As talk from the trade deadline finally fades into the background, the dog days of summer still provides plenty of topics to chat about. One would not think that the worst team in Major League Baseball — on pace to set the all-time record for futility, no less — would have anything interesting going on, but here we are.
Because of how putrid the product on the field has become, prospect talk still dominates the discussion, as well as rumblings and grumblings about the state of the Detroit Tigers’ front office. The opinions on the latter range from an absolute absence of faith from a member of the media to a former player who puts his trust in the decision-makers, with the fanbase split between the two.
Fenech drops a bomb
Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press dropped a bomb on the fanbase and media alike with his recent piece on the Tigers’ front office and the rebuild. This scathing piece skewers general manager Al Avila for the underwhelming returns from this past trade deadline, and even reaches back into the past in his harsh — but fair — criticism of the general manager, as well as presents an overall assessment of the Avila era.
The earth-shaking portion of the piece was the revelation of rumors that Avila turned down offers back in 2017 that would have sent then all-star Michael Fulmer to the Chicago Cubs in a three-team deal that would have brought back infielder and 2018 MVP candidate Javier Baez; the other deal was reported to be Fulmer and reliever Justin Wilson for infielder and now two-time all-star Alex Bregman from the Houston Astros. Fenech cited multiple anonymous persons “with knowledge of the talks” as his sources.
MLB Trade Rumors picked up the story and expanded upon it, fleshing out the narrative. The long and the short is that while the missed opportunity to deal Fulmer is starting to look rough in hindsight, every front office has instances of these errors. The bigger issue is that the Tigers have failed to maximize value from any of their top trade assets during the rebuild so far, even if holding on to the former Rookie of the Year was the right decision at the time.
No matter the configuration of any such deal -- Bregman, Baez, "two good players," etc. -- the Tigers believed they had a budding Cy Young pitcher who was worth more. And, to be sure, fans would have been with them, 9 to 1, on just such a swap.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) August 5, 2019
Brandon Inge has faith in the rebuild
Former Tiger and über-athlete Brandon Inge has voiced his faith in the Tigers’ rebuild efforts.
“I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but they’re just buying time until they make a push... I have faith in it. I know the plan. I know what they’re going to do and you just have to ride out those years sometimes.”
Inge was present for the franchise’s previous rebuild. His first year in Detroit was all the way back in 2001, and he played through both the 2003 nadir and the thrilling 2006 World Series run. He acknowledges that how it is constructed will be different than it was over a decade-and-a-half ago, but he also seems to buy into the approach of building through the draft as prescribed by Avila and his team. Perhaps he knows something the fanbase does not, but it is awfully difficult for many to see through his rose-colored glasses.
Player development news
The Detroit News has published a top 50 prospect list using a composite of several different sources, including Bless You Boys and Tigers Minor League Report. The rankings start off with the usual suspects: Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Riley Greene in the first three positions, respectively. The big surprise was Tarik Skubal in the No. 4 slot, and somehow Franklin Perez has managed to hang around at No. 6. The remainder of the list has some interesting results, especially given the mosaic of opinions that went into it.
MLB Pipeline has also released an updated ranking of major league baseball farm systems, with the Tigers surprisingly ascending to No. 6 on the list, up from the 10th position in the preseason report. They are only behind the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively, in overall quality of their prospect pipeline.
Same team atop for 4th straight re-rank.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 6, 2019
2 newcomers to the top 5.
Here's a look at our new rankings of #MLB's top 15 farm systems and how they've changed over the years: https://t.co/v5q6wxQZCt pic.twitter.com/O9GQxRYJFW
FSD’s players-only telecasts axed
After only three “players-only” gameday broadcasts out of 17 scheduled by Fox Sports Detroit, the idea has been nipped in the bud for the remainder of the season due to an overwhelmingly negative response from the viewership. For those fortunate to not have witnessed those three crimes against Tigers fans, the “players-only” telecasts were those consisting of only former Tigers sitting in the booth televising the game. Among those included were Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris, Craig Monroe and Dan Petry — all of whom have roles with the network for the regularly presented events.
While the format had been a bit of a fad in recent years, it was an abject failure for Detroit, especially with the awkward Skype interviews and the general disarray among the guys in the booth as they struggled to find a groove. FSD has not ruled out revisiting the idea in 2020, but at least the fans will be spared from one more disappointment for the rest of this abysmal 2019 season.
The leadoff spot black hole
Jules Posner over at Forbes took a look at the massive black hole that is the leadoff spot in the Tigers’ batting order, and the results were rather disconcerting. Basically, the only player to find even a modicum of success in the role this year was Jeimer Candelario, whose offensive struggles have seen him moved around the lineup and back-and-forth from Toledo. In comparison to the other batters who have seen significant time in the top slot — Niko Goodrum, JaCoby Jones, Victor Reyes and Josh Harrison — Candelario is the only one who grades out at least league average, with a wRC+ of exactly 100 when batting first.
To be fair, the entire Tigers lineup is pretty much a gaping offensive void, so the numbers are not terribly surprising. However, manager Ron Gardenhire has failed to get creative in light of this issue, seemingly trying to mash square pegs into the round hole. With no hope for winning this season, much less being competitive, the team should be trying out as many lineup combinations as possible to see what sticks, including taking some unorthodox approaches with the top slot. At very least, Harrison should never be penned in first on the lineup card ever again.
Tigers Players’ Weekend nicknames
If you are confused by “Todd the Painter”, worry not — most of the rest of us are too. Sadly, a good handful of these nicknames are pretty dull, and John Hicks is the last person one would associate with jazz. “Stinchcomb”, however, is an intriguing one that we need the backstory to. Also, with the trade deadline less than a week in the past, it looks like Nicholas Castellanos’ old moniker has been quickly commandeered by Harold Castro.
Around the horn
Juan Nieves rebuilt Matt Hall in Toledo. How the Tigers landed Hall of Famer Sam Crawford when he signed with two teams at the same time. The moral hazard of GMs playing it safe at the trade deadline. Tony Gwynn’s legacy is stronger than ever. FanGraphs’ bullpen report includes former Tiger Shane Greene. Baseball Prospectus looks at ground ball pitchers in a strikeout world. The new ball has made 2019 a season unlike any other. The Onion: “Man told he’d never make it as a pro defies them all by sucking for 4 years in AA ball”. Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond drinks beer as part of his training diet. Seattle Mariners’ Tim Beckham suspended 80 games for testing positive for a PED.