.
For the Tigers, he chose their top hitting prospect, Christin Stewart, as the most untouchable player in the organization. He doesn’t offer much as an explanation for his selection, but it does make sense. Stewart was taken by the Tigers with the 34th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and has been lighting the minor leagues on fire ever since, displaying a combination of power and discipline rarely seen in 22-year-old prospects. He is definitely a guy the Tigers' would like to hang on to.
But there are plenty of other players in the running for "most untouchable" in the Tigers’ organization. For one, pitching prospect Beau Burrows is in a similar situation as Stewart, but many believe Burrows is the better prospect. The Tigers took him 12 picks above Stewart in the same draft after all, and at only 19 years old, he has plenty of room to grow. Reliever Joe Jimenez has dominated the minor leagues at every stop, and is already being called the closer of the future by many. Each of the three young prospects could provide the Tigers with cheap production in the next few years, which they desperately need.
The Tigers also have a few young, cost-controlled players that have graduated from prospect status, but would still carry loads of value in a hypothetical trade with a rebuilding team. Michael Fulmer leads the group, as his stellar season would have any team drooling over his six remaining years of control. Daniel Norris is similar, albeit without the early returns to support him. And while Nick Castellanos is getting close to his arbitration years, his bat will be more than worth his salary over the next three years.
On the other hand, it's still a possibility that the Tigers will be sellers at the deadline. As of Tuesday morning, they are four games back in the AL Wild Card race and 5 1/2 games behind the Indians in the Central. If they choose to offload some established players to supplement the farm system — like they did last year — it's a very different group of players they would be looking to deal.
Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez are on somewhat team-friendly contracts that both include an option for the 2017 season. Likewise, J.D. Martinez is scheduled to become a free agent after 2017, and Ian Kinsler's contract includes an option for the 2018 season.
Any of the four veterans could fetch reinforcements for the prospect pool, with Kinsler and Martinez potentially bringing in a haul that would rival what Dave Dombrowski managed to get a year ago. But with the Tigers seemingly looking to contend in 2017, there is plenty of reason to hang on to them as well. Any improvement from such a fire sale would take several years to materialize.
With the Tigers planted firmly in the gray area between buying and selling, there are a multitude of perspectives on which players they should trade, and which should be held on to. Many fans believe the Tigers' best course of action is to stand pat (and general manager Al Avila appears to agree), and standing pat requires a lot of not-trading. There are many players the Tigers shouldn't trade, but which is the most untouchable?