With the trade deadline looming and Jon Morosi continuously throwing dead-end rumors up left and right, it seems about time to examine what the Tigers could do at the trade deadline. Except, for this article, the list of things will be according to what I’d like to see them do – each suggestion will come with a “Reality Factor” rating, which gauges just how plausible each scenario really would be on a scale of 1 to 10 (Don’t worry – I harbor no illusions that I know more then Dave Dombrowski, nor do I think any of these particular avenues of acquisition have any grounds in real-life).
1) Lock Down Reliever: As has been discussed ad nauseum among Tigers writers and fans this year, the bullpen needs one more piece to make things feel just about right. Yet over the last few weeks the Tigers have stumbled across a formula that seems to really be working with Rondon, Smyly, and Benoit (not that yours truly suggested it at all before it came to pass…). Should DD trade for another reliever and mess with a potentially winning formula? Well, yeah.
We’ve learned a harsh lesson as fans the last several years of contention that a team can never have too many quality arms in the bullpen. During the WS run of ’06 the Tigers sported a pretty solid collection of guys (Jamie Walker, Joel Zumaya, Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney, and Jason Grilli, among others) who all helped in the regular and post season. This seems to be in sharp contrast with the last two years, where it seemed like Detroit leaned very heavily on Valverde and Benoit and everyone else just kinda came and went without rhyme or reason.
This season, and a couple seasons prior, I’ve been fascinated with Luke Gregerson of the San Diego Padres. His K/9 rate has been stellar since he was acquired by the Padres prior to 2009, save for the 2011 season, and his xFIP has always been pretty damn good (save for, again, 2011). He doesn’t give up homers, his BABIP is very reasonable, and his walk rate has been trending downward. His fastball has stayed pretty consistent at an average of 87.8 mph, topping out in the low-90′s, and his slider, arguably his best pitch, stays in the low-80′s and has very good movement. And the cherry is that he’s under team control through next season, and only 29 years old.
The problem with this is that in the offseason the Tigers offered up Rick Porcello to the Padres for either Huston Street (who is seemingly perpetually on the trading block) or Gregerson, and was denied for both according to Jim Bowden. According to Morosi, the Tigers have been sending scouts to watch Gregerson (as well as Street, Dale Thayer, and Joe Thatcher).
Acquring Gregerson, who has the elusive “past closer experience” quality on his resume, would give Detroit some flexibility with its bullpen, subbing him into any high-leverage position or taking over if anyone falters (God forbid). What it would take to get him, however? It seems like it might require either a current MLB player (most likely a pitcher, with Jason Marquis now lost for the season), and a mid-level prospect.
Realty Factor: 7 – Illitch wants to win RIGHTNOW, so getting the best available for future pieces seems quite possible.
2) Starting Shortstop: With the suspension of Ryan Braun looming like an eclipse over the baseball world, anyone with “Biogenesis” attached to their name became saddled with the expectation of suspension. Regretfully, power-hitting shortstop Jhonny Peralta is such a character, which means that very soon it could be Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago flopping around between second and third base.
I’ve written previously about acquiring Jose Iglesias in the offseason, but Detroit might not have the luxury of time anymore. Iglesias is most likely off the table, judging by the Red Sox staying in contention, so DD would have to look elsewhere for a solution. A team that is clearly out of the race for a playoff spot and looking to get younger. A team that wants to shed some payroll. A team like the Chicago White Sox.
Alexei Ramirez is 30 years old, and is in the second year of a 4-year, $32.5 million dollar contract. His ISO is a career-worst .070, and his OBP sits at .308. So why in the blue blazes would Detroit be looking at Ramirez? Two things that Peralta distinctly lacks: Defense and Speed.
Currently, Peralta’s UZR is 0.3, his OOZ is 43, and his RngR (Range Runs Above Average) is -2.0. Ramirez, on the other hand, has an UZR of 6, an OOZ of 35, and a RngR of 6.7. Granted, the OOZ differential favors Peralta this season, but Ramirez has never had an OOZ below 55 before in his career, including a 77 and 78 the last two seasons. Basically, so far this season for Ramirez has been an aberration, and the dude has range! Blessed, sweet range!
Speed-wise, this is no contest. Ramirez routinely steals 15+ bases, (currently sitting at 21), and has a Speed Score of 4.9, which Bill James rates as “above average.” Peralta, on the other hand, has plodded around and stolen 3 bases (one short of his career-high!) with a Speed Score of 2.4, his lowest in four seasons, and rated as “awful.” Having a player who can run the bases quickly and well, which any memory of Gene Lamont can tell you, is desperately needed in the playoffs. Having a shortstop who can make that up-the-middle play, or cover some of Cabrera’s deficiencies, would be a boon for the Tigers.
And lest we forget, Ramirez also owns the skill of power hitting, and once a player owns a skill he never truly loses it (per Ron Shandler). He can still pop 15 dongs, and would probably match that hitting in a loaded Tigers lineup.
But would an intra-divisional trade even happen? Can rivals swap players? Yes, and yes. Last season the Sox picked up Francisco Liriano from the Twins, and our own Mr. Peralta came over from the Indians for pitching prospect Giovanni Soto in 2010 at the deadline. This may be a relatively easy deal to make, considering the size of the contract and the Sox desire to shed payroll. I’m guessing it would take an infield prospect and a pitching prospect to make things work, and maybe a utility guy like Worth to seal the deal.
Realty Factor: 8 – Again, Illitch wants to win, and Peralta may be heading out of town sooner rather than later. Plus: DEFENSE!
3) Solid Left-Handed Bat: I was torn on this one between two types of hitters. One one hand, I’d like to see Detroit make a play for Houston’s Brett Wallace, a hitter with some pop who can play first base and third base, and who is seemingly in the dog house down south. On the other hand I like Julio Borbon, formerly of the Rangers and presently with the Cubs, who is an extremely speedy fellow and plays very solidly in the outfield.
Wallace, a former first-round pick, is well-traveled, having been several times in his young career (he’s only 26), and Borbon was once heralded as Texas’ superstar centerfielder and leadoff man. Though both former top prospects seem to have fallen far from their potential, both could be extremely useful to a team in need of both speed and left-handed thump. It would probably take relatively little to pry Wallace away from Houston, as GM Jeff Luhnow continues to flip the roster in order to stockpile young players – possibly a Casey Crosby or another young prospect. It’s nearly the same situation in Chicago, as Jed Hoyer looks to shed salary and get younger.
Reality Factor: 5 – This would seem to be a luxury move for the Tigers; they don’t desperately need a leftie, but they could definitely use one.
Though I’d love to see the Tigers make one, or even two of these moves (if all three get made I may be fixing to get the vapors…), I suspect that Dombrowski has something crazy up his sleeve that no one will see coming, and sometimes that’s the most entertaining-slash-useful move to be made.