The MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching and the Detroit Tigers are in transaction limbo. While the team needs to add an arm or two in order to compete, a bat is needed on the team’s scarce bench.
The Detroit Tigers have a lot to figure out in the next ten days. Losers in eight of their last 13 games, the Tigers are coming off a pitiful series against the Minnesota Twins and are in the middle of evaluating their trade deadline options.
Now entering their third consecutive series against a divisional opponent, it is time for the Tigers to get creative and add cost efficient pieces and gain as much value as possible in order to compete for a playoff spot. One of those pieces should be a reserve player who can hit.
Tuesday evening the Tigers dropped a game to the Twins 6-2. After failing to get anything going on offense for the entire game, Detroit waited until the ninth inning to make things interesting. After plating two runs and with the bases loaded the Tigers lineup was now into the bottom portion and in desperate need of an offensive replacement.
Manager Brad Ausmus looked to his bench and realized his best offensive reserve was his catcher and opted not to use him, likely in case a need arose behind the plate in extra innings. Because the Tigers had no one to go to on the bench, there were no extra innings and the game was lost.
In no way is anyone defending Ausmus’s move. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had two opportunities to pinch hit in the ninth inning and Ausmus elected to not use him in either.
The real issue is not the blunder of the manager though. The issue is the roster is constructed in a way that handcuffs the manager. While it is not a bad thing to have an offensive minded catcher on the bench, it is never good when he is the only viable option to turn to when he plays such a specialized position.
Having such a short bench does not help Ausmus either. The inconsistency of the pitching staff and their inability to go deep into games has forced the Tigers to keep an extra arm in the bullpen for most of the year.
The bench has suffered because of this and has been limited to a pair of light hitting utility men and a back up catcher.
Utility men are great for giving multiple players days off at different positions over the year but a team void of a role playing slugger may find it difficult to go deep into the playoffs. So often post season games are decided by a teams bench and bullpen and the Tigers lack in both.
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No is calling for the Tigers to acquire Ryan Bruan or Josh Reddick and stick them on the bench while mortgaging the future. There are cost efficient players on selling teams that could come cheap on a rental.
Steve Pearce of the Tampa Bay Rays would be the best fit for the Tigers. A player that can play first base as well as the corner outfield spots and even DH to spell Victor Martinez. Packaging him with one to the Rays starters (Much like trading for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in 2012 to fill two voids with one trade) would be a dream scenario and would take some creativity from Al Avila.
Erick Aybar, Jeff Francoeur, Mark Reynolds, Yunel Escobar and Melvin Upton Jr.are also viable bench options that the Tigers would much rather turn to late in a game rather than Mike Aviles or Andrew Romine.
The Braves, Rockies, Angels and Padres are all teams that will likely look to sell off pieces at the deadline and could trade some position players for cheap due to the high demand for pitching. The Tigers main priority should still be an arm by all means, but the front office may want to keep a bench position player in the back of their minds.