As usual here at MCB, over the next few months we’re going to be putting up a lot of material detailing our carefully considered suggestions for roster moves that the Detroit Tigers could make to gear up for 2014 and beyond. That’s what the offseason is for, since we can’t all be in the World Series.
Personally, I’m going to be focusing on budget-friendly moves. There are star-level talents available in the free agent market this offseason, weak class or not, but I can’t see the Tigers revenues stretching to cover any of them. Perhaps Mr. Ilitch will spend millions of his own money in another run at a title, I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t in good conscience advise that he should. What this means is that I’ll be suggesting a lot of low-level, under-the-radar free agent signings as well as a lot of potential trades. Today, in honor of the World Series appearance by the stupid, stupid Cardinals I’ll propose a trade with them.
The Tigers in need of a second baseman. That second baseman COULD be Omar Infante, but Omar Infante COULD cost way too much and we might see his production topple off a cliff in his mid 30s. The Tigers definitely need to plan for ways to save money in 2014 and beyond so that they can devote the money saved elsewhere. Saving money in baseball means giving starting jobs to guys with less than 3 years of service time who can make real contributions. The only guy we see coming on the horizon who fits the bill is Nick Castellanos, who is really more the Tigers one prospect than the Tigers best prospect at this point. The problem is that Castellanos does not really profile as a guy who fits the Tigers needs. The Tigers want a left fielder, but playing decent left field in Comerica park requires a lot of range and Castellanos probably doesn’t have it.
In my mind, the ideal situation would be one in which the Tigers could deal Nick Castellanos – like they dealt Avisail Garcia – for a prospect of equivalent value who was a better fit for the team’s needs. I can’t see a better fit for the Tigers actual needs, not just now but looking ahead, than second baseman Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals. As far as timing and “rank”: both guys played a full season at AAA this season and got brief callups to the big league club. They’re both equally “ready” for big league jobs, Castellanos has the higher rank – #21 according to the midseason MLB.com prospect rankings vs. #49 for Kolten Wong. Wong, however, is the top rated second baseman out there so there (and the next guys on the list aren’t anywhere near as major-league-ready). IF the Tigers are going to chase a second base prospect, this would be THE guy. If you go by scouting profile, Wong is above average in all respects for a second baseman. Plus glove, plus speed, plus power etc… but not spectacular in any one regard. He’s also a lefty and the Tigers backup infielders are certain to be right-handed – which fits well in that regard.
We can propose all the trades we want, it’s fun. The problem is that teams typically like to hold onto what they already have and it tends to take a ridiculous offer to pry guys away, not just an offer of equivalent value. Fortunately, there is at least some reason to hope that the Cardinals might view Wong like the Red Sox viewed Iglesias – as expendable. For one thing, he hit terribly in his cup of coffee this season – so they might be reluctant to hand him a job. Wong is a second baseman, so is Matt Carpenter. If you watch the World Series tonight, you aren’t going to see a lot of Kolten Wong but you are going to see a lot of Matt Carpenter. With a breakout 7.0 WAR season, Carpenter is arguably the Cardinals most important position player. He’s also pre-arb eligible and thus cheap. The Cardinals would probably be willing to move Carpenter to the outfield if they felt the need to make room for Wong, but there are other options. One of those would be dealing Wong to fill a hole. The Cardinals are a potent team and realistically their only need is at short. But… there is also a non-trivial chance that they will lose Carlos Beltran to another team (or decide he isn’t worth the money) and have a vacancy in right field. They could move Carpenter there OR, I might suggest, acquire Nick Castellanos to do the job and use that Beltran money to sign a shortstop who can hit (like Stephen Drew). Another alternative would be a three-way deal that sent Castellanos elsewhere in exchange for a shortstop, the shortstop to St. Louis and Wong to Detroit (maybe Hak-Ju Lee of the Rays or Brad Miller of the Mariners) with or without extra throw ins on one side or the other.