"After a lukewarm start, the Detroit Tigers find themselves in the thick of a playoff spot in 2020"
We knew this season would be strange for the Detroit Tigers, but some of what has happened in 2020 is beyond what any of us may have expected. The phrase alone, “The Detroit Tigers are in the playoff conversation” is an odd one. Not only because it is early August, but also because the team is less than a dozen games into the season.
This run is a microcosm of the season–we all know that 60 games is not enough time to learn about a baseball team. Of course, there are always surprise teams in both ways; even in a full 162-game regular season. Teams will surprise, teams will disappoint. But in a shortened season with an expanded playoff (which, beyond the money, is a way for the league to make sure a good team does not make it and thus legitimizes the season), the Detroit Tigers are indeed in a playoff race and will likely still be in it as the August 31 trade deadline approaches.
The yearly question for bubble teams applies to the Detroit Tigers for the first time in three years: buy or sell? There are an infinite amount of variables that will play into this year’s trade deadline. The reason for the shortened season remains chief among them, as teams will certainly need to ensure players being moved are healthy and negative for COVID-19.
But there are other factors to consider. The expanded playoffs may increase marketability and movement, but teams also realize their chances of winning are only being diluted this year. Rather than the standard 1 in 10 chance, teams now will have a 1 in 16 shot; over half of MLB teams. For clubs like the Yankees or Dodgers this fact isn’t going to make them shy away, but for teams like the Tigers, if they decide to buy a rental or otherwise, will need to be cautious about what they give up in hopes of winning this season.
The Case to Buy
Despite how bad the team appears on paper, the argument to buy at the trade deadline is not as far out there logically as one might think. After all, the only way to get change their poor play is to improve the club. This team has been in a rebuild for somewhere between three and five years depending on who is asked; and GM Al Avila himself stated the team was trying to begin to ‘build up.’
In addition, MLB’s resilience through the two outbreaks between the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals help to mitigate the chances of a stoppage or cancellation. For players under control for multiple years the risk is not as heavy, but the fact will certainly make teams feel better about rental options.
Beyond all the reasons of dialect, though, there are also the emotional and psychological reasons for the Detroit Tigers to buy. The reality for Detroit sports fans is that none of the four major sports teams have seen the playoffs recently save the Pistons, who were swept in the first round. Even in a shortened season, the Tigers making the postseason would do wonders for the psyche of the local fanbase.
Players That Could Be Moved If They Buy
1) Alex Faedo
Faedo has not been as highly regarded as some of their other pitching prospects, but remains a candidate to be a back-end starting pitcher in the major leagues. Considering both the pitching prospects that are near the major leagues as well as the pitching they have on the big league club, this makes someone like Faedo expendable. I am not going to pretend to know the value of someone like Faedo, but Faedo being part of a package for a short-term major league asset sounds reasonable.
2) Jake Rogers
The Detroit Tigers have Austin Romine on a one-year deal, so the long-term solution in Rogers would be gone if they decided to move him. Personally, I would love to continue to see how Rogers develops for the Tigers and perhaps Detroit would be selling low on Rogers, but for the right return, I’d be open to moving him.
3) Isaac Paredes
Fans are prone to prospect-hug too–I am no exception. It pains me to list Paredes on a list like this. Paredes’ approach is everything the Tigers lack in their system: patience and a plan at the plate. I believe in his success and I am sure other teams do too. If the Tigers can get a major league asset that would help them for years as they begin to build the club, they need to listen.
The Case to Sell
The idea of giving up anything in an effort to compete this year sounds like malpractice at face value. For that reason, if there are buyers, it might make sense to listen about big league assets. Although the team is in the playoffs if they were to begin today, the team is miles from developing a team necessary to take on the juggernauts in New York, Houston, and Los Angeles.
For players that may not be on the team next season any way, getting something out of them before they walk does make some sense. The question remains on what a return would look like. The market for rentals has decreased dramatically in the last five seasons, but in a year where teams will be with the club even less time than usual, the returns figure to be even worse.
Players That Could Be Moved If They Sell
1) Austin Romine
Romine’s leadership with the pitching staff, his ability to call a game, and his professional hitting approach all have been a bit of a surprise to fans in 2020. Jake Rogers, as mentioned above, is close if not ready for the major leagues, possibly making Romine expendable.
Because of Rogers’ availability, this move, while thought of as a ‘sell’ type move, really is not as big of a loss at the major league level. If the club can receive something in return for the future also, it would be an added benefit.
2) CJ Cron
I have been the President and card-holding charter member of the official Sign CJ Cron for 2021 Campaign, but the fact that Cron shows as much power as he has along with the fact he is also on a team-friendly one-year deal, Cron is an innate trade candidate.
The return for Cron would be compromised considering his position and control, but his power would be tantalizing for a contender.
3) Spencer Turnbull
I know, I know. There comes a point where the Detroit Tigers will need to stop trading away players that are contributing for their big league club. Likewise, they will need to continue to add assets. Considering the pitching within the organization, selling high on a starting pitcher for a change might be a move worth considering, especially since it feels as if they missed the boat both on Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd trades in the past.
To be clear, I am not for the idea of trading Turnbull unless the return is lopsided in favor of the Tigers. But Turnbull is the team’s most coveted asset. For a team like Houston that may be without Justin Verlander for the year, desperation may play into Detroit’s hand.
All things similar and considering the way I anticipate the trade deadline happening this year, I am in favor of the Detroit Tigers holding at the trade deadline. The returns on rentals are likely to be minuscule and the market is limited to teams’ 60-man player pools, limiting the options on a return.
Even if they do go boring and stand pat at the deadline, though, Detroit is still in a playoff race. Say it and savor the sound of it.