As we approach the heart of trade season we are bound to hear the Tigers connected to all sort of players – though it will most likely be centered around a main course of Starting Pitchers with a side of Second Basemen and a dash of Third Basemen sprinkled on top. All sorts of names will be thrown around, with many Tigers fans focusing on the stars from teams like the Dodgers and Astros. Recent history suggests they are looking in the wrong direction though.
Not only that, but I think going after a star is the exact WRONG move for the Tigers to make at this point.
While Dave Dombrowksi has been the GM for the Detroit Tigers, he has a history of making his major moves in the off-season and during the season he tends to acquire complimentary pieces. Even Jhonny Peralta, an All-Star this year, was considered a minor move when he was acquired last year due to both his contract situation (his remaining year was a hefty team option) and his poor performance in 2009 and 2010. I believe that DD thinks the mid-season trade deadline is an opportunity to “plug a hole” rather than to re-shape the team with a big name. There could be several different reasons behind this, but I think the prevailing reason is the premium that is placed on talent at the deadline due to relative rarity.
If you look at two of the biggest deals in recent Tigers history – the ones that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers and the one that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees – probably would/could have never been accomplished during the season due to the sheer amount of talent that changed hands, the standings of the respective clubs involved, and the other prospective suitors for said talent. Simply put, it is harder to make a deal in July than it is in December.
As such, I think we should instead look at attainable targets rather than dream scenario. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of adding another All-Star to the roster, regardless of position. However, I don’t think it is the right move for the Tigers at this time. For one, the Tigers don’t NEED an All-Star, they have 5 players that were named to the All-Star roster and 2 more who could have been in Victor Martinez and Brennan Boesch. What they need, instead, is to add more consistency through the rotation and the batting order. This can be done by replace the below average performance with some average performance (sorry, I am not going to suggest any names the Tigers should pursue, we can save that for another week or two).
The Tigers do not have the strongest of minor league systems, with many experts ranking the Tigers cumulative system in the bottom third of MLB. Due to bad drafting, trades, and a recent youth movement, the Tigers have only a handful of prospects that could bring back top-shelf talent. To make that big-splash trade the Tigers most likely have to send a couple of those top prospects, long with a few mid-level guys out in order to get that one star back. This would even further deplete the Tigers system, essentially assuring its status as one of the worst in baseball.
Instead, it makes more sense to avoid that premium and try for a complimentary player, either a pitcher or position player, who would not cost much in prospects and would allow the Tigers to upgrade from poor/below average performance at a position to average performance. Not only would this keep the farm system relatively in-tact and allow the Tigers to continue to develop young players who can step in for aging veterans, but it could also bring and added dimension of consistency.
While it would be nice to add a .300 hitter or a pitcher with a sub 3.00 ERA this month, that isn’t what the Tigers NEED. The July Deadline is more about needs whereas the off-season is where you address your wants. The Tigers simply need a player (or players) to help stop the roller-coaster within the lineup and the starting rotation. If you couple the stars the Tigers already have with some guys who can give you league average performance down the stretch then that should be enough to carry this team to the playoffs.
Who knows, maybe we can get the best of both worlds and get another Jhonny Peralta type of trade. It is hard to argue with plugging a hole this year for minimal cost and then next year your new player is an All-Star…