It’s only June 24, but the Detroit Tigers are already open for business. General manager Al Avila told reporters on Friday that the team would listen to trade offers as they come in, and not necessarily wait until July to decide their fate. While he didn’t explicitly say so, Avila’s comments suggested the team has already decided to sell.
However, there are various degrees of selling, and they have been debated tirelessly in the Bless You Boys comments over the past few weeks. Should the team only trade pending free agent J.D. Martinez? Or are they better served having a fire sale, getting rid of everything not bolted down in hopes of expediting a full rebuild?
Personally, I don’t want to see huge changes. The Tigers should sell off pending free agents like J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila, as well as field offers for relievers like Justin Wilson and Shane Greene. Longer term contracts like Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler will be more difficult to move, and their performance this season has probably diminished their value enough that the return won’t be what the Tigers are hoping for. Improvement from the team’s young pitching plus any additions made either at the deadline or this offseason could put them back into contention. There is no rush to trade the big names on the roster.
Let’s ask the rest of the staff, though.
This week's question: What should the Tigers do at the trade deadline?
Cameron: The Tigers should go into teardown mode at the deadline. As much as it pains me to say this, waving goodbye to J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Alex Avila, along with bullpen arms like Wilson-squared and Shane Greene now will be a worthwhile endeavor. While J.D. is the most valuable of the group, moving other pieces now will help to add some depth to a farm system that desperately needs it. Don't expect to land a top 25 prospect for any of these guys, but getting something in return for the future is better than allowing them to waste away in the present. Justin Verlander is underperforming and Miguel Cabrera's contract is unmovable, so I don't see them going anywhere, which puts the Tigers in a sticky situation given some of their big contracts. However, it's clear the club isn't going to compete this season, and next year also looks bleak at the moment. The focus now should be on acquiring young assets, and that focus will allow the Tigers to continue losing, assuring them a top-10 draft pick next year.
Brandon: The question is also, what can the Tigers do? I find it hard to believe that they are going to be able to move Verlander right now. If he was pitching like last year it would be easier. I also don't see good reason to do it unless you're getting a high quality prospect package back; you won't, even if the Tigers pay part of his salary. Teams are all over the idea of selling off everything not nailed down at the deadline. It's going to be a market heavily weighted to the buyers.
So, J.D. as the premier bat available should get you a good prospect. I would try to move Upton too, but that feels iffy as teams aren't going to know if they are getting a half season, or a long, multi-year contract. Alex Avila, Justin Wilson... these are your pieces to sell. Building the bridge without saddling the team with further multi-year deals is the play, in my opinion. SELL EVERYTHING... well, that just isn't a reasonable stance or expectation.
Jeff: The Tigers are stuck. Their television contract is about to expire, so they can't afford to lose too many fans in this rebuilding process. That means keeping their most popular players around, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. However, they don't have enough talent to compete at the moment and they don’t have enough money to increase payroll. Therefore, they either do nothing or only sell off as much as needed. Under a full rebuild, Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, Justin Wilson, and maybe Jose Iglesias and Nick Castellanos would get traded. However, they cannot afford to trade too many players that fans completely lose interest and the Tigers lose out on a big TV deal.
Jay: The theme of this year's trade deadline ought to be "Sell, Sell, Sell!" The mighty Tigers of recent years are no longer, and it has been made very clear that owner Chris Ilitch is unwilling to add salary to make the team better. That means that in order to upgrade a position of need, Avila would have to work out a trade for a cost-controlled young starter. That would cost such a haul of prospects it would be foolish to even pursue a trade. That leaves two options: standing pat or selling. Standing pat would be foolish as well. There is almost no chance the Tigers somehow transform into a championship team anytime soon without any roster change. Avila should go into this with the mindset that he needs to sell, but tread carefully. If everything goes well, the Tigers farm will become very good, but it is unlikely that teams will pay the army of prospects that the Tigers’ stars once would have commanded. However, a few good trades could help ensure a better future for Detroit's ball club.
