The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. The Tigers made just one transaction but as fans learned a year ago, key trades can still be made in the month of August… they just require a little extra work.
A quick refresher on the waiver wire works:
- A team can place non-injured players on revocable waivers. The other 29 clubs then have a two-day window to put in a claim for said player(s). If multiple teams put in a claim for the same player, priority goes to teams with the worst record in the same league.
- Ex: Tigers place ‘Player A' on waivers. The Orioles, who currently own the worst record in the American League, would get first dibs on ‘Player A' all the way up to the Red Sox, the league's best record. Then priority shifts over to the National League, same priority process.
- If a player placed on the waiver wire is claimed by another club, the player's team has three options:
- Let the claiming team simply assume the player and his contract
- Work out a trade with the claiming team
- Pull back the player from waivers (hence the “revocable” part – If said player is placed on waivers a second time, the player's team must give him up to the claiming team.)
- Any player who “clears” waivers can now be traded anywhere. This is common protocol for most teams, particularly those with players who carry rather lucrative contracts (think Justin Upton trade and Justin Verlander trade last August). This process can take place through the end of the season but players must be acquired before August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs.
So with all of that in mind, here is a list of five players that the Tigers could end up dealing in the month of August.
SEASON STATS: 7-6, 3.54 ERA in 20 starts, 1.24 WHIP
The Tigers nearly made a second trade, involving starter Mike Fiers, before the 4 p.m. trade deadline on Tuesday. However, that report was swiftly nixed and it was never anything more than “mild interest” from a couple of clubs.
That said, Fiers remains a prime August trade candidate on his performance since May 30, a stretch of 11 starts that has his ERA sitting well under 3.00. Opposing hitters have compiled just a .692 OPS against Fiers during that same time as well. The 3.31 K/BB ratio for Fiers is his best since 2014. To condense things, he has done virtually exactly what Tigers general manager Al Avila had hoped for when they signed him last winter.
From a contract standpoint, Fiers is one of those odd cases. The Tigers formally signed him to a one-year deal but due to his major league service time, he is under team control through the 2019 season via the arbitration process, so there is some extra value there. That said, Fiers rates out as a middle or back of the rotation type starter and, given the emphasis on bullpen usage these days, that could be useful to a playoff team needing some semblance of innings in the rotation.
Two teams that were believed to be connected to Fiers on Tuesday were the Milwaukee Brewers, one of his former employers, and the Oakland Athletics, who were initially reported as close to acquiring him before the deadline. Those figure to be the prime candidates in August as well.
SEASON STATS: .264/.306/.386 in 102 games, 4 HR, 34 RBI
Jose Iglesias has attractive qualities for teams, he is a sure-handed shortstop with above-average bat-to-ball skills. He is never going to hit for much power (although he has a career-high .122 in isolated power this season, for whatever that is worth).
The problem for the Tigers is that there has been little to no trade interest surrounding Iggy for multiple years now. So why would things be any different now for the 28-year-old that will hit the free agent market in the offseason? Well, to be honest, they probably will not be. But the Tigers are likely going to do their due diligence and place him on waivers sometime in August.
Given that Iglesias is only under contract through the end of the season, that limits the market of teams to playoff contenders. And the vast majority of the true contenders, if not all of them, are already set at the shortstop position (and second base, if one wants to entertain that possibility). Any August trade involving the Tigers shipping Iglesias out would almost have to be a borderline panic move by a contender dealing with injuries.
SEASON STATS: 3-5, 4.62 ERA in 17 games (16 starts), 1.44 WHIP
Early on, it seemed like the move to take a flier on veteran Francisco Liriano would pay dividends similar to that of the Leonys Martín trade on Tuesday or a potential Mike Fiers deal. But for various reasons (multiple minor injuries, dip in performance, etc), Liriano's stock has gradually declined as the season has progressed.
The slow regression has resulted in a career-high in walks per nine (5.15) and a career-low in strikeouts per nine (7.4). The Tigers had the right intentions to pick up a guy to help log innings for a pitching staff that was in major limbo. Liriano, however, has seen his value diminish from a potential back-end starter to more of a bullpen specialist.
