A lot of potentially available players. A lot of rumors. Are any of them likely to help the Tigers now at a cost that isn’t too much to bear? For the remainder of this month, all the buzz around the baseball internets is going to involve possible, probable and actual deals. So far, we haven’t seen much action or even had many “concrete” rumors of deals in progress. The Marlins got Carlos Lee – and that’s about it. Of course there are almost three weeks to go until the non-waiver deadline, so…
Those of us who follow this sort of thing were already aware, but Dave Dombrowski officially stated (in an interview covered by the Detroit News) that this year’s trade market is shaping up to be an extraordinary sellers market. Part of this is probably due to the new second wild card, but some of it is probably also due to the fact that some teams that are in sellers positions are high-budget teams that can’t reasonably sell due to high expectations and high attendance. Some of us here at MCB – forseeing this – went so far as to suggest that it might behoove the Tigers to sell and take their chances with some younger guys in the second half. It still could, but that’s not what I’m going to discuss today – for today I’ll outline what sort of players the Tigers should be looking at if they decide to buy.
1. Guys good enough that they are worth sacrificing Nick Castellanos. This is going to be a defining feature of the Tigers’ inseason and/or offseason deal-making process for the simple reason that no other prospect in the Tigers system (since Jacob Turner hasn’t looked as sharp in 2012) is going to do much to entice other teams to part with real talent. Marco Scutaro is not worth a Castellanos. Can you get a deal done without including Castellanos? I’m inclined to doubt it. So… if you’re going to have to break a $100 no matter what you buy, and nobody is likely to give you all the change you deserve, shop for something pricey.
2. Walk year guys not good enough to be worth a $12-$13 million qualifying offer. With the new CBA, teams that acquire a player in his walk year can’t get draft pick compensation by making a qualifying offer – so somebody like Carlos Quentin (who is good enough to get a qualifying offer) is worth at least a first-rounder and a sandwich pick to the trading team. 2-3 months of him probably wouldn’t be worth that to the Tigers, or frankly anybody else, so I would find it somewhat surprising to see guys like Quentin actually get dealt. Cole Hamels, maybe – since he’s worth loads more than $13 million and somebody somewhere might acquire him in order to get a leg up on contract negotiations with him. Acquiring a walk-year reliever (if necessary) or complementary piece should, in theory, have a different sort of calculus entirely.
The question for both of those would be – do such players exist on the market? I’m not entirely sure that they do. But if they don’t, we’re probably going to see a lot of reports of Dombrowki talking to such and such a GM about such and such a player and nothing actually getting done. And then all our hopes and dreams of deadline days will become anxiously awaiting Andy Dirks, Al Alburquerque and Victor Martinez. Or…
3. Guys with albatross contracts. In the world of baseball, long-term contracts that extend into the mid and late 30s are almost always going to be regretted by the end. But… teams that don’t want to hold onto these guys often deal them away (just to make room) and eat most of the money they owe. Those deals can typically be made prior to the waiver deadline, not the non-waiver deadline, since they should almost always clear waivers. Vernon Wells might be available as Alfonso Soriano certainly already is. When other cheap ways to bolster an offense are lacking, taking somebody else’s expensive garbage could be the way to go.
And before I wrap this up, I’m aware that I haven’t actually named any names – which doesn’t seem fair. So here’s one guy (who I fit into category 2) that I think the Tigers ought to at least inquire about: Ichiro Suzuki. The guy is in the last year of his contract, he’s aging and underperforming his contract. The M’s have stated a willingness to deal all but a handful of the guys on their roster and Dombrowski has a track record of getting things done. Could he help? Well, his overall line doesn’t look too impressive – but it isn’t going to for anybody that doesn’t cost Castellanos+. But, he was and remains an elite defender. Not just adequate but elite. Despite his age he still adds a strong speed component to an offense. His struggles offensively this year have also been confined primarily to left-handed pitching and Mariners home games. His line drive rate remains high. There is good reason to expect him to hit better in Comerica Park. Ichiro may not want to play for any other team – but he may also want one last playoff shot and probably recognizes that Seattle isn’t likely to contend before his playing days are over.