DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have been quiet this month, but that should change very soon.
As the MLB trade deadline approaches, general manager Al Avila has a trio of trade chips at his disposal: right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, closer Shane Greene and starting pitcher Matt Boyd.
Assessing value for Tigers' trade chips
Boyd, with elite strikeout and walk rates, a good whip and a solid FIP, is not only the most valuable asset for the rest of 2019 but should yield a massive return due to his additional three years of team control.
That also gives the Tigers some negotiating power because they could always decide to hold onto Boyd if the offers aren't to Avila's liking.
Greene might be the best reliever on the market, and he also has an additional year of control through 2020. He's got 22 saves this season while striking out more than a batter per inning and posting a WHIP of 0.861. His 1.25 ERA is not supported by peripherals, but he's only allowed earned runs in four of 36 appearances this season.
Castellanos has his limitations on defense and is a free agent at the end of the season, which makes him likely the least valuable trade chip of the three. But he leads MLB with 34 doubles, has an .822 OPS and is scorching in July, with a .319/.356/.565 slash line and 11 extra-base hits in 16 games.
Teams with interest
Reports have been flying in from around MLB about which teams have interest in the Tigers' prospects. It's clear Boyd is garnering the most attention.
The New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros have all been linked to Boyd in some fashion.
What would it take to land Boyd? ClickOnDetroit has previously pointed to the Jose Quintana trade as a comparison because Quintana had years of control remaining, albeit with a longer track record of MLB success. He never showed the swing-and-miss dominance of Boyd, though, and he brought an elite hitting prospect, an excellent pitching prospect and two other minor leaguers to the White Sox.
The Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and Dodgers have been linked to Greene.
The Padres have long been able to turn talented relievers into top prospects at the trade deadline. Last year, they got top catching prospect Francisco Mejia for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. While Greene isn't as good as Hand, could still fetch a nice return if a contender is desperate for bullpen help.
Two years ago, the Oakland Athletics acquired elite pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo from the Nationals in a deadline deal centered around closer Sean Doolittle.
Relievers don't always yield massive returns, but it's not unheard of, especially for a player having as much success as Greene, who isn't a three-month rental.
Castellanos has been linked to the Cubs, who pulled off a deadline deal with the Tigers two years ago that brought then-top-100 prospect Jeimer Candelario and current top 100 prospect Isaac Paredes to Detroit for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson.
The Cubs have a recent history of being willing to pay up at the deadline, including the Quintana and Wilson moves. Avila also negotiated one of his better deals with Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer.
Using the teams above that have reportedly expressed interest in the Tigers' players, here's a dream scenario of how the next week could unfold for the Tigers, though trade deadlines rarely go this smoothly.
Trade 1: Castellanos to Cubs
Specifics: Tigers trade Castellanos for OF Brennan Davis, SS Zack Short
Look, Castellanos is definitely the Tigers' best hitter. An argument can be made he's their only good hitter, in fact. Only JaCoby Jones (.775 OPS) and Brandon Dixon (.765 OPS) have an OPS over .750 among the rest of the team's hitters, and the jury is definitely still out on both.
But being the best hitter for the Tigers doesn't necessarily translate to enormous trade value. He's not a standout on the base paths and his defense drops his overall WAR below Candelario's 1.5 mark.
He's an excellent offensive player who could definitely help a playoff contender for three months. That's worth something, but not as much as fans might think.
When Avila traded J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017, he got Arizona's No. 4 prospect, Dawel Lugo, No. 15 prospect Sergio Alcantara and unranked prospect Jose King.
Martinez is one of the best hitters in baseball, so the Castellanos return probably won't be as fruitful.
Avila would be well to land Davis, Chicago's No. 7 prospect, and Short, Chicago's No. 11 prospect, in a deal.
Davis was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft and is still just 19 years old. He's having a strong offensive season, posting an .854 OPS in Single-A with five home runs, nine doubles, three triples, three stolen bases and 16 walks in 45 games.
Davis is a typical power-speed prospect who also grades out well in the field. The Tigers are desperate for outfielders, so Davis would be a good gamble, since the Cubs appear to be one of the few teams seriously considering a Castellanos deal.
Short isn't as young as Davis, but at 24 years old, he's closer to making an impact at the MLB level. He's gone from rookie ball to Double-A to Triple-A this season and has a .906 OPS in the Pacific Coast League.
In 20 Triple-A games, he's hit four doubles and four home runs while drawing nine walks. He's considered more of a defensive prospect, but now that he's showing some signs of life at the plate, the Tigers could give him a shot, even if it's at second base or elsewhere.
Davis and Short might not fire up the fan base that's been lulled to sleep by a 30-65 record, but it would be a savvy move for a player who's going to be gone in a few months either way.
Trade 2: Greene to Phillies
Specifics: Tigers trade Greene for OF Adam Haseley and OF Mickey Moniak
The Phillies might not have the best farm system to match with the Tigers' needs, but they might be the most desperate contender in need of a late reliever.
Philadelphia signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen and traded for Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto this offseason. This team is expecting to be in the postseason, and right now, that's looking a little bit iffy.
The Phillies are 7.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division, but only 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wildcard spot and one game behind the Nationals for the top wildcard spot.
Making a trade just to get into a one-game playoff is risky, but again, Greene is under contract for next season, so the Phillies would also be making a move for next year, when they bring back essentially the same roster.
Hector Neris is the closer for the Phillies, but he's blown four saves and allowed seven earned runs in his last six outings. His overall numbers aren't terrible, but the second half is off to a rough start.
Other than Neris, the Phillies have a pair of solid relievers in Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan. They've appeared in a combined 75 games and 1.3 WAR. Their strikeout rates are low, though, and Alvarez has a WHIP of 1.26.
