Frankly, this isn’t all that noteworthy a news item. It’s just been an eerily quiet trading season to date. The additional wild card spot certainly seems to be having an effect on the usual busy trading season. Teams that expected to contend and are in good position atop their divisions may actually feel less pressure than normal to do anything notable at the trade deadline. On the other hand that extra wild card spot has left many teams still on the fence line trying to decide if they’re buying to try and swing their way into a strong stretch drive, or selling to better prepare for 2023.
The Detroit Tigers have no such indecisiveness.
As expected, Ken Rosenthal writing for The Athletic reports confirmation from rival executives that general manager Al Avila is willing to trade just about anything not nailed down including their top starting pitcher Tarik Skubal. Of course, being open to listening on anyone is pretty far from actually engaging in a total firesale that would leave one wondering how you “rebuild” something you never “rebuilt” in the first place. Stirring up interest and encouraging wide-ranging conversations on players is just sound strategy this time of year.
The Tigers quite obviously have many deficits as a team, but the equation is actually pretty simple in the end. The team needs offense. Even assuming some flukiness to this year’s debacle, right now there isn’t a single bat, other than rookies Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, who is likely to be projected as an above average hitter next season. In the assets column the Tigers do have substantial pitching talent and a development system and head pitching coach who have shown themselves quite adept at developing talent.
The problem is obviously that Al Avila has completely lost the fanbase. There has rarely been so loud and sustained vote of no confidence from a non-Lions Detroit fanbase. The very reason the Tigers are in the spot they’re in is that Avila failed pretty miserably through his first five years as general manager, acquiring and developing very little talent over the full seven years of his tenure despite a wealth of assets available when he took over.
Were there a few good position player prospects beyond Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson at the Triple-A level, it would be a lot easier to say the Tigers should just deal a few relievers and re-load for next season. Those same failings make it impossible for the average Tigers’ fan to trust Avila to get a good return for a talented young pitcher like Skubal.
Sources: Tigers willing to trade Tarik Skubal and “just about everyone.”https://t.co/8XmSF6u2GM— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2022
Rosenthal’s report sounds an awful lot like the capitulation of a team about to tear it down and start over. Of course, one wonders how you can go into “rebuild” mode when you’ve yet to build or rebuild anything. But the truth is simpler. The Tigers aren’t going to start over from scratch, and they should absolutely be taking this posture and expressing a willingness to listen to any offers for any players other than Riley Greene.
Now, they certainly better get quite a haul if they actually do trade Tarik Skubal, and that haul better involve a good major league ready bat and more, even if it takes sweetening the deal with a reliever as well. Skubal isn’t an ace, but he is a young pitcher with excellent stuff who has flashed top tier performance in various stretches. We can go back to Michael Fulmer circa 2017 to see how these things often don’t work out the way we’d hope. Sure Skubal might continue to develop and stay healthy, eventually turning into a legitimate number one starter. But that’s still not very likely. If a team is wiling to commit a blue chip position prospect or a good young major league hitter and more, the Tigers have to consider it.
This certainly isn’t where any of us want to be eight seasons since the organization last saw the postseason. But under the circumstances, putting this open-ended “for sale” sign in the Tigers’ yard is the smart approach. You want teams to be interested and to look deeper than just the obvious trade candidates. You want the Tigers to come up as possible partners in three-team deals and the like. The more conversations that can be generated, the more information the Tigers can gather on how to proceed. That still doesn’t mean a big deal is going to pan out.
The fundamental problem is obviously that few have confidence in the front office, and so anything they do is going to produce anger and dread from the fans. The Tigers themselves can’t concern themselves with that. We’d love to see a new general manager. I’ve been calling for a new one since late 2017 myself, watching as the team failed to modernize its development and scouting and made one mistake after another without any semblance of a timeframe or plan to get the franchise back on course. But that’s not our call.
Maybe they’ll trade Tarik Skubal, or maybe they’ll simply deal their veteran relievers who will be gone at season’s end anyway. But until Chris Ilitch finally hears the fans and makes a change, Al Avila is running the show, and we’ll just have to hope that his new young lieutenants and others like AJ Hinch who have some sway over the decision-making, can help steer this trade deadline season in a positive direction. We don’t expect this to turn into a fire sale, but they certainly need to get this right whether their moves are minor or major in scale. Another big mistake and this franchise may be aground for years to come.
Ed. Note: The Tigers brought back Daniel Norris today on a minor league deal with plans to stretch him out to start. Take that for what it’s worth in terms of stirring the pot.