DETROIT – It would take a blockbuster deal for the Detroit Tigers to trade Tarik Skubal, their most valuable player. But two of the most dialed-in MLB insiders are reporting it could happen before next week’s trade deadline.
On Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Tigers are willing to listen to offers on “just about everyone,” including Skubal.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan took it a step further Wednesday morning, dropping the following nugget: “Multiple general managers Wednesday said they expect Skubal to move.” The word “expect,” in particular, caught my eye.
Whether a trade happens or not, it certainly sounds like Tigers general manager Al Avila is at least gauging the market for Skubal, who has emerged as the team’s ace this season and has four more years of team control after 2022.
In our story Tuesday about each of the Tigers’ possible trade chips (click here to read it), we included a poll asking, “Would you support the Tigers trading Tarik Skubal?” Of the nearly 1,300 responses, 56% said they wouldn’t support a Skubal trade “under any circumstances.” Almost one-third of the voters said they would support a Skubal trade only if the Tigers got an “incredible offer,” and 13% chose, “They might as well get something for him now.”
I think it’s fair to say the fan base as a whole is hesitant to see Avila trade Skubal. But what would it take to ease their minds?
Here are a few hypothetical deals -- some probably more viable than others -- to consider in the Skubal sweepstakes. Would Tigers fans be willing to make these moves? Would you support them?
New York Yankees
Trade details: Tigers trade Tarik Skubal and Gregory Soto for Anthony Volpe, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar
Remember when fans across MLB laughed at the report that the Tigers wanted Torres from the Yankees in a potential Matt Boyd trade? Well, the 25-year-old’s stock has dipped since then, but he’s enjoying a nice rebound year and still has two years left of team control.
Torres was a borderline replacement level player the past two seasons after staring his MLB career with a pair of All-Star appearances. In 2022, however, he’s hitting the ball much, much harder despite the opposite trend happening across the league.
Torres would give the Tigers a power bat and an excellent defensive second baseman to pair with Javier Baez the next two seasons. The Yankees might be willing to part with his last two years of control because of their ridiculous cache of talented middle infield prospects.
One of those prospects is Volpe, a 21-year-old who dazzled with a 1.027 OPS, 27 homers, 35 doubles, and a .423 OBP across two Single-A levels last season. He’s having a solid first year in Double-A, with a .345 OBP, 13 homers, 24 doubles, and 35 stolen bases in 80 games.
Volpe is a borderline top-10 prospect and the type of player the Tigers would likely demand in a trade for Skubal.
Gregory Soto could also be an attractive target for the Yankees, as they would get him for four playoff races. New York recently added Michael King to their list of injured relievers, and Soto is one of the best arms on the market, even before considering his years of remaining control.
Miguel Andujar would be a worthy add-on for the Tigers. He hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity in New York the last four years, but the power in his bat is undeniable, and he’s only 27 years old and mashing at Triple-A.
St. Louis Cardinals
Trade details: Tarik Skubal for Dylan Carlson, Masyn Winn, and Alec Burleson
The Cardinals are typically more of a “wait for a team to give us their best player for cheap” type of franchise, but the Tigers aren’t likely to offer a Skubal discount in the realm of those Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt trades.
St. Louis has been mentioned as a possible destination for superstar Juan Soto, but that seems to be more based on the ability to put together a worthy package, and not because it’s necessarily a great fit.
The Cardinals have been struggling offensively, but come playoff time, their real need looks to be in the starting rotation. Adam Wainwright is defying Father Time and Miles Mikolas is pitching way over his head, but even if those trends continue, there’s a lot to be desired in the back half of that starting rotation.
Skubal would be the type of player the Cardinals target because he’s young, cheap, and under team control into the near future. If the Tigers could get a deal done without requiring rookie phenom Nolan Gorman or top-10 prospect Jordan Walker, there might be a match here.
Carlson hasn’t beaten down the door so far at the MLB level, but he’s still only 23 years old and has managed to post a .752 OPS over his first 263 games. His power manifests more often in the gaps than over the fence, and that can actually work well in Comerica Park.
The best sign for Carlson is his strikeout rate, which is trending steadily in the right direction despite his young age. His excellent speed and solid defense allowed him to be a 3.3 WAR player in 2021, and if he comes into any power as he enters his mid-20s, the Tigers could theoretically have a middle-of-the-order bat.
Wynn is considered a top-tier defensive prospect with elite speed on the base paths. At just 20 years old, he dominated High-A ball with a .970 OPS and forced a promotion to Double-A Springfield. He’s hitting for power, stealing bases and posting a solid .335 OBP in 45 games at that level.