Even if you count Neris, Alvarez and Morgan as back-end relievers, there's plenty of need for another arm. Greene has been a setup man and a closer, so he could surely fit into that bullpen wherever Gabe Kapler decides.
Philadelphia wouldn't part with top prospect Alec Bohm in a deal that doesn't include Boyd, but the Tigers could shoot for two recent first-round picks.
Haseley recently made his MLB debut, batting just .229 but hitting two home runs and three doubles in his first 11 games. The 23-year-old outfielder was sporting an .840 OPS in the minors with 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 29 walks in 62 games.
The Tigers are reportedly looking for "major league ready" players at the deadline, and Haseley fits that mold as a recent call-up. He could slide right into Castellanos' old spot in right field.
While Haseley is the No. 3 prospect in the Phillies' system, Moniak is No. 9 but probably has a more famous name.
Still only 21, Moniak was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He struggled in his first full season and plummeted in prospect rankings, but Moniak has rebounded in 2019, hitting 22 doubles, 10 triples and five home runs in Double-A.
Moniak might not live up to the hype of a No. 1 overall pick, but he clearly has elite raw tools and plenty of time to improve. If the Phillies are ready to move on, the Tigers should try to capitalize.
Trade 3: Boyd to Astros or Yankees
Astros trade specifics: Tigers trade Boyd for OF Kyle Tucker and Derek Fisher
Yankees trade specifics: Tigers trade Boyd for OF Clint Frazier, OF Estevan Florial and SP Chance Adams
With nearly a dozen teams publicly linked to Boyd, his value should only increase as July 31 draws closer. While he's not helping his value by allowing 32 earned runs in his last 47.1 innings, the swinging strike rate is still elite and the home run rate will assuredly fall.
Two of the teams that could be great fits for Boyd are already at the top of the American League, and not only could be bidding against each other for Boyd, but they could also be trying to keep Boyd from landing with each other.
Remember, this is a dream scenario for the Tigers. This is dreaming big.
Houston has reportedly told the Tigers they don't want to deal Tucker, but that could change at any moment. The Astros aren't adding to their outfield this year with Michael Brantley and George Springer as two of the best in the game and Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick combining for a great right-left platoon.
Yordan Alvarez got the call over Tucker earlier this year and has completely locked down the designated hitter spot.
Brantley, Springer, Reddick and Marisnick are all under team control for next season, too. The Astros' window is now, and there really isn't a spot for Tucker in the outfield.
Fisher is in the same situation, but he's going to be 26 years old next month. He was sent to Triple-A in mid-June and hasn't had a spot on the MLB roster since.
Tucker is the No. 10 prospect in baseball and the No. 3 outfielder. There are only six offensive prospects ranked ahead of him, and he's 22 years old.
While he was terrible during a short stint with the Astros last season, he has a .929 OPS, 21 doubles, 25 home runs and 21 stolen bases in Triple-A this season. He's the type of offensive player the Tigers could build a lineup around.
Since the Tigers are looking for an MLB ready player in addition to a top prospect in a Boyd deal, Fisher is the perfect compliment to Tucker.
He hasn't had much success at the MLB level the last three seasons, but Fisher has only played a total of 112 games. In his minor league career, though, Fisher owns a .856 OPS with 87 home runs and 94 doubles. He can also draw a walk, but strikeouts have been a problem.
Tucker is the best prospect the Tigers could realistically get for Boyd, and Fisher would take over an outfield spot immediately and be under team control until 2025.
Avila was bold to mention Gleyber Torres in trade talks. That's not happening, even in a dream scenario.
Frazier seems much more likely, especially since he's already been cast off by the Yankees this season because of disastrous defense. That's right up the Tigers' alley in terms of corner outfielders.
Frazier was the No. 15 prospect in baseball in 2016 before making his debut the following year. He's been as advertised with the bat, posting a .787 OPS in 107 games the last three years, including 15 home runs and 23 doubles.
Even though Frazier will turn 25 in September, he's still young enough to be the centerpiece of the Tigers' future offense, since he's under team control until 2024. His defense is a major issue in right field that the Tigers would have to address.
The Yankees don't have any top 40 prospects, but Florial is No. 46 overall and considered a future power-speed threat at the big league level.
The 21-year-old signed with the Yankees in 2015 and has been a consistently good defender, which might help offset some of the concerns surrounding Frazer.
He's struggling to hit in High-A ball, though, posting a .628 OPS with four home runs, seven stolen bases and 57 strikeouts in 41 games.
Since the Yankees don't have a high-end hitting prospect to offer, the Tigers would do well to land both Frazier and Florial. But Avila might still want more.
Chance Adams is a 24-year-old starting pitcher who ranks at No. 19 in the Yankees' farm system. He has been terrible in seven MLB appearances, but some of the flashes in the minor leagues have been enticing.
Between Triple-A and Double-A in 2017, Adams struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings with a 1.078 WHIP and 2.45 ERA.
Adams took a step back last season and is struggling again in Triple-A this year, though the strikeouts are still solid.
The Tigers might be able to get him for a discount and plug him into the MLB rotation.
Trade deadline overview
From the outside looking in, it's hard to tell how much interest teams have in any of the Tigers' prospects, especially with Avila's high asking prices. If his recent struggles in trades are making him raise the price this year, the Tigers might not make as many deals.
But teams such as the Astros and Cubs that recently went through rebuilds and came out as World Series contenders capitalized on opportunities to accumulate elite young talent. Whether that's through the draft or the trade deadline, the Tigers are on the clock.
It seems like Castellanos is a guarantee to get moved, along with Greene. Avila's deadline will be defined by whether or not he moves Boyd and what he gets in return.