Legends On Deck

What Will the Detroit Tigers Look Like on August 1?

There is one obvious conclusion any fan or observer of the Detroit Tigers could come to at the end of June; it is time to sell.  June was the make or break month for the Tigers, who spent April and May hovering around the .500 mark, but a seven game skid from June 17-24 turned the season for the worse.

The Tigers left June with a 35-43 record, placing them 7 games out of the AL Central leading Indians and 5.5 games out of the AL Wild Card.  While the AL Wild Card race is still almost anyone’s game, the Tigers sit third from the bottom in the AL, only ahead of the A’s and White Sox.  Many reports have been released within the last week or so, expressing the Tigers are looking to sell, and potentially sell big.  

The Tigers have every reason to be sellers.  They have plenty of veteran talent on the team, even if they have been unable to mesh together successfully as a unit.  The time is right to sell big and retool for the future.  So, which Tigers are rumored to be leaving the Motor City by month’s end? Based on a number of sources that have speculated on potential Tigers trades, these are the names that have come up most frequently:

J.D. Martinez is perhaps the hottest hitter on the trade market.  With his contract expiring at the end of the season and odds of resigning him look unlikely, his explosive return from injury (14 HRs, 31 RBIs and a .307 BA in only 47 games) places him near the top of trade rumors lists.  There are plenty teams that have been mentioned as a good fit, including the Cardinals, Mariners, Brewers, Twins, Yankees and Dodgers.  Top Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo, Outfielder for AAA Oklahoma City, has gotten the Tigers attention and would be a good acquisition should they trade with LA.  He will be starting the All-Star Futures Game on July 9.   

Alex Avila is having a career season.  Hitting 3.11 with 11 HRs and 28 RBIs, Avila is a very attractive option for a team looking for a catcher.  The Cubs and Blue Jays have already expressed interest, but more teams could see his value.  Like JD Martinez, he’s also a free agent at the end of the season.

Justin Verlander has been the face of the Tigers franchise for over a decade and one of the most dominant Pitchers of his era.  He helped lead the Tigers to two AL Pennants (2006, 2012) and four consecutive AL Central Championships (2011-2014), was 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, won the Cy Young Award and AL MVP in 2011 and finished second in the Cy Young vote in 2015.  Losing JV would be hard for Detroit fans, but would likely be best for both the Tigers and Verlander.  

The 34 year old right-hander would make a dramatic impact in any team’s starting rotation, but the question will be which teams would be willing to pick up his contract and how much of it?  Look to teams like the Dodgers and Yankees, but don’t discount teams like the Astros, Rangers or Rockies. It is easy to imagine Justin and his fiance Kate Upton in LA (where they recently purchased a home) and for baseball fans, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in the same rotation would be fun to see.  

Justin Wilson made a strong impact early in the season in the Tigers bullpen and named the Closer, replacing the recently released Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod).  Bullpen help is typically the biggest need among teams looking to buy.  The Nationals have already expressed interest, other teams may as well.  The Tigers should entertain those offers.

Names like Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Shane Greene and even Miguel Cabrera have circulated as other potential trade bait, but the long term contracts of Kinsler and Cabrera make them difficult to trade.  Cabrera would, of course, be another major loss of star power for Detroit, but under the right circumstances, a good trade could benefit the franchise long term.  The good news is, the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees are seen as having among the top farm systems in MLB and coincidentally, are all teams looking for those missing pieces at the trade deadline.  

So, what reasons do Tigers fans have to get excited about the rest of the season?  For the faithful fans, it will be interesting to see what trades actually take place and what the Tigers get in return, and ultimately, what the team looks like if there are major adjustments to the roster.  A few major deals could shape the farm system and franchise for years to come.  

Finally, the Detroit Tigers will have only one representative at the All-Star Game in Miami on July 11, but it is hard to argue that anymore is more deserving than Michael Fulmer.  Fulmer has been one of the few bright spots in the Tigers season.  His 7-6 record is deceiving, as run support was non-existent in several of his solid outings where he pitched deep into games, but received losses; May 22 at Houston and June 23 at  San Diego come to mind.

Fulmer’s 3.19 ERA and 1.13 WHIP places him near the top of the American League.  Most notably, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is at 2.95, placing him near the top few in MLB; displaying the amount of control he has to keep the ball in the park, minimize walks and get batters out.  Coming off his AL Rookie of the Year season, Michael Fulmer is showing signs of being perhaps one of baseball’s elite Pitchers, and certainly the Tigers Ace, for years to come.  

Image Source: SI.com

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