Well this week saw something I have never experienced before as a Tiger’s fan: the Tigers were sellers at the deadline.
I certainly went through plenty of years when the Tigers should have been sellers, but they didn’t have any players good enough to trade. This was the late 90’s early 00’s version of the Tigers. Since 04, the Tigers have been acquiring players via trade, not selling them off.
So this season was significant. It was also significant because it was the first year in the Dombrowski era that the team basically called it a season. They traded their best pitcher. They traded their closer. They traded one of the major pieces of the offense and defense. Basically everything they could move.
They had a few more trade options, guys that will exit this season as free agents, that they did not pick up, and I think it is telling. They did not trade Rajai Davis, or Alex Avila, or Alfredo Simon, or Neftali Feliz. All of those guys make less than $6 million and stand to make less next year due to age and lessened ability. I would not be surprised to see the Tigers sign ALL of those players in the offseason. Feliz is a long shot because he has been so terrible, but they need bullpen arms. They need starting pitchers. They need a back-up catcher. They need a fourth outfielder. I think Davis and Avila come back for sure, it is almost a guarantee.
So what about the guys the Tigers traded for?
The big name is Daniel Norris for Toronto. He is big, left handed, 22 years old, a full six years left before he is a free agent. He strikes out everyone, but he also tends to walk guys. He has a low homer rate. He is the 19th ranked prospect in the game, if that matters to anyone. And he is going to make his first start for the Tigers next week.
I am certain the Tigers are thinking they want to slot him in behind Verlander/ Sanchez. We will see how that works out. He has had two stints in the majors, and neither were pretty. He probably needs more time at AAA.
The other big name out of Toronot was Matt Boyd. I like Matt Boyd. Big lefty starter. He has a sub 1.00 WHIP in his minor league career. He strikes out guys on a pace with Anibal Sanchez and he walks next to no one. He is 24 years old and appears a bit more polished than Norris. He is not, however, a ranked prospect, if that matters to anyone.
The Tigers are reportedly interested in having Boyd compete for a rotation spot next year as well. So they traded two months of Price for 2/5 of a starting rotation for 6 years. Not a bad haul. We will see how it plays out.
And to top off that trade they picked up an even bigger lefty starter that is 22 years old in Jairo Labourt. This guy has insane strikeout numbers, like Pedro like strikeout numbers in the minors. But the problem is that he walks almost as many guys as he strikes out.
I have no idea what the plans are for Labourt, he is still only in A ball, but I think he has closer written all over him, if he makes it.
The Cespedes trade brought more pitchers. This time two right handers.
Luis Cessa is yet another big guy. He strikes out a ton of guys and walks next to no one. He does get hit quite a lot. He is at AAA right now, so he is certainly a candidate to make the club next year.
Michael Fulmer is the centerpiece of this trade. He is young, 22, big, right handed, and has a great strikeout rate (I think Dombrowski is the type of guy that has a “type”). His walk rate and his WHIP are incredibly low. And he is the 98th ranked prospect in baseball, if that matters to any of you.
Fulmer is only at AA. Players make the jump from AA all the time, and I suspect we will see Fulmer pitching for the Tigers next year. I think it will be in a 6th starter role or if someone gets injured, and probably in September.
The Tigers made one other move, when they traded Soria to the Pirates. They acquired JaCoby Jones, a big INF/OF that is right handed and is only 23 years old. He has played both SS and CF in the minors. And when this trade happened I initially read that he would most likely be converted to an outfielder due to his size and power. The very next day I read that he is playing SS at the Tigers AA affiliate.
The Tigers have Iglesias for a long time, so I don’t see this kid staying at short. Plus, you don’t see many 6’ short stops for a reason. He will go to center or maybe a corner outfield and come up with the club that way. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to convert him to third base and move on from Castellanos while you still can.
The Tigers potentially landed three guys that could be in the rotation next year. Plus a promising outfielder for the future and a big power arm that may or may not pan out. Most of these guys have a very high likelihood of making it to the majors since they are all so close already, so this is not a typical rebuild move. The Tigers checked out on this season, and probably made trades that helped them for next season. It is not too common to see that and I think the Tigers did a fine job here.
Important side note: the Tigers did not move any money in these deals. It is very common to move a superstar player plus cash for prospects. The Tigers were able to save $9 million for the rest of this season, which is a lot of money. But you have to wonder if they had moved cash, could they have landed better players? The answer, of course, is yes. So why didn’t they do that? I think they are cash strapped. I would be surprised to see them go after a big free agent this winter.