What Liriano does have going for him is his success against lefties, who have just a .113 BA and .424 OPS against the 34-year-old this season, both the lowest marks in any single season of his career.
Salary and contract is not a problem for any potential suitor interested in Liriano, he is signed through the end of this year and makes whatever is left of his four-million-dollar salary. He has been traded three times mid-season in his career, including twice each of the last two seasons. He won't garner much in return but could still help a contending club, assuming he performs well enough in August.
SEASON STATS: 4-3, 4.44 ERA in 14 starts, 1.21 WHIP
Jordan Zimmermann is likely the first Tigers player to clear waivers solely because of his contract. And hey, a certain someone here at DSN already got a head start on making the case for him to be traded.
Zimmermann at one point had a six-start stretch (that spanned just over two months due to an injury absence) in which he compiled a dazzling 1.22 ERA and .417 opponent OPS. However, he has recently reverted back to the form that Tigers fans have seen all too often in his now three seasons here (7.98 ERA over last three starts).
Obviously, the run prevention is ultimately going to dictate his value to other clubs. Some of his secondary numbers, like his 5.2 K/BB ratio (best since 2014) that has aided in his slightly-above-average 4.02 FIP.
And again, from a contract point of view, it closely resembles what the Tigers went through with Verlander in 2017. Zimmermann is signed through 2020 and is owed $50 million over the next two seasons plus whatever is left of this year. He also has a no-trade clause for this year that modifies to a 10-team approval list for 2019 and '20. It would be shocking to see any team formally claim him on waivers, to begin with. But if he is pitching at a high level in August and the Tigers are willing to eat some money, they could get a respectable package of prospects in return.
SEASON STATS: .241/.293/.329 in 94 games, 6 HR, 35 RBI
Stay with me here on this one. This is not a scenario that would earn the Tigers any sort of prospect value, if anything, from any potential buyer. Also a fair disclaimer: this may get borderline sappy here.
Let us just get this out of the way, Victor Martínez is not having a good offensive year. He is 40 (sorry, 39 actually) years of age, pretty much working on two peg legs and coming off a year with multiple issues of an irregular heartbeat… if we're being honest here, the fact he has amassed a .623 OPS is somewhat impressive.
And that season mark is very much inflated given how Martínez has played coming out of the All-Star break. Martínez in eight games has an OPS near 1.000 with a couple homers, a double, and six RBI. He's doing offensive things! But V-Mart has gotten a ton of flak from outsiders this season because said outsiders believe he is blocking someone in the minors from getting regular reps at the major league level. If that was the case, the Tigers would have considered more strongly about just parting ways with Victor.
Now hear me out. Martínez at his age is likely going to hang it up after this season, being in the final year of his contract. His trade value is nothing more than a bench option for a playoff team when they may need a big hit in a big spot… maybe he runs into one? If Martínez is even hitting a fraction of what he has so far in the second half, some contender could take a flier on him and whatever is left of his salary, which won't be financially-damaging. Should there be any trade interest, Victor may be inclined to waive his no-trade clause to partake in a playoff run, something he has not been a part of since his MVP runner-up season in 2014.
And should that come to fruition, from a Tigers standpoint, that would then open the door for them to use the DH as a bit of a flex position in September. Hell, that may already be the case if Martínez is still here beyond August 31 but hey, it is a talking point.
OTHER NAMES TO CONSIDER
Some players were deliberately left off this list — Matthew Boyd, Nicholas Castellanos, and especially Michael Fulmer, to name a few — for a few reasons.
All three of the aforementioned names have attractive trade qualities: they are young, very affordable, and have multiple years of control. They are qualities that virtually every other team in the sport would want to get their hands on if they have needs (particularly Fulmer).
It is those same qualities that make it more likely to hear their names resurface in the winter, when teams are resetting everything from a personnel standpoint, as opposed to here in August. These are guys where the Tigers may favor quality or quantity in terms of a return package of prospects. In that case, Detroit would be hesitant to simply place them on waivers because they may get claimed by a team that simply wouldn't be able to offer what the Tigers desire in return.
Now, they could still place each of those players on waivers and see which teams bite. And if it is not an ideal trade partner, the Tigers would then just keep those guys and revisit trade talks in the offseason.