Kyle: The Tigers should approach the deadline as definite sellers, but not as a team looking for a complete teardown. The roster is still burdened by large contracts to aging stars, making players like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera essentially untradeable. However, these players still hold value to the Tigers and could help the team win in the future. They need to approach the 2017 trade deadline like they did a few years ago. They may not have David Price and Yoenis Cespedes to sell, but the Tigers should be looking for returns who can contribute in the very near of future. Picking up young, cost-controlled pieces to fill out the rest of the roster is the only way the team can move forward. Aside from the young arms in the rotation and the albatross contracts, the Tigers should be taking calls on just about everyone else. J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Justin Wilson may not bring back A+ hauls, but the prospects who Detroit would receive will be much more important to the club than a season or two more of these older, more expensive players.
Jake: It hurts me to say this as somebody who was firmly optimistic about this team heading into this season and as recently as a few weeks ago, but this team looks like they should be selling at the deadline. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, because of injury or the cruel grind of aging, are not playing to the level that they need to for the Tigers to contend. Throw in an awful bullpen and a shaky rotation, and I don't see this team going on the tear it needs. J.D. Martinez should probably be dealt even if the Tigers are still in the mix for a Wild Card spot. The returnwould hopefully be the type of player that instantly becomes a top 10 prospect in their farm system. Kinsler might have value to someone, though I don't think there's a contender with a glaring hole at second base. Jose Iglesias should be on the table for the right offer, given the presence of Dixon Machado on the roster. Justin Wilson should be gone as well, though the return for him might be underwhelming. I feel very good about the pitching prospects in the Tigers farm system — if the Tigers can strategically replenish the farm by acquiring a couple of nice position player prospects, the future would start to look a little less bleak.
Ashley: I don't have much to add since people have covered most of my feelings, but the bottom line is the Tigers need to do something. I personally hope that something is to sell, build up their prospects, do something like what the Chicago White Sox are doing. I just can't stand the idea of the Tigers doing nothing yet again at the trade deadline. This isn't a team that can win the way they are, so it's time to start looking to the future and seeing what they can get back to contention in 2020. Plus there's something kind of exciting about the prospect of a rebuild, as heartbreaking as it will be to lose some beloved players. Trading J.D. Martinez now just makes sense, and anyone else that can get a decent return.
Comerica Eric: If I've learned anything from movies, we need to either:
1. Add a golden retriever
2. Expose the fact that our owner is a sexy woman trying to sabotage the team
3. Hire Jonah Hill, discover on-base percentage, and ignore three stud pitchers
Peter: The Tigers need to maximize whatever value they have in their departing free agents and get as much talent for the future as they can. J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila should be hot commodities, and the Tigers don't get anything for hanging onto them. Beyond that, I'd start listening on everyone that teams want to ask about. From the difficult-to-move Verlander and Cabrera, to the hyper-valuable Fulmer and Norris, field all the offers you can. The Tigers need to time things so that the next time they expect to have enough talent to contend, the core is peaking at the same time. The Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago Cubs have done this beautifully. There will be some hard years ahead but if the Tigers’ front office wants to contend as a cost-effective franchise, this is how you do it.
Kurt: The Tigers' window has been closing for years. Giving it one last push made some sense, when you consider owner Mike Ilitch really wanted a World Series victory and wouldn't be around for a rebuild. But alas, the time has come. They can have a shorter one but first they will need to find their way out of as many contracts as possible, which — yes — means seeing what kind of deal they can get for Verlander and Cabrera. Otherwise, trading J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler are no brainers, and listening to all offers for pretty much anyone but Michael Fulmer makes some sense to me, too. A reckoning is coming. Let's just get to it and get back to competitive baseball as fast as possible.
Ron: As of now the Tigers should sell at the deadline. Selling will allow them to gain a few prospects for down the road and hopefully shed some money in the process. They likely won’t get another Michael Fulmer or Daniel Norris, but it’s not hard to fathom a couple of decent prospects heading this way depending on the market. I wouldn’t say the decision to sell is set into stone — it’s baseball, anything can happen. If the Tigers go on a run between then and now, however unlikely, that must be taken into account and should cause adjustment in course. We’ll have to wait and hope all the pieces that were suppose to fall into place as the season progresses actually do. It’s never over until the Tigers are mathematically eliminated.