The Detroit Tigers have players that they know to be valuable, but the problem is that other teams do not. Otherwise, there would have been plenty of trades happening during the Hot Stove meetings.
J.D. Martinez seemed to be as good as gone. And, rumor had it that even Victor Martinez was attractive to someone. But, this Hot Stove season has been particularly unusual for the big names and the big salaries.
Big Free Agents Still Available
Even players on the free agent list are having difficulty finding new homes, especially those who have some experience. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Mike Napoli – all big bats – are still sitting on the availability list with very few takers. Teams are choosing to stay away from these big names for a variety of reasons, including “intangibles” like attitude (take the Bautista and Baltimore Orioles for instance).
So, what’s the deal? Why are teams staying away from players like J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, or Miguel Cabrera? They are still valuable players who get the job done and they do their jobs well. If the Tigers were able to unload just one of those players, they would be able to get the payroll to a sub-payroll-tax threshold. But, no one is biting.
Long-time Detroit sports personality, Pat Caputo, thinks he has an idea. In his latest editorial in the Oakland Press, he thinks: “The 2016 Tigers were defective, a poorly-planned configuration that didn’t reach the postseason despite one of Justin Verlander’s best seasons, the arrival of American League Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer and a $200 million-plus payroll.”
Player Values Dropping
There is something to be said about the flaws of the 2016 team. The valuable players aren’t as valuable as they once were. Miguel Cabrera was the only Detroit Tigers player who was invited to the All-Star Game in 2016, but his 2016 season was very close to one of his non-All-Star-seasons – 2009. Anyone who watched Cabrera on a regular basis in 2016 could easily tell that something just wasn’t right.
While I’m not saying that Cabrera had a bad season, I am saying his season wasn’t typical. Yes, he won a Silver Slugger award, but he also led the AL in grounding into double plays. There is good chance that Cabrera, while he is still valuable to the Tigers, has lost value to the other teams in the MLB. Cabrera landed in the 19th spot for runs scored in 2016. Instead of just having a big bat, teams want hitters like Jose Altuve who can not only hit, but steal bases and get over 20 home runs in a season. This is the problem. Cabrera isn’t as valuable because he has limitations.
Why Martinez Couldn’t Get Traded?
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The same goes for J.D. Martinez. Caputo theorizes that teams are not buying into the Martinez hype because he is considered “the worst defender in all of MLB in 2016, according to FanGraphs.” The big bat is one thing, but teams want complete players. And, complete players exist.
Tigers fans love J.D., but the MLB is loaded with right fielders and many of them are absolutely outstanding. Why spend a fortune on a guy like J.D. Martinez when Bryce Harper will be available in the 2017 Hot Stove season? And, why bother with J.D. Martinez when nearly every team has a right fielder who is just as good?
The Tigers problem is that the team doesn’t really have anyone who is better than anyone else. There are better hitters, runners, defenders, and pitchers on other teams than the men the Tigers have. This is why no one is lining up to make a deal with Al Avila.