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Five starting pitchers the Detroit Tigers could target at trade deadline

Despite the roller coaster ride that has been the 2016 season, the Tigers are still in the thick of things when it comes to the AL Wild Card, and could get back into the division race with a run and a Cleveland slide.

The weakest point for the Tigers this season has undoubtedly been the starting rotation. Mike Pelfrey has won only two games in 2016, Anibal Sanchez has been delegated to a bullpen role, and rookie Michael Fulmer is working on an innings limit as the season progresses. If the Tigers are going to be successful the remainder of the season, they will need to upgrade their rotation before it is too late.

Here are five pitchers the Tigers could target either before the trade deadline, or once deadline day approaches.

Doug Fister – Houston Astros

Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr.com
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr.com

After being one of the bigger surprises in baseball in 2015, the Houston Astros have been one of the worst teams in 2016. The Astros have been hot as of late, and are in Wild Card contention. If they cool down and go on a slide leading up to the trade deadline, they may end up being sellers at the deadline, but will not be parting with any of their young star players. One name they will likely be willing to part with is Doug Fister.

Many Tigers fans wanted to see Fister back in a Tigers uniform during the off-season, but they decided to sign veteran Mike Pelfrey instead. With Pelfrey’s struggles, the Tigers need an upgrade, and Fister offers that. In 98.1 innings this year, Fister has amassed an 8 -5 record with a 3.66 ERA and 64 K.

The former Tiger could offer stability at the back-end of the rotation, and would be a valuable commodity out of the bullpen if the Tigers were to make the playoffs.

Andrew Cashner – San Diego Padres

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr.com
Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr.com

The Padres started slow out of the gate in 2016, and never have recovered. They now sit in the cellar of the NL West and near the bottom of the entire NL. They may be looking to move one of their mid-level contracts, and Andrew Cashner fills a need at the back-end of the Tigers rotation.

Cashner has spent some time on the DL this season, but is expected back this weekend. Cashner has pitched to a 4.75 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 53.0 IP. He could potentially fill the role that Pelfrey currently holds or the spot Sanchez gave up, and would benefit from a better defense behind him than he currently has.

Jeremy Hellickson – Philadelphia Phillies

Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr.com
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr.com

After getting off to their hot start this season, the Phillies have faded a bit, which was to be expected from a young team. They are now well out of the race for the NL Division title, and are falling farther back every day in the NL Wild Card race.

Philadelphia could look to build up their farm system even more by trading Jeremy Hellickson to a contender at the deadline. The 2011 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 Gold Glove winner is 6-6 this season with a 4.06 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 99.2 IP.

Hellickson’s start is among the best of his career since 2012 where he finished 10-11 with a 3.10 ERA.

Sonny Gray – Oakland Athletics

Photo Credit: Terry Dobbins/ Flickr.com
Photo Credit: Terry Dobbins/ Flickr.com

If the Tigers wanted to make a huge splash in the trade market, they could look to acquire Oakland ace, Sonny Gray. There would be big hurdles to clear to make this deal happen, however.

Gray is under team control until 2020, and will keep getting a pay increase as the years go on, especially if he continues to pitch at his current caliber. Oakland would likely be asking for the farm in order for them to part with Gray, and the Tigers are currently in the process of rebuilding a system that was depleted due to trades and free agent signings.

Gray’s current contract is $528,000, and he is once again eligible for arbitration at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Oakland is a small market team, and does not hand out the big contracts that the Tigers normally do. They may not want to be faced with the possibility of having to give Gray a significant upgrade in pay after this season, so they could look to sell their ace for cheaper options and prospects.

Gray is currently having an off-year by his standards. His 5.42 ERA is the worst of his career, and he has an extremely high WHIP of 1.46. From 2013-15, Gray had a combined ERA of 2.88. These could work in the Tigers advantage by lowering the asking price if they want to go after Gray.

Drew Smyly – Tampa Bay Rays

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr.com
Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr.com

Another former Tigers player makes an appearance on this list. Drew Smyly was traded away by the Tigers when they made a deal for ace David Price in 2014. Since being moved to Tampa, Smyly has emerged as an all-around solid pitcher.

Like Gray, Smyly has taken a step back this season, posting a 5.33 ERA in 16 starts this season. He missed a large portion of the 2015 campaign due to injury, making just 12 starts but recorded a 3.11 ERA.

Smyly fills an immediate need for the Tigers in their rotation by being a left-handed starter and like Oakland, Tampa is a small market team and does not like to hand out big contracts, unless it is to one of their star players. Smyly is under team control until 2019 and arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons. Smyly still owns a smaller contract, but makes a case year after year for an increase in his pay.

If Tampa falls too far out of the race by the deadline, they make look to part with Smyly, and the Tigers would be waiting with open arms to take him back.

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