It's been a long, frustrating first half of the season for the Detroit Tigers. Currently checking in at 32-41, it's fair to say that things have not gone according to plan for the team to this point. With the high salaries the Tigers have been bogged down with, and the distinct lack of production from those high salaries, it's finally time for the team to bite the bullet and begin a full rebuild.
Is it exactly an easy task to tear a team down and start from scratch? No, not even a little bit. But, given that there are plenty of teams who will be looking to improve their rosters at the deadline, the Tigers should have no problem supplying those teams with the help they desire. Detroit desperately lacks a solid cast of prospects, most notably in the infield. With the big contracts that the team needs to shed, they should be able to focus on replenishing the farm.
For me, there are five players on the current team that general manager Al Avila can focus in on trading. Let's take a look.
Let's start at the top with the one that might actually hurt the most. It's no secret that Miggy isn't performing as well as he has in the past and that he has been more prone to injury over the last couple seasons. At this point, he is batting .271 with eight home runs and 34 RBI's. With such a big contract, it is to be expected that if the team can find a partner to trade for Cabrera, Detroit will still be on the hook for some of the money that he is due.
The Yankees have gotten very little production from the first base position this season. Cris Carter (DFA'd after Friday's game vs. TEX), Rob Refsnyder (optioned to minors on Thursday), and Greg Bird (Limited to 19 games due to injury, hitting .100)have combined for a .179 average with just one long ball and nine RBI's. Despite this, they still hold the first place position in the American League East, with a 40-31 record.
Although they are currently in a good position, you can almost bet your bottom dollar that the Bronx Bombers will be looking to buy at the deadline.
In return for Cabrera's services, the Yankees will have to deal some futures. Second baseman Nick Solak (Yankees No. 18 overall prospect) and center fielder Dustin Fowler (Yankees #8 prospect) seem to provide a fair return. Fowler, 22 years old, is currently in his first season at Triple-A Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With a .298 average, 12 home runs, and 13 steals, he is starting to show flashes of becoming the five-tool player that many expected him to be.
Solak, also 22, is in his first year of A+ ball with Tampa of the Florida State League. A constant threat to reach base, Solak's on base percentage is an incredible .420 at this point. He is batting .315 with four home runs and 24 RBI's.
Contract: Signed through 2019 and owed $56M; vesting option for 2020 worth $22M; 10-and-5 rights
Trade: Detroit Tigers trade SP Justin Verlander and cash considerations to Milwaukee Brewers for LHP prospect Josh Hader, RHP prospect Cody Ponce, and 1B/3B prospect Jake Gatewood.
If the Miggy trade idea didn't hurt you, this one will. It's time to move on from Justin Verlander, as well. Making $28 million a year until 2019, and struggling to produce at a level that justifies such a contract, a rebuilding team doesn't need such a contract under its control.
Sure, Verlander still shows flashes of being one of the best pitchers in baseball. And yes, he finished second in the American League Cy Young voting last season. But today, he stands at 4-4 with a 4.52 ERA over the course of 87 2/3 innings this season.
In return, the Tigers can expect three high-level prospects, as starting pitching is always paramount in deadline deals. Pitching prospects Josh Hader and Cody Ponce, as well as corner infield prospect Jake Gatewood, seem to fit the bill. Hader (Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect), possesses electric stuff and has been a strikeout pitcher at every level. Currently 3-4 in his first full season of Triple-A ball with a 5.37 ERA in 52 innings, he has hit a bit of a snag in his progression. But, he is expected to continue progressing with a change-up, and continue on his track to the big leagues.
Ponce (Milwaukee's No. 15 prospect), who is in his second season of A+ ball, is currently 5-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 73 2/3 innings. He shows the size (6-6, 265 pounds), physicality, and four-pitch mix that has Milwaukee convinced that he will be a starter in the big leagues for a long time.
Gatewood (Milwaukee's No. 25 prospect) is in his first season of A+ ball. He seems to fit the prototypical power bill that most corner infielders have, having slugged 10 home runs this season with a .287 average.
Milwaukee currently holds a 1.5 game lead in the National League Central, with a record of 40-36. Only one of their current starters who have pitched more than 55 innings has an ERA under 3.00, indicating a need to upgrade their rotation to make a serious run in the playoffs. Detroit would likely need to eat some cash in this trade as well.
Contract: Pending unrestricted free agent, in the final year of a two-year deal worth $18.5 million.
Trade: Detroit Tigers trade RF J.D. Martinez to Colorado Rockies for OF prospect Raimel Tapia and RHP prospect Yency Almonte, and a mid level prospect.
Picture the damage that J.D. Martinez could do in the mile-high air of Coors Field. A ballpark that drastically inflates the power numbers of it's hitters, Martinez would find a very inviting spot in the Rockies lineup. After missing the first few weeks of this season, Martinez made his return to the Detroit lineup with a vengeance. Batting .305 with 12 home runs and 27 RBI's in just 38 games, J.D. is in the final year of his current deal.
Unless Detroit is actually able to move some big contracts, it doesn't appear that they will be able to afford an extension for the 29-year-old slugger.
