The Detroit Tigers are off to one of the more inconsistent starts in recent memory; promptly getting swept by the Oakland Athletics after sweeping the Houston Astros in Houston on their most recent road trip. This teeter-totter start has many wondering which is the real Detroit Tigers team–but more likely, we can expect to see more of the same throughout the summer.
The Tigers enter Thursday in fourth place in the division and three-and-a-half games behind the 10-7 Kansas City Royals. It is reasonable to expect more parity in the AL Central this year; Kansas City added Carlos Santana, the Indians traded away their best player in Fransisco Lindor while Shane Bieber continues to dominate, and the White Sox continued to get better by adding Lance Lynn, Adam Eaton, and Liam Hendricks to their young and up-and-coming core. The Twins, meanwhile, kept their steady approach with Alex Colome, Andrelton Simmons, JA Happ, and another year of Nelson Cruz.
This leaves the Detroit Tigers in a peculiar position; caught between continuing to trade young assets for prospects or bolstering the big league roster, as we were told was going to happen shortly. But the supply for either option is not in surplus.
On the major league roster, the biggest hauls would come from their building blocks. Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize have both shown flashes of upper-rotation potential and surely clubs would pay well for their services, but this seems like a long shot at best. I continue to hold the thesis that the Detroit Tigers will never get what they ask for in a Matthew Boyd trade, especially as his club control dwindles by the start. Spencer Turnbull, meanwhile, would perhaps become the best combination of potential return and likelihood of getting traded this summer.
On the position player side, it is tough to see a player outside of Jeimer Candelario and possibly Willi Castro that would yield a package worth receiving. Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Schoop are both on one-year deals, but given the trade market for rentals in recent years, it is fair to question if both might serve a better purpose with the organization through the end of the year, considering the lack of ready-made replacements.
But executing any of these deals is dangerous. Unless these come in the form of MLB-for-MLB talent back, it signals to fans that the rebuild is going to extend well beyond the timelines any of us anticipated (which, frankly, I am sure it already has for many).
On the other end, finding difference-making MLB talent at the expense of the farm system would put a crater into a leaky list with the recent graduations of Willi Castro, Casey Mize, and Tarik Skubal, with Akil Baddoo nearing his exit with every plate appearance.
There will certainly come a time when trading prospects for MLB players will be welcomed, as it means the organization is trying to win. But why this July? On a team destined for nowhere, it would make more sense to simply wait until the season was over to potentially lessen asking prices and align more with the organization’s contention strategy anyway.
The big asterisk here is that it all depends on the return in any deal. If teams are willing to get carried away, I am for trading anyone that would ultimately make the Detroit Tigers better. I am even for some combination of the old “buy or sell” argument under the same pretense: make the Detroit Tigers better.