Inside the Article:
We're taking our own version of Hamlet's soliloquy, “To be or not to be, that is the question…” and asking, “To trade or not to trade Alex Lange, that is the question…” Lange is the Detroit Tigers' best reliever and is top ten in ERA and FIP among relievers this season. His success is what made previous closer Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez expendable this past offseason. And, now with the recent barrage of injuries, Lange sits as the Tigers' best trade piece with the deadline looming two months away.
Now, it should be noted right up front that the goal is not to continually ship away our best players, however, the Tigers are in a position to create a haul that will be close to unprecedented. The return package would be something that would absolutely jumpstart this “we're not calling it a rebuild” rebuild. So, we must look at the pros and cons of trading away Alex Lange and the impact that it could have on the Tigers. Hamlet even wrestled with the pros and cons when he said, “whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take up arms against a sea of troubles.”
Pros for trading Alex Lange: “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
The Tigers and President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris find themselves in a position of “outrageous fortune” with Alex Lange. Lange currently ranks top-seven among relievers in ERA and top-10 in FIP. He has nine saves out of ten chances and 30 strikeouts in only 22.1 innings pitched. But, here's the kicker: he's not a free agent until 2028. The amount of team control still on his contract and his performance on the field have created this outrageous fortune for the Tigers.
Finding a trade that consisted of someone with Lange's track record and team control is not the easiest task in the world. There are some comparables, like when the Florida Marlins traded Trevor Hoffman to the San Diego Padres as a rookie. Their return: Gary Sheffield. Again, last season the Chicago Cubs traded Scott Effross to the New York Yankees as a rookie for RHP prospect Hayden Wesneski. Both of them had pretty decent returns but nothing is apples-to-apples of what the Tigers are looking at.
Effross was 28 as a rookie last season and Hoffman only had two saves in his career when he was dealt. Now, obviously, he became one of the best closers in the game with a career total of 601 saves, but that was still very much unknown when the deal was made. The Tigers have a younger closer than Effross with more MLB experience than Hoffman and five years of team control. In trading terms that's lucrative.
If you want an impact MLB-ready bat then this is the type of deal you have to be willing to make. But, you don't just make it. You set your asking price and make the buyers come to you. This wouldn't be a long-term play, the return would have to include at least one impact player that is MLB-ready now, or you don't trade him.
Cons for trading Alex Lange: “to take up arms against a sea of troubles”
Having a solid bullpen is key for a successful club. No one around these parts needs to be reminded of the Dave Dombrowski-Al Avila era where the bullpens were a dumpster fire. Having a piece like Lange solidifying the back end of the pen is crucial moving forward. And, this is what induces the “trouble” of trading Alex Lange.
The same reasoning for the “pros” section above is the exact same reasoning for the “cons' of trading Alex Lange. His performance on the field and the years of control that you have with him are definitely a reason to not part with him.
All of it really hinges on one person: Jason Foley. If the Tigers believe that they can get the same type of production from Foley as they do from Lange, then that allows them to move on from Lange for a hefty price. And, the numbers aren't bad, and are actually comparable to Langes: 21.2 innings pitched, 1.66 ERA (Top-24), 2.41 FIP (Top-25), 17 Ks.
The only issue is that Foley doesn't strike out hitters as much as Lange does, but throws an incredibly heavy sinker that induces groundballs at a 62.3% clip (Top-10 in MLB). If Foley could be the man, then trading Lange could be in the best interest of the Tigers. However, having the 1-2 punch of Lange-Foley would be formidable for the next five seasons.
The Bottom line: “conscious does make cowards of us all”
The only wrong choice here is as Hamlet would say, “Lose the name of action.” Scott Harris will have to weigh the pros and cons of dealing someone like Lange and then have conviction. He cannot just sit on his hands and see what will become of the situation. He must act either in dealing him or standing with conviction that he's our guy moving forward, and he can't really go wrong either way.