As the trade deadline approaches, we speculate about all the possible trades the Detroit Tigers may or may not make. However, the first domino in the division has already dropped. Eduardo Nunez was just traded by the Minnesota Twins to the San Francisco Giants for prospect Adalbarto Mejia last week. Standing at 20 games out of first place, the Twins were not going to make the playoffs this year and it’s no surprise that they are sellers at the trade deadline. But perhaps this is just the beginning.
There are many rumors that the Royals are to be sellers as well. The reigning World Series champs are reportedly seeking a king’s ransom for closer Wade Davis — who was placed on the disabled list over the weekend — and are dangling the freshly signed Ian Kennedy with a true sense of buyer’s remorse.
Likewise, after a hot start, there is clubhouse trouble with the second team in the Second City. A cold stretch coupled with a bizarre clubhouse incident has heated up White Sox trade rumors to include Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, and the newly acquired James Shields.
In essence, by selling at the trade deadline, all three of the above listed teams are looking to get worse in the short term for a shot to be better in the long term. By losing Nunez, the Twins are slightly worse this season. How much worse? Before dealing Nunez, the Twins were projected to earn 0.7 WAR from the shortstop position with Nunez projecting 0.6 WAR alone. Now, with an increased number of projected plate appearances, the Twins project 0.5 WAR at shortstop for the remainder of the season (headlined by Eduardo Escobar). Not a big difference, right? That would be the seemingly easy mistake to make.
The Twins, as a team (position players and pitchers combined), were projected to produce 10.4 WAR as a team over the remainder of the season prior to the Nunez trade. Now, they are projected to produce 10.2 WAR, a two percent drop. Still doesn’t seem like a lot, right? No, 0.2 WAR over the course of a full season is not ultimately impactful. But it when you consider there are roughly 60 games left in the season and even more so when you take the remaining schedules into account.
As of last week, FanGraphs projected that the Tigers had the easiest remaining schedule in the American League. With 60 games remaining, they have 28 games against the Royals, Twins, and White Sox. That schedule becomes even easier if each of those three teams sell (or in the Twins case, continue to sell). If each of those teams were two percent worse over a course of 28 games, that would essentially equate to over an extra half projected win for the Detroit Tigers. Except that if the Royals trade Davis or Kennedy, or the White Sox trade any of the aforementioned pitchers, it will impact their teams much more than losing Yankees castoff turned All-Star Eduardo Nunez. This could ultimately equate to a win or two over the remainder of the season.
Now again, a win or two doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Except that it is. Outside of the Indians (projected to finish with 91 wins), every other contending team in the American League currently projects to finish the season with 88-89 wins. Currently, on Fangraphs playoffs odds page, the Tigers currently project to win 85.3 games. One or two wins might mean the difference between making the Wild Card or not. And with the way the Tigers roster is currently constructed, this opportunity may not present itself past next year or for many years to follow.
The Tigers are essentially all-in for both 2016 and 2017 — and they might have already mortgaged the 2018 and 2019 seasons, too.
Perhaps harvesting wins off of depleted division rivals in August/September will lead to a few more games this October.
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Christopher Yheulon is a contributor to Bless You Boys and firmly believes that Lou Whitaker should be in the Hall of Fame.