Just over an hour after the Detroit Tigers released former closer Francisco Rodriguez, general manager Al Avila told the media that the team would be open to trade offers starting immediately. According to Avila, the Tigers won’t actively pursue any deals, but they will listen to offers and see if the right deals fall into their lap
Though he did not explicitly say the Tigers would be looking to sell off spare parts, the team’s recently play suggests this would be the case. They enter Friday’s game against the San Diego Padres with a 32-40 record. They are currently in last place in the AL Central, and have just three more wins than those lowly Padres on the year. Injuries to stars like Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez are part of the reason for their slide — one that Avila thinks they could recover from — but poor performance from key pieces are a major reason for their decline.
Unfortunately, Avila’s words don’t sound all that different from the stance the organization took last winter. He promised the team would get younger and faster on day one of the offseason, but the team’s only notable moves were trading Cameron Maybin and signing Alex Avila. Rumors flew fast and loose about Kinsler, Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, and even Miguel Cabrera, but nothing came close to getting done.
The 2017 Tigers were always a risky proposition. Teetering on the edge of contention over the past couple seasons, the Tigers had to answer several questions positively if they were to improve on last year’s 86-75 record. Through inaction, the front office put its faith in the same core that led it to the doorstep of the postseason in 2016. This year, that core has failed. Verlander has been a shell of the pitcher that should have won last year’s American League Cy Young Award. Miguel Cabrera has battled through injuries, but has not looked like the Cabrera of old. Kinsler and Nick Castellanos have struggled at times, and young pitchers like Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd have not maintained the flashes of improvement they showed in 2016.
If the team continues to struggle, they could force Avila’s hand. The team would arguably be foolish to hang onto J.D. Martinez even if they were in the thick of the playoff race; keeping him through the deadline while staying in last place would be malpractice. Justin Wilson could also fetch a decent prospect or two — the Washington Nationals are already interested — and there are a few other players on the roster that could bring back a nice return in the right deal.
However, it’s hard to believe the general manager when we’ve already heard this speech before.