It’s mid June, and a team that finished last in the A.L. Central in 2008 sits two games in front of the Minnesota Twins. No, this squad isn’t the supposed offensive juggernaut that ownership bought last season. Though the top of the rotation has been nothing short of amazing, the bottom half has continued to struggle. Dontrelle Willis can’t throw strikes. Jeremy Bonderman, who was supposed to be the savior once he returned to the rotation, finds himself on the D.L. after serving up 89 MPH fat ones. Armando Galarraga has fallen back to earth with his ERA nearing six. Jim Leyland has spotted it as well, and though he will remain in the rotation (what other option is there?) Leyland will be watching his performance over the next few weeks for performance.
“It looks to me like he’s hanging sliders more and behind (in the count) too much,” Leyland said. “He’s not throwing enough first-strike fastballs. Then he gets behind and he’s hanging his slider.”
The struggles have continued for the Motor City Bengals, even on offense. Miguel Cabrera is obviously hurt. The left field position has the worst production rate in the Major Leagues. It doesn’t seem that Carlos Guillen will return anytime soon, if at all. The Tigers still remain in first place, but for some reason, the future just looks grim from the outside. Maybe it is because it was what was expected of this ball club this season. Maybe it is simply because in the back of my mind, I know that Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson can’t be as lights out as they have all year. Justin Verlander has yet to put together a full season in the Major Leagues. Brandon Inge has been a major piece of the offense in 2009, but his average continues to drop. Inge is now hitting .264 this season.
Maybe it is because I didn’t expect this team to be in this position at this time. Maybe it was because I assumed, like many fans, that ownership wouldn’t help this team out if they were in contention. The Tigers made it clear this off-season that cheap was the way to go. But now, the Tigers fine owner himself is having a mid (err late) life crisis. His Wings were supposed to win a championship. Now, he is willing to do what it takes to help a first place team do something special.
“We’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do,” Ilitch said. “We’re three games in first. What are we going to do? There are a lot of things that we can do. We’re going to try to improve one way or the other.”
Does that mean adding payroll? According to Drew Sharp of the Free Press, yes. It could also mean buying out talent such as Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson. If I were to speculate, I would think that Mike Illitch would go out with a bang. If he is going to add payroll, it would have to make ticket sales increase, alongside merchandise revenue. That makes me believe it has to be a top notch starting pitcher or power bat. Names that have been thrown out include: Adam Dunn, Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, and Jeff Francouer. The Tigers do need to add some offense, but what if the Tigers could add another strong starter such as Erik Bedard, Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee?
Though Lee is never an option, despite being a free agent next year, could you imagine if the Tigers had a top tier three man rotation down the stretch? What if the Blue Jays were interested in taking a Rick Porcello and other prospects for their stud pitcher who is reportedly on the market. Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson would be able to compete with the best top threes in the league. Imagine if you could acquire a Halladay without giving up Rick Porcello. Those first four starters would make it hard for the A.L. Central to compete. If Mike Ilitch does love his Tigers, he will think about adding another top arm. Though it is obvious that the Tigers do need offensive help.
One arm that I would really love the Tigers to add would be Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox. The deal doesn’t make sense though. The young Red Sox arm has made it clear his frustration of waiting to make it back to the majors, but he is part of a long term plan in that rotation, that includes Justin Masterson, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard. With Junichi Tazawa emerging at AA Portland, and 2008 first round Casey Kelly going to the mound, The sox might be willing to give up on Clay. His performance in 2009 has been nothing short of spectacular. In 11 starts for AAA Pawtucket, Buchholz has thrown 67 innings, striking out 59 and only giving up 13 runs. His WHIP is 0.82. The question would be, “what would it take?” The Red Sox organization lacks a true outfield prospect, now that they have dealt Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick hasn’t improved at AA, Wilkin Ramirez could become a back up option if the Red Sox can’t sign Jason Bay for the 2010 season.
This is just a blogger’s wish as he puts on the GM slippers and sips on his coffee on a Wednesday evening. There is no rumor swirling that the Red Sox would even think about trading pitching (do you blame them for not wanting to?). Other prospects the Tigers could end up trading do include Cale Iorg, Ryan Perry, Wilkin Ramirez, Casper Wells, and first baseman Ryan Strieby. Strieby has 14 homers, Ramirez has a .346 OBP at AAA Toledo, Wells is struggling and hitting below .250 at AA Erie, and Iorg continues to struggle, hitting just .213.
In order to get something, your going to have to give up something as well. I would be able to give up Rick Porcello for the right return. Would other Tigers fans?