With each passing day in July, fans of the Detroit Tigers becoming increasingly intrigued with not necessarily who will be traded, but more so when said assets will be traded.
Rumors have been circulating left and right for a couple weeks now and it's becoming almost inevitable that a number of current Tigers will be out the door on or before July 31. The ultimate question becomes: where will they be dealt?
These are five teams that seem to make the most sense when it comes to potential trade partners.
Panic in Wrigleyville? Probably not as much when you just snapped a 108-year championship drought. But there is reason to be concerned with the defending champion Chicago Cubs as the season gradually progresses and they continue to play mediocre for their standards and expectations.
The Cubs are sitting at 42-43, 4.5 games out of first place in the National League Central Division. They've had a lot of inconsistencies offensively, but a big eye sore seems to be in the rotation. Cubs starters are turning in a 4.63 ERA through Thursday's action, and it's a rotation that offers a lot of questions in both the short-term and long-term picture.
This is where the Tigers come in. In addition to starter help, the Cubs need a veteran catcher behind rising youngster Willson Contreras. Detroit, in theory, could provide both to Chicago in the form of Justin Verlander and Alex Avila.
Both Verlander and Avila have already been linked to the Cubs in the last week. Detroit could package the veteran battery tandem together to the north side — along with some dough to cover Verlander's salary — in exchange for a package of prospects, some of which are budding to play at the big league level right away.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
The Los Angeles Dodgers are an incredible 23-4 since June 7, the best mark in baseball during that span. They went from a second-place tie in the NL West, to now sitting in first place, 5.5 games clear. But even the hottest team in baseball can still improve in key areas.
Statistically, the Dodgers have the best starter ERA in baseball at 3.19. That's not the issue. What is the problem is their rotation is very left-handed heavy and/or injury-prone. Outside of Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, there's some reason to be concerned when [insert name here] makes a start.
Los Angeles is also getting rather pedestrian production at the plate from outfielders, namely left field (21st in MLB BA from LF). And like virtually every other team, they will welcome back-end bullpen depth.
Detroit has a few players that the Dodgers could pursue. Verlander would fix any issue in the rotation. But look for guys like J.D. Martinez and Justin Wilson, and perhaps Ian Kinsler, to be rumored to L.A. at some point.
Aside from the bullpen, it's hard to find a more complete team in baseball than the Washington Nationals. But the relief corps has been borderline treasonous for a club that's been a perennial contender in recent years (sound familiar, Tigers fans?).
Washington boasts an MLB-worst 5.20 bullpen ERA through July 6. It doesn't matter how elite the other aspects of your game are. If a team does not have any semblance of competence in the bullpen, especially in this day and age, your championship hopes go straight down the tubes.
Trading for Justin Wilson from the Tigers will sure up one spot in the bullpen for Washington, but not fix all of it. Two other Detroit bullpen arms, Alex Wilson and Shane Greene, would also net some value, but they offer more long-term control, perhaps a price Washington is not willing to pay. But Justin Wilson is definitely within range for them.
Also, don't sleep on the Nats pursuing a shortstop come deadline time. Youngster Trea Turner is on the shelf with an injury and presumably will go back to shortstop when he returns. But Washington could shop for a shortstop elsewhere and put Trea Turner back in center field, where he played a lot in 2016 as a rookie. That's where someone like Jose Iglesias may make sense for them.
NEW YORK YANKEES
The first three teams were easy, now is where it gets a bit more challenging to find suitable partners. But the New York Yankees have a couple big voids and could use a big spark in the worst of ways.
The Bronx Bombers were in first place and 15 games over .500 back on June 12. They've gone 6-16 since then and now sit 3.5 games back in the division, barely hanging onto a wild card spot in the American League.
But as long as they are mathematically in it, don't expect the Yankees to just sit quietly. New York has gotten almost no production from the first base position. Name an offensive stat, and they rank near the bottom in all of baseball in that category.
Detroit offers a couple of different fixes, one short-term and one long-term. Catcher Alex Avila has played his fair share of first base in his career and is having arguably his best offensive season. There's also Miguel Cabrera who, while not having his typical season, would be an instant upgrade at that position. Cabrera could also slide into the DH spot long-term as he continues to age and his value defensively diminishes.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
This slot on our list could be filled by a number of different clubs, but we're going to put the Tampa Bay Rays here for the time being.
Tampa has been a pleasant and refreshing surprise in baseball this season, three games over .500 heading into the final series before the All-Star break and very much in the thick for a playoff spot. Everyone and their mother and brother are waiting for them to falter, but they continue to perform very well.
They're pitching much better like most baseball people have accustomed to seeing from the Rays in recent years. They have also become the poster child for this new age of hitting home runs. But they have one glaring hole in left field that can be fixed in the form of J.D. Martinez.
Tampa has Corey Dickerson, the league leader in hits. He has split time between left field and DH. Plug in Martinez to that lineup and it lengthens it, strengthens it, and gives manager Kevin Cash better options to flip-flop Dickerson and Martinez.