Tigers Could Be Busy At Trade Deadline

I know I shouldn’t venture this far forward into a season. Baseball is a funny game, and often times the unexpected grabs hold of a team and leads them down a path in which they did not expect to tread. All we have to do is look back at the 2008 Detroit Tigers to see how these things turn out sometimes. Regardless of how the coming season is going to play out, I can’t imagine a scenario in which the 2012 Detroit Tigers aren’t at least in a Central division race come July 31st, the non-waiver trading deadline.

If they aren’t, it will be a shock to us all.

It’s debatable that the Tigers will be improved in 2012 from 2011. The loss of Victor Martinez was offset by the addition of Prince Fielder. We can reasonably expect a drop-off in performance from guys like Justin Verlander, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta. Their defense could be an issue that leads to a few more games ending up on the wrong side of the column as well. On the other hand, the Tigers will have Doug Fister for a whole season, Max Scherzer is capable of better, and there is room for improvement from Austin Jackson as well. Given that the Tigers out-performed their Pythagorean record last season by 6 games, it would not surprise me in the least if they topped out at around 90 wins.

That should be plenty in the Central division. The Central division isn’t the Tigers ultimate goal however. If owner Mike Ilitch was putting all his chips down on a roulette table, his number would be 2012, and the bottom line is, despite the Fielder addition, this 2012 version of the Tigers still has some holes.

The good thing is, the Tigers are set up nicely to fix them.

We’ve talked quite a bit on this site this off-season about a couple positions of need in particular. The most glaring perhaps are 2B and LF, and depending on the performance of some of the Tigers youngsters, a 5th starter and some relief pitching might be of need as well.

While this off-season had been incredibly boring up until the Fielder signing, it has been smart of Dombrowski to take his time in identifying players for his teams needs. There just hasn’t been the type of players on the market that could help this teams needs at this point. Come July, these things tend to change when we find out who is in a playoff race and who isn’t. Players with decent sized contracts become available for prospects. Players with impending free agency become available as well.

If the collection of options the Tigers have at their positions of needs can’t do the job, I have no doubt David Dombrowski will find some players to help. He did it last year with Doug Fister, Wilson Betemit, and Delmon Young. None of those guys cost the Tigers an arm and a leg, and if you look closely, the situation could easily develop again for the Tigers to be major players in the trade market.

While the Tigers farm system isn’t stocked with upper tier talent, it does have one commodity that is noteworthy. I speak of pitching of course. One of the reasons the Tigers have been able to be choosy in looking for a fifth starter this spring is, they have have a lot of options in the upper minors to battle it out. Duane Below, Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby, Drew Smyly, and Jacob Turner are six options for one spot. Even if one of those becomes a bullpen arm, that leaves four making their return to the minor leagues. This is where they can build their value for the deadline, a la Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin in 2011.

I completely expect that even if the Tigers are running away with the Central come July, they are still going to make some moves. After all, it’s not about just winning their division. It’s about winning a World Series, and every team is going to have flaws at that point in the season. The Tigers and David Dombrowski are obviously aware of what those are, and not a lot of people have shown a better aptitude for finding solutions than the Tigers GM.

We fans are already set up for what should be a good season in 2012, and come July, it could get even better.


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Tags: Chance Ruffin Charlie Furbush Dave Dombrowski Detroit Tigers Doug Fister

  • Al Kaline

    But on the other hand, if injuries strike, a couple players have bad years and the Tigers venture down the road of 2008 Delmon Young, Inge, Papa Grande and Jhonny Peralta are probably traded and Restructuring begins for 2013. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trade that brought over a player like Peralta when the Tigers were out of it in 2010 because a trade like that will help fill the holes that the Tigers will be facing in 2013.

    • jgorosh

      @Al Kaline It makes little sense to trade Papa Grande, unless there is someone to replace him. I have no problem trading Peralta right now even, I feel as if his value is at an all time high, and I don’t think it will ever be this high again.

      • woodnick

        @jgorosh @Al Kaline If, big if, the Tigers are tanking like they did in ’08 than I’d trade Valverde for a solid prospect in return. Due to the new comp. rules in the new cba, it is very unlikely to offer Valverde a $12mill/yr contract so we wouldn’t get a good return on him if he leaves us after the season.

        In the meantime, Benoit could probably fill in as the closer for a floundering team down the stretch.

  • woodnick

    It will be interesting to see which teams don’t play well this year. Arizona was always a team that would be a good bet, but with Gibson there I just don’t see them flopping. I could easily see the Marlins trying to dump payroll at the deadline if they start slow or if there is another JJ injury.

  • doc680

    You make a good point about Dombroski’s ability to plug holes with undervalued talent and I also expect him to be very active with trades. However, I expect it much sooner, May-June, than you. Going into the off season the Tigers had 4 basic problems: the rotation after Fister; third base; second base; and, centerfield. In December, the injury to Martinez added a fifth problem.

    The Tigersdid sign Fielder to solve the lack of Martinez and push Cabrera to third, poentially solving two problems. Worst case scenario is Cabrera being a bust in the field and either he or Prince becomes the most expensive DH in the league, with Inge back at third.

    Assuming the best, that still leaves three problems. If Scherzer and Porcello can hold down the tird and fourth slot in the rotation, there should be enough young arms to platoon the fifth starter spot. Still no reason to panic; last year the Tigers won with Bad Penny and a committee.

    Dombrowski could have made a move at second base during free agency, but the pickings were slim and overpriced. Reyes was probably the best out there at the time Detroit was very content cutting payroll and only the Marlins seemed interested enough to sign a player with debatable team spirit. Stars don’t take themselves out of games when they reach bonus milestones like Reyes did to the Mets. Worst case scenarioo: Santiago-Rayburn platoon again until the rotation “commitee” gets sorted out. By June, Dombrowski will be looking to trade some arms for a skill player at second who can also lead off..

    That leaves us with the last problem, Jackson. But everybody is only talking about his strikeouts and lack of walks, which is only half of the problem. Last year, during the playoffs, Jackson showed us that he is not the kind of take charge guy the position demnds. He became increasing timid during the New York series as balls that should have been caught fell in for singles and hits in the gaps became triples. It was even worse in the Texas series to the point that Rayburn had a 2 base error on a ball in right center that Jackson didn’t want any part of. If Jackson gets off to a slow start this April, I look for Dombrowski to put a deal together for a centerfield-leadoff hitter in May. If I was Leyland, I’d mke sure Boesch, Kelly and Dirks get some serious looks in center during spring training.