There’s been a lot of talk about trades lately, and with good reason. The Tigers are currently fourth in the AL Central with a .446 win percentage. In other words: terrible. They’re not at the bottom, but they have been and may be again if they’re not careful. The bottom line is, this does not seem to be a team that has what it takes to contend.
The unfortunate part of that is knowing that the individual pieces making up the 2017 Tigers are mostly the same ones that narrowly missed a Wild Card spot in 2016. This team should have been winners, especially since this year seemed like their last opportunity to make a play for glory.
Now, with the trade deadline less than a month away, rumor mills are grinding out stories at top speed, and a lot of the narrative is about the Tigers. Will ace Justin Verlander be on the trade block? Is it a foregone conclusion J.D. Martinez will be wearing a different uniform on August first?
Nothing is certain, but it does seem very likely the Tigers lineup will look very different in a few weeks. Both Fan Rag Sports and and MLB Trade Rumors have recently done lineups of the top trade candidates per team, and some familiar names are popping up.
Martinez is easily one of the hottest commodities on the Tigers roster, even though he missed the first season thanks to a fracture in his foot. MLB Trade Rumors has him listed number one in their top 60 trade candidates, pointing to his 1.015 OPS as a major factor.
Fan Rag has at 14 on their list, pointing out that with free agency looming for Martinez next year it’s just a logical move on the Tigers part to see what they can get for the right fielder.
The left-handed reliever and current closer for the Tigers ranks at sixth place on the MLBTR list and 12th on the Fan Rag list. Wilson currently has a 2.96 FIP, a 0.947 WHIP, and if arbitrary numbers are more your thing, he has collected nine saves this season as well. He’d be an ideal target for any team with a struggling bullpen.
Avila wouldn’t normally be the kind of name to appear on this list, especially given his 2015 and 2016 numbers, but with the season the catcher has been having in 2017, he’s going to be a key piece for trade value this year. Avila is 12 on the MLBTR list and 33 on the FanRag list.
MLBTR points to his 16.8 percent walk rate as a marker, where I would be more inclined to mention his .981 OPS. Fan Rag seemed more interested in pointing out Avila was the son of Tigers GM Al Avila, but business is business and it seems unlikely Al or Alex would let their personal relationship get in the way of what’s best for the team, which would likely include a trade. Avila was only signed to a one year contract, so if the team can move him for potential prospects, they’d be silly not to.
You might think this name would be higher on the list, but the fact of the matter is, Verlander is going to be a tough sell this year. MLBTR lists him at 25 on their list, and Fan Rag has him at 69.
The major issue with Verlander, aside from his shaky performance this season, is that a 34 year old pitcher who has pitched 2437 innings in his career isn’t necessarily as exciting a trade piece as the name on the jersey might suggest. Verlander is almost certainly a future Hall of Fame candidate, but he’s also got a hefty contract that the Tigers will want to offload entirely. There are very few teams who have the budget to make that work, and at the end of the day Verlander has total veto power over the trade.
Like Martinez and Avila, Kinsler makes a lot of sense as a trade option. Kinsler has had a slow start to the season, but is still a tremendous defender. MLBTR has him at 36, alongside Justin Upton, while Fan Rag has him a lot higher at 16.
MLBTR notes contract concerns (the $15 million Kinsler will be owed if his 2018 option is picked up), whereas Fan Rag thinks the cost won’t be unreasonable to a team that wants him. Kinsler has started to pick up steam again over the last month and is just coming off a Gold Glove season. He would be an attractive prospect to a team in need of both offensive power and defensive skill.
Speaking of Upton, Fan Rag lists him way down at 72, and for good reason. Upton’s contract is huge, and as Fan Rag points out, “No way he opts of the contract that pays him $22.125 million a year for many more years.” This will be true of several Tigers contracts. So while Upton has been great this year with a .271/.355/.505 line, don’t expect to see him going anywhere.
This is another situation where the contract (not to mention a sluggish performance this year) makes it seem unlikely Cabrera will be donning a different uniform come mid-summer.
Fan Rag lists him just above Justin Verlander, at 68 on their list, but make no statements to suggest he would be a big draw, which is insane considering it’s Miguel Cabrera, and he’s likely to be a first round Hall of Famer. That said, trades at this point are about winning for contenders, and offsetting cost/bringing on new, young talent for those whose window is closing. Cabrera isn’t having the kind of season that would make his contract worthwhile to a contender.
Others mentioned: Jordan Zimmermann, Victor Martinez
Once again, too much contract, too little return on investment.
The sell off, if it comes, is most certainly going to see guys like J.D. Martinez, Alex Avila, and Ian Kinsler gone by August. Less certain is the move of Justin Verlander, who would need to want to go, and would also need a team willing to take on his whole remaining contract. Justin Wilson, and potentially someone like Shane Greene, might be on the block, but their moves are less certain.
The hot stove is definitely warming up.