Should the Tigers SELL?

The trade deadline isn’t exactly rapidly approaching but it is getting close enough that deals are being discussed, both between GMs and between fans and sports writers. The assumption is that the Tigers are almost, but not quite, good enough to win the division as is. What do teams do in such circumstances? They buy, obviously.

I’m here to argue a counterpoint: in what is shaping up to be quite the sellers market (as John Verburg pointed out earlier) perhaps it would be in the Tigers best interests to sell.

June 19, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch (26) receives congratulations from manager Jim Leyland (10) after scoring during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The immediate conclusion you will leap to “Chris, you want to give up on the 2012 season!” isn’t really an accurate one. I care very much about this season (as, most certainly, does Mike Illitch) and the Tigers may not be leading the Central but they are far from out of contention. But… I also care about the 2013 season AND I’m not confident that Tigers regulars who have been muddling through thus far in 2012 will turn things around in the second half. The Tigers do have a large number of arbitration eligibles next year and relatively few guys who will stay close to the league minimum. The Tigers might be able to trade regulars who will either be gone in 2013 or require big arbitration paydays in exchange for prospects who could actually play better than said regulars have thus far in 2012. So… who would I dangle to see what desperate wild card chasers would offer?

1. Delmon Young. That’s a no brainer. Young is going to be gone and hasn’t done, really, enough to justify his at-bats as is. He probably doesn’t have a lot of value on the market, but you never know what somebody is willing to pay. For teams on a budget, the fact that he is a free agent in the fall is a plus (compared to a guy like Alfonso Soriano, for example).

2. Brennan Boesch. Boesch has value and talent, but has not – for the most part – produced what we require thus far this season. Questions (red flags really) now abound as to whether we should expect (not hope) that Boesch will be an above average all around corner outfielder at any point in his career. He’s also going to be getting a nice arbitration raise this offseason. SELL HIGH!

3. Rick Porcello. Porcello is young, has plenty of wins under his belt and great stuff. He is also little but unfulfilled potential. The fact that his velocity is way up this year should be attractive, despite the fact that he has struggled to keep balls in the park or in the direction of defenders. He’s going to be getting a nice raise and to make matters worse, his style is terribly suited to the Tigers defensive abilities.

4. Jose Valverde. Lets wait for the guy to come back from the DL and perform, but then it’s probably time for him to go. He is not going to be a part of the 2013 Detroit Tigers, who will need to find a new closer somewhere. He also has not pitched well enough thus far to actually deserve that role. But… if some contender finds itself short-handed in the bullpen, he might seem like an attractive option – especially if the Tigers pick up some of the tab.

5. Ryan Raburn. Fans have been demanding that Ryan Raburn be traded for a while, the problem is that despite his affordable price tag he’s typically either hitting so poorly that nobody would want him or so well that you don’t really want to give him up. If Raburn starts to show some signs of life between now and the deadline, I’d try to find a taker – there is no way the Tigers should be comfortable giving him another starting job next season no matter how well he performs over the season’s final months.

6. Quintin Berry. Berry has done some good things while Dirks has been out, but will basically lose his opportunity to play here once that happens. For a fifth outfielder with wheels, the Tigers have other internal options. He has played so well, though, that he could actually fetch a middling prospect in return – which is a pretty great return on investment for a minor league free agent.

7. Phil Coke. Coke is a solid contributor to this team – make no mistake – but he also happens to be blocking a lot of decent youngsters in Toledo who aren’t likely to be able to contribute in any capacity other than middle relief. I’m sure somebody would be willing to give up something to get him…

So… if those are the guys I’d be dangling, what should the Tigers be looking for in return? Well… they might be looking for prospects to flip in three-way deals to get young major-league talent. OR… probably more likely, they should be looking for guys who have earned an opportunity to play in the bigs already but are being blocked by guys on contenders’ existing rosters. In particular, they should be looking for a potential relief ace, a potential middle infielder and a potential corner outfielder (to join Andy Dirks when he returns from the DL). If Porcello was traded away, I would expect the team to either install Jacob Turner in his spot or dig up an innings eating veteran to occupy the slot for the remainder of 2012 (with Turner in 2013). Although Porcello is certainly more talented than any innings eater (like Livan Hernandez, for example) he hasn’t been getting better results.

In a nutshell: the Tigers could look to deal away vets with track records who haven’t been helping the team win thus far – to other teams more desperate for help who would be willing to gamble on seeing these guys rebound. In exchange the Tigers could get youngsters who might or might not excel (and fill a role for many years to come) but probably wouldn’t actually perform worse than the current guys have thus far. In a sense, the team gets ‘better’ now – though that same improvement could come just as easily by standing pat and hoping for mean regression. In addition, the Tigers would get more talent and more certainty at less cost for the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. If the Tigers do nothing with these guys (and maybe deal away some prospects for a Carlos Quentin) some of them will be gone after the season with nothing in return, and for those guys who are underperforming – if they don’t turn things around mid-season, they won’t have any value whatsoever after the season in the trade market, and the Tigers will be stuck paying them AND looking for upgrades through free agency.

