Grading the Tigers’ trades for the 2017 season

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Now that the waiver-trade deadline has passed, it’s time to go back and reflect on the trades Al Avila made to set the Tigers up for the future. I will be grading each trade on an A-F scale. Some things that were considered when giving the letter grades were the value of the player the Tigers gave up, what the Tigers got in return, and what it does for the Tigers future (both on and off the field).

[NOTE: Team rankings are from Baseball America’s 2017 Organizational Talent Rankings. The previous team player rankings are from the pre-season rankings. The players ranked in the Tiger system are from latest rankings available in 2017 on MLB.com’s website.]

July 18, 2017: Tigers trade J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks (No. 28 overall system in MLB) for minor leaguers Dawel Lugo (No. 8 in ARI), Sergio Alcantara (No. 28 in ARI), and Jose King.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers
Aug 19, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) celebrates after he hits a two-run home run in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, it seems as though the Tigers screwed up on this trade. Which if you made that assumption, you’re right. Avila was able to move one of the most sought-after outfielders on the market and save the Tigers from paying another over-30 guy $10M+/year. However, the return we got from Arizona (who has the 28th best system) is less than stellar.

Post-acquisition, Lugo (INF) is now the No. 17 prospect for the Tigers, Alcantara (SS) is No. 26 and King (SS) has no ranking. For giving up the best outfielder the Tigers had, and one of the best available outfielders on the market, Avila really missed on the return with this one.

Trade grade: D+

July 31st, 2017: Tigers trade Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Chicago Cubs (No. 16 overall system in MLB) for minor leaguers Jeimer Candelario (No. 5 in CHI), Isaac Paredes (No. 19 in CHI), and a player to be named later/cash.

May 31, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (31) and relief pitcher Justin Wilson (38) celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Tigers won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, it was pretty clear Detroit’s season was basically over and they would need a miracle to even be in contention for a playoff spot. Avila pulled the trigger and picked up a couple of nice prospects while ditching the contracts of a middle-aged catcher and a reliever.

Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B) is now rated No. 4 in the Tigers’ system. However, he is projected to be a below-average fielder” according to Fangraphs. I think most Tiger fans can agree, anything is better than the current fielding situation at third base right now. Paredes (SS) is currently ranked No. 10 in the Tigers’ system. This trade could be very important for the future of the team with the next third baseman in AAA and a solid shortstop prospect in Paredes, who could turn out to be a steal.

Trade grade: A

August 31st, 2017: Tigers trade Justin Upton to the LA Angels (No. 29 overall system in MLB) for Grayson Long (No. 10 in LAA) and a player to be named later/cash.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Aug 30, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Justin Upton (8) hits an RBI single in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the Tigers heading towards a full rebuild, Justin Upton reportedly informed the team that he would not exercise his player option for the 2018 season, thus making him a free agent and leaving the Tigers with nothing in return. Avila was able to flip Upton to the Angels and only pay $1M of the approximate $3.3M left for the year and pick up a pitcher in Grayson Long (now the No. 15 in DET) in the process.

Upton has been nothing short of amazing the last 1 1/2 seasons, but there was no point in keeping him the rest of the year for him to walk away and leave the Tigers holding the bag.

Trade grade: A

August 31st, 2017: Tigers trade Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros (No. 3 overall system in MLB) for Daz Cameron (No. 6 in HOU), Franklin Perez (No. 9 in HOU), and Jake Rogers (No. 23 in HOU)

Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This trade will forever signal the end of an era in Tigers history. Since 2005, Verlander and the Detroit Tigers have been synonymous. We all knew this trade had to happen. We needed to get something for Verlander while he was pitching well. He is 34 years old, and obviously not going to be getting any younger. Detroit only has to pay $16M of Verlander’s remaining salary for the future.

The Tigers landed 3 solid prospects and offloaded Verlander’s massive contract. Franklin Perez (RHP) is now the Tiger’s highest-ranked prospect, Daz Cameron (OF) ranks No. 7, and Jake Rogers (C) is now the highest-ranked catcher in the Tigers’ system (No. 8 overall).

Trade grade: A

What’s next?

Since the Verlander trade, Al Avila has come out and announced that the Tigers are in full rebuild mode. This means that there are going to be some tough years ahead for Tigers fans. With Mike Illitch’s passing, it is believed by some that the future of the team’s ownership is up in the air.

The Tigers were able to reduce their payroll by $100M in one season, received some solid prospects, and are now set to allow their September call-ups to play and showcase their skills allowing the front office to evaluate the talent they acquired. Outside of the Martinez trade, Avila nailed the trade deadline this year and got what was needed to set up the Tigers for the future.

Overall Grade: B+