DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are squarely back in the postseason picture after winning three straight series against playoff-bound teams. Now, they have a few more hours to decide if they want to improve their chances to stay in that mix with a last-minute trade at the deadline.
As of Monday, the Tigers sit just two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the No. 8 spot in the American League. The Blue Jays certainly appear to have the better roster, but it’s not too large a gap to overcome, especially with fewer than 30 games remaining.
Let’s be clear: If the Tigers make a move, it will be minor. Al Avila isn’t going to mortgage the future by sending a prominent prospect away for a chance to slip into the final wildcard spot in 2020.
The Tigers might be willing to trade players such as Anthony Castro or Beau Burrows for a rental, or upgrade to prospects in the Franklin Perez, Derek Hill and Sergio Alcantara range for someone under team control for a few more seasons.
Toronto has already added Taijuan Walker and is reportedly in the mix for other big deadline names, such as Lance Lynn. If the Tigers realistically want to keep playing meaningful games throughout September, they probably need to address weaknesses at the fifth starting pitcher spot and one corner outfield position.
Spencer Turnbull has been the team’s best pitcher all year, and Matt Boyd appears to have at least turned his season around to some extent. The Tigers didn’t call up Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize just to start their service clocks and demote them to the alternate training site. They should both be in it for the long haul.
That fifth spot, though, has been a disaster. Daniel Norris is probably the best option, but the Tigers like him in a long relief role, so adding a more competitive fifth starter would be beneficial.
Detroit could also use another corner outfielder, as Cameron Maybin and Christin Stewart haven’t done much at the plate or in the field. JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes have both earned their everyday roles, but adding a more reliable bat at the third outfield spot would give the offense a much-needed boost.
Here are five starting pitchers and five outfielders the Tigers could consider targeting in a last-minute deal.
- UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): Minor was reportedly traded to the Oakland Athletics for two players to be named later.
The most popular name for the Texas Rangers this deadline will be Lance Lynn, but the Tigers aren’t going to pay the price to get in that mix -- nor should they.
Minor is getting some trade buzz, but the competition for him should be lighter, and the price lower.
This could be a win-win because the Blue Jays have also been linked to Minor, so if the Tigers got a deal done, they could bolster their rotation and keep their competition from doing so at the same time.
Minor isn’t having a great season so far, but seven starts isn’t enough of a sample size to ignore someone who struck out 200 batters in 208.1 innings last season.
In his last start against the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers offense, Minor went six scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He’s a rental, so it shouldn’t cost much if the Tigers want to see if he can build off that start for a few more outings.
Another one-month rental, Gausman has been better than Minor this season but doesn’t have as much recent success to fall back on.
In seven games this season, Gausman has struck out 48 batters in 35.2 innings while posting a 3.31 FIP and 1.262 WHIP.
Gausman has been traded each of the last two seasons and has almost always been at least serviceable in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen. If the Tigers could get him for cheap, he’d be a fine fifth starter to pitch ahead of Norris.
Trading for Gonzales would be a bit pricier and much more of a commitment because he’s signed through the next four seasons. But his contract -- $30 million total over the next four years -- is more than reasonable for a lefty in his prime who posted WARs of 2.6 and 3.4 the last two seasons.
Avila would have to give up a reasonable package to acquire Gonzales, but he’s not the kind of starter to break the bank for. His strikeout rates are modest but play up because he doesn’t issue many walks. This is his third full season (if you can call 2020 a full season) at the MLB level, and he’s been solid the whole way.
If the Tigers acquired Gonzales, they would probably go with a rotation of Boyd, Turnbull, Skubal, Mize and Gonzales for the next couple of seasons, barring another trade or injuries.
There isn’t much talk about Duffy right now, but he’s having a really strong season. He’s signed through next year at $15.5 million, so some teams might not want to take on that contract for 2021. The Tigers are in a position to do so.
