The only returns worth having would come at the expense of the Detroit Tigers this MLB Trade Deadline
Sometimes Twitter is the best place to take the temperature of Detroit Tigers fans, other times it could not be worse. The team is now exactly two weeks away from the trading deadline and while there has not been any publicity about the approach that GM Al Avila is taking, manager AJ Hinch sent a pretty strong message when asked about his thoughts: “You have to come and pay for our guys.”
Given the squad’s overachievement as of late despite the rash of injuries they have faced, I became curious regarding the general public’s narrative around the upcoming deadline. The Detroit Tigers remain 14.5 games out of first place entering Saturday and 12 games out of a wildcard spot. This team is not going to win or even sniff a playoff spot in 2021, so decisions must be made with 2022 and beyond in mind, naturally.
To satisfy this curiosity of mine, I decided to poll the public. I received 112 gracious responses to my question (thanks to all who voted). The results were not overwhelming by any stretch, but 40.2% of fans actually want the club to sell this trade deadline.
What do the Detroit Tigers have to sell?
It was a response to this poll from fellow contributor Mark Gorosh, who actually holds the same sentiments as me. The issue for me, though, is not that the club does not have pieces they could sell. They certainly do. The issue herein is that either the timing of a trade would be poor, or that the return for these players would push a rebuild even further back.
On the timing side, Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull remain on the injured list with Turnbull unlikely to return until mid-August at the very earliest, making a trade not only risky but less impactful (at least in 2021) than the healthier alternatives. Boyd has vastly improved, but for a streaky player who has yet to put together a complete season, it would be difficult to imagine a team ponying up what the Detroit Tigers would require to send him off.
There is Michael Fulmer, too, who once looked to be a surefire trade asset as he solidified a late-inning role, but he “not yet nearing a mound session,” according to Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic. As is the case with Turnbull, any Michael Fulmer trade is more likely to happen after the season’s end as opposed to July 31st.
The other options that remain are bullpen arms Gregory Soto and Jose Cisnero. These arms are unfortunately a decade too late as the team had consistently struggled to find reliable bullpen help during their contention window. Bullpens are finding their way into games more and the fireman role has become more paramount during critical situations throughout games, not just a ninth-inning ‘closer.’
There is an argument to be made to sell one or both. Relief arms are the most volatile position group in baseball, so in some ways, they may prove deft to sell high on these power arms. Unfortunately, though, arms like Buck Farmer and Bryan Garcia have taken steps back and with Fulmer injured, it would deplete the back end of the pen.
Jeimer Candelario has now taken the place of Matthew Boyd in trade discussions as a controllable, solid MLB player that teams will not pay for. A player a team could win with, but not a bonafide all-star. A player that could contribute to a winning club. That said, Candelario cannot command the type of return the Detroit Tigers would require to pull the trigger on a trade. The larger-marketed contending clubs looking to buy have third base figured out save injuries, so trading Candelario as it stands would be senseless and forced at face value.
The Detroit Tigers may have to decide third base if they remain content on continuing to have Spencer Torkelson play at the hot corner even temporarily, but those types of problems in baseball should be dealt with when they actually become a real issue, as trading Candy prematurely could leave a corner of the infield open with no ready-made solution. The Detroit Tigers should treat third base just the same as the Rays treated their shortstop situation this year.
The most likely to be dealt remains 1B/2B Jonathan Schoop, who was signed on a one-year contract late into the offseason. Schoop had a monster month of June; slashing .340/.379/.698 with 10 home runs and another 8 doubles. On the season, he’s hitting a respectable .281 and has put up 1.6 bWAR. A nice little commodity for a team looking to make a playoff push. I can understand a Schoop trade given his contract status–I may support it as long as the market is somewhat robust, I just do not expect it to be.
Why selling these assets would be regrettable for the Detroit Tigers
I have alluded to the injuries and why selling Boyd, Turnbull, and Fulmer would not make sense for the Detroit Tigers or the buyer–that is simply an issue of medicals and logistics. But trading away a controllable MLB asset in exchange for maybe’s and what-if’s is a risk the Detroit Tigers should simply not entertain, save an MLB-for-MLB player swap.
There is no weaseling around the subject: the Detroit Tigers tanked for draft picks. Selling away assets that would compliment these highly-regarded prospects as they are reaching and thriving in the big leagues would only hinder the competitive window of the Detroit Tigers. We have already seen Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning in Detroit in 2021. Assuming health and no restrictions, those three should be on the Opening Day roster in 2022.
Fans will also likely see the trio of Spencer Torkelson, Dillon Dingler, and Riley Greene at some point in 2022, and it now becomes a bit clearer how the club could start to make noise in 2023. But they won’t be able to do so without seasoned MLB vets to complement their young core. Trading some of their only reliable relief help would leave this team in purgatory–a destination the Tigers brass deemed dangerous in 2017 when they traded Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, and Justin Verlander to start this whole thing.
I will concede a Jonathan Schoop, but generally speaking, selling is not the approach the Detroit Tigers should be taking into the trade deadline. With the right coaching staff currently in place, they are finally beginning to make headway to winning. This momentum needs to continue. Lottery tickets are part of what put the Detroit Tigers into a competitive hole, to begin with–and they’ll undoubtedly put them deeper.
Buying, even standing pat, are not only the correct moves to make for the good of the franchise, but it would do wonders for the psyche of the Detroit Tigers fanbase.