NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
For days leading up to the trade deadline, the Detroit Tigers were rumored to be in the market for pitching help, most notably a starting pitcher. They had also been linked to former Milwaukee Brewers catcher Johnathan Lucroy, even though the team was on Lucroy’s no-trade list. On the days leading up to the deadline, the Tigers also came out and said they would likely stand pat due to the high asking price for any upgrade to their starting rotation or bullpen.
The latter ended up winning out, and the Tigers decided against making any moves at the deadline, and instead focus on the players they would be getting back in the coming days from injury. The lack of moves by the Tigers did not sit well with many fans:
First time I've had to had a chance to say: Al Avila is off to a TERRIBLE start as Tigers GM. Pelfrey and Upton + nothing at deadline. Awful
— Mike Papciak (@PapciakM) August 2, 2016
Does Al Avila know what day it is? Someone wake him up… #Tigers
— Cody Welling (@CodyWelling) August 1, 2016
BREAKING: #Tigers acquire a lot of fans who are very unhappy with Al Avila.
— Mootball Feetlong (@mike_is_bored) July 31, 2016
First off, it has not even been a full season with Avila at the helm. Secondly, he seemed to solve the consistent woe for the Tigers that was the bullpen. The Achilles’ heel this season has been the starting rotation, though it has been reinvigorated with life since the emergence of Michael Fulmer, the call ups of Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, and the re-emergence of Justin Verlander.
What Avila did not want to do at the deadline was sacrifice the future of the team’s rotation for a player who would likely be used only as a two-month rental. According to reports, the asking price the Tigers kept receiving for any trades included Fulmer, Boyd, and Norris in some way or form. Those are three arms that will lock down the starting rotation for years to come, and the Tigers have a future ace in Fulmer with Norris being seen as a number one or two level pitcher.
The Tigers have the talent to win, and win now with the roster that Al Avila has assembled. They are peaking at the right time, having won six games in a row, and now sit only 4 GB in the division, and 1.5 GB in the Wild Card with a 57-48 record.
The offense has gotten hot lately, and the pitching has been strong following the All-Star break. After the break, the Tigers are now 11-5, having outscored opponents 81-58 in that stretch. The offense is finally hitting its stride, and should only get better when J.D. Martinez returns from injury at some point in the coming days. Miguel Cabrera has also heated back up again, hitting .447 with 5 HR and 13 RBI in the last 14 days. While he has struggled for the better part of the 2016 season, Justin Upton continues to make solid contact, posting season bests in batting average on balls in play (.333), BA (.278), slugging percentage (.522) and OPS (.842) in the month of July.
While the Tigers still have Anibal Sanchez starting games, a move that they cannot continue and expect to be competitive, the returns of Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris should slot Sanchez back in the bullpen. Mike Pelfrey‘s recent injury should open the door to keep Matt Boyd in the rotation for the time being after he posted an impressive 2.21 ERA in four starts in the month of July. Justin Verlander has pitched like the ace and Cy Young winner he once was, posting a 1.69 ERA in 6 starts in July.
With the asking price being so high on many players at the trade deadline this season, there was no need for Avila to part ways with top prospects for a slightly better chance at postseason success this season. What Avila did was ensure the Tigers would remain competitive next year, and a few years down the road as they ride out the final good years of Cabrera and Verlander.
The decision to stand pat at the deadline may not have been the sexy looking move, but it was the proper one to ensure success of the franchise in the future.