The return for what would likely be a rental player for Colorado (unless they can afford an extension) should be pretty decent, including a couple of high prospects. Colorado's No. 3 prospect, OF Raimel Tapia, has already seen a sample of big league action (90 games). A true contact hitter, Tapia is currently batting a blistering .359 in Triple-A, with a home run and 23 RBI's. He offers a bit of speed as well, having stolen 11 bases in just 34 games this season. While he may never develop a power swing, he provides a very consistent threat of getting on base.
Also hypothetically coming over would be RHP prospect Yency Almonte (Colorado's No. 12 prospect). His current 2-3 record in his second full season of Double-A ball might not be very sexy, but his 1.79 ERA in 40 1/3 innings certainly is. He has a durable build (6-3, 205 pounds), consistently throws strikes, and keeps the ball down in the zone. He is expected to be MLB-ready in 2018.
Considering that current Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez is trending down this season, Colorado seems to be a logical landing spot for Martinez at the deadline. Gonzalez is batting a mere .221 in 68 games with just six home runs. The National League West is currently a logjam at the top, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Rockies all separated by just 2.5 games, and any team that makes the decision to make a big move this summer could make the jump to the top of the division.
Whether or not Martinez would find a long-term home in Colorado is another story, but his big power potential in a big power field makes it seem quite possible.
Contract: Signed through 2021 and owed $88.5M; player options in every year after this season through remainder of contract
Trade: Detroit Tigers trade LF Justin Upton to the Chicago Cubs for OF prospect Mark Zagunis and RHP prospect Trevor Clifton.
The cost of making moves to improve at the deadline isn't cheap, especially in the corner outfield market. Upton, who is currently batting .269 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI's on the season, will draw a fair amount of interest when/if the team officially decides to sell. Despite a big contract, and big strikeout numbers (76 K's in 249 at bats this season), Upton's value is in his power and ability to get on base. His .350 on-base percentage speaks to his ability to get on base in a semi-reliable fashion.
In return, Detroit can expect a couple of high prospects. Chicago's outfield prospect Mark Zagunis (No. 6 prospect), considered as the most disciplined hitter in Chicago's farm system, fits the bill. In an attempt to stockpile some outfield help in the Detroit pipeline, Zagunis would provide an MLB-ready pedigree.
Currently getting his first taste of the big leagues with the Cubs, Zagunis is a gifted hitter who controls the strike zone. He has average bat speed, but because he puts the barrel of the bat on balls in the zone, he projects to hit 12-15 home runs per year. In 65 games of Triple-A ball this season, Zagunis has hit .249 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI's.
Trevor Clifton, Chicago's No. 7 prospect, is a 6'1” starter who consistently pounds the strike zone. He has a 5-3 record to this point of the season, his first full season in Double-A ball. In 66 2/3 innings, he has compiled 56 strikeouts, against just 28 walks. His fastball tops out at 97 mph, and he is expected to be big-leagues ready in 2018.
The Cubs currently sit at 37-36, although they are only 1.5 games out of first place in the division. Left field has been a serious area of question as far as offense is concerned for the Cubbies. Between Matt Szczur (who was DFA'd back in May before being acquired by San Diego) and Kyle Schwarber (who was recently demoted to Triple-A), the left field spot in the lineup has accounted for a .174 average for Chicago.
If the north-siders wants to make another run at the World Series this season, this will be an area that they desperately need to improve in. A move for Upton would go a long ways to help.
Contract: Signed through this season and owed $11M; club option for 2018 worth $10M.
Trade: Detroit Tigers trade 2B Ian Kinsler to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP prospect Brent Honeywell and SS prospect Lucius Fox.
Tampa currently sits 2.5 games out of first place in the competitive American League East, but if they are unable to compete for the division, they figure to be in the wild card conversation. Second base has been an area of concern for the Rays all season. Daniel Robertson, Brad Miller, and Michael Martinez have all had a crack at the position this season, and have collectively compiled an unimpressive .198 average with seven home runs and 30 RBI's.
Kinsler would be an above-average competent replacement at the position, with the option of team control for next season.
Starter Brent Honeywell (Tampa's No. 2 prospect) is a five-pitch starter who is thought to be extremely close to ready for the show. His smooth mechanics have led him to just a 1-1 record in Double-A ball this season, but with a 2.08 ERA. He has a strong presence on the mound and should be a full-time big league starter at the beginning of next season.
Shortstop prospect Lucius Fox (Tampa's No. 14 prospect) would potentially add some flair to Detroit's lackluster middle-infield crop of prospects. His speed is considered as “plus-plus”, as evidenced by his 20 steals in just 56 games at Single-A this season. He has a .285 average to this point, and his ability to switch-hit has scouts raving at his ability to get on base. If everything remains on its current track with Fox, he figures to be ready for the bigs in 2019.
Becoming a seller is not something that can be thought of as easy. Plenty of teams will be interested in plenty of Tigers players, and Avila will have his work cut out for him to find the best fits. Keep in mind that these are all hypothetical trades that I have worked out in my own mind, and the deals that actually come down might not be exactly what I have forecast. Also, keep in mind that it is incredibly unlikely that all of these players will be traded this season.