Silly? Tell us your thoughts.

Topics: Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, Rick Porcello

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  • http://www.DoctorDaveT.com/ DoctorDaveT

    My first thought: “Sellers? My Tigers in 2012?” But, I decided to read the rest of the article….
    1. Delmon Young – trade him for any low cost prospect would probably be fine.
    2. Boesch – not sure about this; when he’s on, he’s good. But otherwise…. Is he a AAAA player? If you can turn him into a hot infield prospect, then I’m for it.
    3. Porcello – this guy is worth a ton. IF you’re ready for both Smyly and Turner in the rotation, OK. But if you do that, you are really messing with your playoff chances. He’s the most important cog in this list. IF you trade him, you’re talking about multiple TOP prospects. Multiple. TOP.
    4. Valverde. IF you think Villareal is ready for the job, then OK. No one else on this staff has the makeup for closer. I recognize he may be gone after this season, but this season isn’t a throw away. I think yo have to keep Valverde. He’s the second most important cog on this list; but since he’s the closer – and the Tigers are “starting pitcher rich”, he may have the most value to the Tigers (but not necessarily another team).
    5. Raburn – like Delmon Young, if you can get any low cost prospect, then ship him. Now. (Is it done yet?)
    6. Berry – this is perhaps the most interesting one. I recognize he will not keep playing like this (.333? Are you kidding?!). But… he is playing like this! Speed! Decent (not great, but not bad either) defense! 27! OK, he’s not a kid; but man! Has he played! Of this trio (Raburn, Young, Berry) – he’s the most valuable to the Tigers right now. I guess I let him go in a “2 for 1″ prospect deal; but I might regret that one later on.
    7. Coke – he’s the glue in this bullpen. He goes every day; doesn’t complain. No glory; but just gets it done. Every team needs a lefty out of the pen like that. Now – if one of the AAA starters (Crosby et al) can take his place, AND you can score a TOP prospect (for a lefty MLB quality pitcher! you better believe it should be TOP), then OK.
    But here’s the thing: you can only make one of these trades, or 2 at the most, if one is a P and the other is an OF/DH.
    One more thing: you run the risk of losing NOW in order to win LATER if you move most of these guys (except Young and Raburn). Better be careful what you ask for….

    • ChrisHannum

       @DoctorDaveT If you get A-ball prospects, clearly you run the risk of losing now in order to win later.  If you get major-league ready AAA prospects you can potentially improve the team now in the process of improving the team later – you’re just putting your chips on a different number.  Any gamble makes you risk the agony of regret.

  • BrettWalker

    Delmon/Raburn are no brainers… if you can get anything worthwhile outta them… ship em out.
    Valverde I’m ok with sending out too.  Dotel and Benoit both have closing experience.  Valverde is expendable.  
    I like Berry as a 4th OF/Defensive replacement.  It’d have to be something that’s gonna help the Tigers either this year or next for me to ship him out.
    I think the interesting names here are Boesch and Porcello.  I think both have serious value.  And, to be honest, I’m not sure the Tigers can afford both Scherzer and Porcello long term.  They’re both due big raises via arbitration this year.  I think one of them are very likely to be traded soon.  And, seeing as the Tigers farm system is so barren above A ball (Castellanos and Turner aside), they could use an infusion of talent.  People that will be ready to play soon.  There are some teams with loaded AAA affilliates who are in need of pitching/power, may as well dangle them and see who bites

    • ChrisHannum

       @BrettWalker I like Berry as a pinch-runner, but as a defensive replacement I’d much rather go with Don Kelly – who is better at every position as well as being more versatile.

  • opus132

    I’d quibble about a few of the names here, particularly Coke, but I wholeheartedly agree with the premise. This team is good enough to win a terrible division, but nowhere near as good as Texas or other elite teams.  You don’t win playoff series with one or two good defensive players and up to three outs given away in the batting order.  We have to decide whether or not we wish to be satisfied with a notch or two above abject mediocrity.

    • ChrisHannum

       @opus132 I am becoming more and more convinced that the Tigers can and should be satisfied with a pretty poor defensive infield, but they must make up for that with a good defensive outfield – and I’m talking range and not arms.

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  • saltydog

    Porcello can go with Delmon. should Trade for a top prospect and infield help. The games with the Reds proved what a good SS/2B combo can do for our defense. Wait on Boesch.