Burleson is a bat-first outfield prospect who has a .932 OPS in Triple-A this season. If it wasn’t for the Cardinals’ crowded outfield situation, he already would be with the major league club.
In 82 games this season, Burleson has hit 17 home runs and 17 doubles while batting .338. The Tigers would love to add another MLB-ready left-handed bat to the heart of the order, and he fits that bill.
Trade details: Tarik Skubal for Jarred Kelenic and Adam Macko
Tigers fans frustrated by Spencer Torkelson’s rookie struggles might not have the stomach to take on Kelenic, but all signs still point to him becoming a star at the MLB level.
One of the most hyped hitting prospects in a few years, Kelenic got the call midway through 2021 and has twice slumped his way back to the minor leagues. This year, he’s batting .296 with 33 extra-base hits in 50 games at Triple-A. Strikeouts are a bit of a question, but he’s still managed to post a .367 career OBP in the minors.
Julio Rodriguez has quickly developed into the superstar Mariners fans hoped Kelenic would become, and that might make the latter expendable. Seattle has an extremely aggressive general manager in Jerry Dipoto, and he’s been tied to top free agent pitchers Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas.
If he misses out on those options, Dipoto might turn to Skubal, who makes even more sense for the competitive window of his team.
Macko is a young lefty with some walk issues in the low minors, but he has an elite strikeout rate (sound familiar?) and strong ground ball tendencies. Chris Fetter has shown an ability to work with pitchers with that profile, and Macko could be the type of player the Tigers ask for in addition to Kelenic, since they have all the leverage and Skubal is much more established at the MLB level.
Toronto Blue Jays
Trade details: Tarik Skubal and Joe Jimenez for Gabriel Moreno and Cavan Biggio
The Blue Jays are another team reportedly pushing hard for Castillo or Montas, which means they could likely become a player for Skubal, as well.
Toronto is loaded with young talent, both at the MLB level and the upper minors. In theory, this is the perfect trade partner for what the Tigers need.
Gabriel Moreno is the No. 1 catching prospect in the game, and although the Tigers still have hope for Dillon Dingler, his alarming strikeout rate and general lack of production don’t inspire much confidence for the future.
Moreno has the upside to be more than just an above-average offensive catcher. He could be one of the best contact hitters in the league. In 980 career minor-league plate appearances, he’s struck out just 117 times while batting .310 and posting an .844 OPS.
Even though he got called up for a few games this summer, Moreno’s rookie status remains intact, which means he has a full six years of team control remaining. The Blue Jays appear to have a star catcher already in place with Alejandro Kirk, and his skill set is similar enough to Moreno’s that Toronto might be open to moving their top prospect.
Biggio isn’t an everyday player for the Blue Jays, even though he’s having a decent season offensively. He can play all over the diamond defensively -- and do so well -- while providing an elite OBP and some extra-base power.
The Tigers could happily plug Biggio in at second or third base for the next two seasons. He has a career .355 OBP, as well as 56 doubles and 33 homers across 291 games.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Trade details: Tarik Skubal and Joe Jimenez for Gavin Lux and Miguel Vargas
This is the type of deal the Dodgers are known to come out of nowhere and make, because they love flipping unproven commodities for established major leaguers with plenty of remaining service time.
While the Dodgers are already good enough to win the World Series, it’s not their style to stand by and watch other teams close the gap at the trade deadline. Last season, they made a trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. This year, their greatest needs are in the pitching department.
Though Dustin May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers are a bit thin because of injuries. Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin look excellent, but Walker Buehler and Andrew Heaney have been on the injured list for months, and Tyler Anderson is, in a word, unproven.
Prospect Michael Busch, at 24 years old, is knocking on the door of an MLB promotion, and Chris Taylor is nearing a rehab assignment after injuring his foot. The starting lineup is about to get even more crowded, and that could make Lux expendable.
Lux hasn’t lived up to the hype of a No. 2 overall prospect, but he’s a 24-year-old with elite plate discipline, top-end speed and a versatile glove. The Tigers could play him at a corner outfield spot or at second base.
Vargas is tearing up Triple-A and looks ready to test himself against MLB pitching. He has an .881 OPS with 13 home runs, 23 doubles, and nearly as many walks as strikeouts.
Vargas has raked at every stop along his minor-league journey. He’s 22 years old and plays multiple positions on the infield. It’s a perfect fit.