It’s only early July, but this season’s trade market appears to be as tepid as any in recent memory. Fewer teams are deciding to sell every year with the second wild card in play, and there aren’t many big names on this year’s free agent market. To wit: the blockbuster deals of 2016 so far include... James Shields and Jason Grilli?
Things are starting to heat up, though. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tampa Bay Rays are actively shopping some of their starting pitchers, most of whom are still under team control for multiple years. Rosenthal didn’t single out anyone, but hinted that 2015 All-Star Chris Archer could be the only one off limits. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reported that several teams have inquired on the Rays’ trade pieces, including the Tigers.
Even without Archer on the docket, there are several other starters that could be had, and the Tigers are in dire need of another starter to bolster their rotation. Between the struggling Mike Pelfrey, Daniel Norris’ inconsistencies, and the elephant in the room that is Michael Fulmer’s innings limit, another arm could take a lot of stress off a rotation that has been a hindrance thus far this year.
Former Tiger Drew Smyly is having a rough season, but his strikeout rate has skyrocketed since leaving Detroit in 2014. He fanned 28 percent of all batters he faced in an injury-riddled 2015 season, and is at 26.7 percent this season. His 5.33 ERA looks like a red flag, but his peripheral numbers hint that he is pitching much better than the results indicate. Smyly is starting to get more expensive now that he is in his arbitration years, but is still under team control through the 2018 season.
Righthander Jake Odorizzi could also be available, though his contract is a bit more team-friendly (which would make him more expensive to acquire). He doesn’t reach arbitration until after this season and won’t be a free agent until after 2019. Odorizzi’s peak numbers aren’t as flashy as Smyly’s, but he has been a solid mid-rotation piece since earning a full-time job in Tampa’s rotation in 2014. The Tigers have previously coveted starters who pitch well against them, and Odorizzi’s stellar numbers against the Tigers could make him more appealing to this front office.
Lefthander Matt Moore has struggled since having Tommy John surgery in 2014, but his contract is starting to get progressively more expensive. He is making a guaranteed $5 million this season, then has three consecutive team options from 2017 to 2019 worth $7, $9, and $10 million, respectively. Moore’s inconsistent results could make him cheaper relative to the Rays’ other starters, though he is a much bigger gamble than the other two.
There are a couple other options that could be even cheaper, which speaks to the depth of the Rays’ upper minor league system. Top prospect Blake Snell and second-year righty Matt Andriese will probably be off limits, but the Tigers could roll the dice on someone like Erasmo Ramirez.
Depending on who they target, the Tigers may be willing to part with one of their young arms in order to get a deal done. Adding someone like Odorizzi, who has several years of team control remaining, would help the team now without sacrificing too much value in the coming seasons.