DETROIT – The MLB trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Detroit Tigers are expected to be among the most active sellers over the next six days.
Nicholas Castellanos, a free agent at the end of the season, is a very likely trade candidate. Matt Boyd is the team's most valuable trade chip, though general manager Al Avila could decide to hold onto him for another year.
The team already owns the worst record in baseball at 30-67, but what would the lineup and starting rotation look like without the best hitter and best starting pitcher on the roster?
Going into Wednesday, the Tigers had already scored the fewest runs in baseball, including all 15 National League teams that are required to bat a pitcher.
Detroit was shut out by Vince Velasquez and the Philadelphia bullpen Wednesday, so that certainly hasn't changed.
But the worst lineup in the league will get even worse without Castellanos, the only non-pitcher on the roster with an OPS north of .800. Castellanos is batting a solid .282 with a .339 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage.
He leads MLB with 36 doubles and is one behind Brandon Dixon for the team lead, with 11 home runs.
Castellanos has 108 hits this season. The next closest Tiger has 89, and that's Miguel Cabrera, who only hits singles.
Ron Gardenhire tinkers with his lineup nearly every day. The Tigers haven't had two identical lineups in the last five games.
But if Castellanos gets traded, this could be the everyday lineup for the rest of the season:
That... that is something.
There are as many hitters batting below .215 in this theoretical lineup as hitters batting above .250. The full lineup would have a combined WAR of three.
Boyd has become the unquestioned ace of the starting rotation over the last two years, and this season he's leading baseball in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
It's not a guarantee that Boyd will be traded because he has three years of team control remaining and the Tigers are reportedly putting a very high price tag on the young lefty.
But if Boyd is traded, the Tigers need a new ace. When he's healthy, it would be Spencer Turnbull, and the rotation would look something like this:
Turnbull is having a solid rookie campaign, although his strikeouts have dropped to eight per nine innings and his WHIP is up to 1.36. He's been the second-most valuable player on the team with a 1.8 WAR, behind only Boyd.
Turnbull isn't a guarantee to be in the rotation the rest of the second half, though, as he's spent the better part of a month on the injured list. He missed the end of the first half with right shoulder fatigue and is back on the shelf after two starts with a back strain.
Without Turnbull, a familiar face would probably find his way back into the starting rotation:
The Tigers could always go with right-handed pitching prospects Beau Burrows or Kyle Funkhouser instead of Carpenter, but frankly, neither of them has earned a promotion, either.
If this ends up being the Tigers' starting rotation, it could be one of the worst in baseball history.
Alexander has a strong 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP, but that's largely because he's only made two starts and pitched 12 innings. He only has five strikeouts, so his ratios will certainly be on the rise if he stays in the big leagues.
Out of Norris, Zimmermann, Carpenter and Soto, the best ERA belongs to Norris at 5.02. He also has the best WHIP of the group at 1.45.
Zimmermann, Carpenter and Soto all have ERAs over 7.50 and WHIPs over 1.70. Those numbers would typically warrant instant demotions to the minor leagues, but the Tigers don't have many options.
Even the best-case scenario doesn't look good for this rotation. Take a look at the FIPs for the five starters:
- Norris -- 4.63
- Zimmermann -- 4.87
- Alexander -- 4.80
- Carpenter -- 6.93
- Soto -- 6.28
Here are their strikeout rates, in K's per nine innings:
- Norris -- 7.4
- Zimmermann -- 6.4
- Alexander -- 3.8
- Carpenter -- 5.5
- Soto -- 6.8
It's possible that Drew VerHagen, who was called up to start Thursday, could stick in the rotation, but his career 5.20 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 1.44 WHIP and 6.9 K/9 don't inspire much confidence, either.
The bottom line is: If Boyd gets traded, Turnbull is the only chance the Tigers have to feel good about every fifth game. If Turnbull isn't healthy, well, you see the numbers.