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.
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.