Maybe this team just isn’t ready. Maybe this really just isn’t their year.
The Tigers stumbled out of the All-Star break to the tune of a four game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. They scored all of eight runs in those games. They have won all of 16 games away from Comerica Park this season while dropping 30. This is not a recipe for contention, let alone success.
There were two mandates made by skipper Jim Leyland when asked what his club needed to do better in the season’s second half. First, he said, this team had to play better on the road, and second, they had to play better within the division.
Through four games, the Tigers are 0-4 on the road, and 0-4 within the Central. Not exactly heeding the words of the boss.
There’s a part of me that wants to tell you how much baseball is left to be played. I could site the fact that the Tigers started 0-5 out of the break last year, yet still stayed in first place until an extra game determined the Central champ. That was a road game within the division. The Tigers lost, of course.
There has been a lot of talk, and rightfully so, that Detroit needs to upgrade a few places to cement their playoff chances. Discussions have ranged from adding a shortstop, to a reliever or two, to maybe even a front-line starting pitcher. No question, upgrades at any one of those areas would make this team better, but unless those upgrades come with a renewed energy and focus away from home, this club won’t play in October.
(more after the jump)
So is it a good idea to trade away a prospect or three to add the pieces that have been discussed? Is it smart to try to make a run at it this year, even though this club is unlikely to reach the goal of a division title?
Well, if the division crown is the goal, something the Tigers haven’t accomplished since 1987, then the answer is probably. If you just want to make it back to the playoffs, sure, make a trade or two and try to get there. But that really shouldn’t be the goal here. Instead, the Tigers should be trying to win a World Series title, as as presently constructed, this team is no where near getting there.
Even the most optimistic of fans knew deep down that this Tigers team was probably a year away from being the top team in the division. They’ve played well overall, probably better than they should have been expected to play. That doesn’t change the facts, and they are that Detroit is likely the third best team in the division, and that they don’t have enough experience to ultimately win this race.
It’s been a great ride, watching the rookies play over their heads, but it’s a ride that is unlikely to see a happy ending. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson aren’t likely to play as well in the second half as they did in the first. Miguel Cabrera, as good as he is, is unlikely to play as well down the stretch. But the Tigers cannot sustain success without those three playing every bit as well in the second half as they did in the first.
There is a school of thought, one I often subscribe to, that you always try to force the issue, that aggressiveness should be employed at the trade deadline, because you never know how long it will be until you’re in this position again. This year, I’m not so sure it’s the right move.
I could certainly understand if Dave Dombrowski decided that this wasn’t the time to go for it, if he chose to instead trade away some veterans versus adding a couple. There would be a nice market for a few Tigers should they become available.
Detroit could take offers on Jeremy Bonderman, a free agent after this year, on Armando Galarraga, or Johnny Damon, even on Carlos Guillen. They’d have to eat some salary to move Guillen, of course, as he’s owed $13 million in 2011 as well, but there would be a decent package of players coming back for sure. Guillen’s versatility makes him attractive, as does his history of being a run producer at the plate. He would be a nice fit for any club looking to add a bat, and there are plenty enough of those clubs out there, which would drive up the trade value.
Bonderman would become one of the better starting pitchers on the market should the Tigers turn sellers. No, he’s not Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt, but he’s got just a few months left on his deal and he’s pitched well for most of the year. teams looking for a short-term commitment on a starting pitcher would be interested in adding his arm.
Like Bonderman, Damon would be a hired gun. Teams needn’t worry about next season, as Damon is a free agent after the year. He could help a contender with his veteran bat at the top of the order, he could even be viewed still as an outfielder to a National League club.
I realize, of course, that trading away any of these guys makes 2010 an impossible dream for the Tigers playoff push. I also realize that getting younger and cheaper players in return for any of them would accelerate the youth movement in Detroit. The Tigers have plenty of money to spend this winter, the veterans can be replaced with different guys, likely at smaller prices, and the farm system, which has been steadily improving with time, would get yet another shot in the arm.
When Dombrowski traded away two young all-stars in Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson last winter, he began to adjust the roster to a younger, more athletic team. Given the glaring flaws that the 2010 Tigers have shown, it might be wise to continue those adjustments and begin the transformation to next year. The Tigers, as presently constructed, are a third place team. If they trade away every one of the guys I mentioned, they’re still a third place team in 2010, but would be in better shape to contend going into the future.