Detroit Tigers: Why Blaine Hardy to the Braves makes sense

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 17: Starting pitcher Blaine Hardy #36 of the Detroit Tigers delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 17: Starting pitcher Blaine Hardy #36 of the Detroit Tigers delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers, in the midst of a rebuild, should deal veteran left-hander Blaine Hardy to the Braves for a low-level prospect.

Detroit Tigers’ General Manager Al Avila is going to have a busy few weeks. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and before then the Tigers will be shopping many key players. Among them is veteran left-hander Blaine Hardy, who at age 31 is having one of his finest big league seasons.

Hardy, who had been a reliever in every professional outing before this year, transitioned into the rotation at Triple-A to begin the campaign. After going 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA and a stunning 30/4 K/BB ratio in 24.1 innings, he was promoted to the big leagues.

Hardy has appeared in 18 games with the Tigers, eight as a starter filling in for Francisco Liriano and Jordan Zimmermann. Hardy pitched well in the rotation, with a 3.71 ERA and striking out 30, compared to just 10 walks in 43.1 innings.

However, he’s been even better as a reliever. He’s only thrown 10.2 innings out of the pen, but he has a 1.69 ERA , a 1.12 WHIP and a 10/4 K/BB ratio.

Hardy is under team-control through 2021, giving the Detroit Tigers plenty of flexibility. He’s 31 though, and is almost certainly not a part of the team’s future plans. As such, it makes sense for the Tigers to consider dealing Hardy while his value is at its peak. And his excellent first half is reason enough to shop him around.

Why Atlanta?

The Braves are 52-42 and in second place in the NL East. They have playoff aspirations this season and could use a veteran left-hander in their suddenly depleted bullpen. An injury to closer Arodys Vizcaino has thrust left-hander A.J. Minter into the closing role. That leaves  Jesse Biddle as the only other left-hander in the bullpen. Biddle is having a fine season, with a 2.31 ERA and 39 strikeouts in just 35 innings of work.

However, Biddle is atrocious against left-handed hitters. He has a 5.56 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP against left-handers this season.

The Braves as a team have done okay against left-handers, but they could use some help. They’ve allowed lefties to slash .227/.332/.401 on the season, surrendering 45 home runs and 11 triples. As a team they’ve walked more left-handers than right-handers, despite facing lefties 654 less times.

Hardy, as one would expect, is excellent against left-handers. On the season he has held lefties to a .190/.246/.368 line. Hardy would slide right into a middle relief/LOOGY role for the Braves, and would help them battle through the late innings while their pitching staff heals up.


Of course, a 31-year-old reliever who had an ERA well over 5.00 last season isn’t going to fetch much at the deadline, regardless of his team control and his stellar 2018 season. Hardy isn’t likely to maintain his excellence long-term, and the Braves would go into negotiations understanding this. Still, the Tigers could take a chance on a lower level prospect that has a high risk of busting, but has the tools to become a legit big leaguer, if they pan out.

One name to keep an eye on deep down in Atlanta’s farm system is Braulio Vasquez. Vasquez is a 19-year-old infield prospect. He has played second, short and third base, but has played primarily second base this season. At six-foot and 170 pounds, he has some growing to do. If he does, he could tap into some power that has yet to show up, with just one professional home run. He showed excellent plate discipline in rookie-ball last season.

He’s extremely raw and there’s not a ton of information out there on him. However, he’s a 19-year-old with experience across the diamond and some speed (25 steals in 305 at-bats at rookie ball). That makes him a solid enough dart-throw for the Tigers to pursue in a potential Blaine Hardy deal.

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The Detroit Tigers don’t have to move Blaine Hardy this summer. However, his strong first half has his trade value at its peak, and if GM Al Avila can get an interesting prospect back, it’s worth pulling the trigger.