Duffy has 40 strikeouts in 35 innings this season while allowing just 10 walks, 16 earned runs and 27 hits. He’s been quietly steady for the Kansas City Royals since 2014, thrice posting WARs over 3.5 and never falling below 1.1. This could be exactly the type of under-the-radar, low cost move that helps the Tigers for the rest of 2020 and as they transition into more of a contender in 2021.
Think of this as a last resort. Kuhl is having a nice season, but the underlying numbers don’t back it up and he isn’t missing many bats. He’s under team control for two more seasons, but would need to prove he deserves a spot for that long.
Kuhl returned this year after missing all of 2019 due to injury. He owns a sparkling 2.52 ERA, but his 5.46 FIP suggests heavy regression is coming. He’s struck out 20 batters while issuing 11 walks in 25 innings, which explains why the FIP is so high.
Kuhl isn’t the greatest fit for the Tigers, but if the Pittsburgh Pirates are having a yard sale, he would at least be a short-term upgrade.
Dickerson is signed for $8.75 million in 2021, so the price tag in a trade will be a bit higher than for a rental player, especially with the Marlins surprisingly in the playoff hunt.
But teams are reportedly asking about Dickerson, and he would be a great fit for the Tigers, who have struggled to pinpoint a leadoff hitter.
In 2018 and 2019, Dickerson posted a .334 on-base percentage across 213 combined games, racking up 230 hits and 37 walks while striking out just 136 times. He’s off to a slow start this year, but he’s a career .284/.327/.501 slasher from the left side.
Like Dickerson, Peralta isn’t having his best year, but he’s signed through 2022 for $7.5 million each of the next two seasons, and that could be a favorable timeline for the Tigers.
The extra-base power Peralta showed last season hasn’t arrived yet, but he still gets on base at a high rate and puts the ball in play. In 2019, he hit 29 doubles and 12 home runs. The year before, he hit 25 doubles and 30 home runs.
Arizona is in last place and probably heading for a bit of a rebuild, so moving a 32-year-old outfielder is certainly in the cards.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
He hasn’t played a corner outfield spot this season, but Bradley is more than capable of moving over to right field if the Tigers want to keep Jones in center.
Bradley is always a solid, capable two-way player. He’s finished between 1.9 and 5.8 WAR each of the past five seasons while hitting 127 doubles, 21 triples and 87 home runs with a.765 OPS over that span.
As a rental having a down year at the plate, Bradley might cost next to nothing for the Tigers, and at the very least they’d be getting a massive defensive upgrade wherever they put him. The Boston Red Sox are also shopping Kevin Pillar from their outfield, if Avila is interested in discussing other names.
It’s amazing that the Los Angeles Angels, of all teams, have the worst record in the AL. They added Anthony Rendon to a lineup that includes Mike Trout and several solid role players, but still they can’t get into contention.
Goodwin is one of those solid role players, and he’s the type of player who could lead off for the Tigers. Despite batting just .242 so far, Goodwin has a .330 OBP thanks to 12 walks. He’s also hit four home runs and seven doubles, bumping his OPS up to .793.
Goodwin has played all three outfield spots, which is another plus, as it would give Ron Gardenhire the flexibility to shuffle his other four options in and out of the lineup.
This is by far the biggest name on the list, and the most unlikely target for the Tigers unless they want to give up a package that includes at least one Alex Faedo- or Franklin Perez-level prospect.
Marte is signed for a very reasonable $12.5 million next year and currently validating the best offensive season of his career. In 2019, Marte slashed .295/.342/.503 with 23 home runs, 31 doubles and 25 stolen bases.
He’s currently hitting .311 with 10 walks, 19 strikeouts and 11 extra-base hits through 33 games. He could instantly slot into the No. 2 spot in the Tigers’ order and be the best hitter on the team.
It would be a shock to see the Tigers target a player of Marte’s caliber, but it would actually make sense. He could be an All-Star level bat for the rest of 2020 and into 2021 as the Tigers try to bridge the gap to Daz Cameron or Riley Greene in 2022.