DETROIT - Fans of the Detroit Tigers don't need more reasons to feel hopeless about the direction of the franchise, but the performance of one former player is pouring salt in the wounds.
The Tigers became the first team to 100 losses in 2019 over the weekend, falling 3.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in Major League Baseball.
Fans have probably gotten used to the fact that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are two of the top five pitchers in all of baseball. They might even be over the fact that J.D. Martinez has hit 107 home runs since leaving the team midway through 2017.
But one transaction that was indefensible from the very start -- trading prospect Eugenio Suarez to the Cincinnati Reds for Alfredo Simon -- has joined the growing pile of regret.
Alfredo Simon ... why?
At the time, the Tigers badly needed to add a starting pitcher to the rotation. The problem is they didn't decide to add a good pitcher.
Dave Dombrowski, who was just let go by the Boston Red Sox one season after winning the World Series, targeted Simon, who had spent the first six seasons as a bad relief pitcher with a 4.52 FIP, 1.36 ERA and 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
He was mildly interesting as a starter in the first half of 2014, but even those numbers looked fluky, as he only struck out 75 batters in 116.2 innings.
Simon clearly ran out of gas in the second half, allowing 40 earned runs in 79.2 innings to go with 28 walks and 52 strikeouts. He finished the season with a 4.33 FIP, a 1.21 WHIP and a 5.8 K/9.
Yes, he was technically a National League all-star. But a quick glance at the numbers bring up a number of red flags.
The Tigers could have gotten a pitcher of Simon's caliber from free agency or the minor leagues. Instead, they traded Suarez.
Suarez as a prospect
While Suarez wasn't regarded as an elite prospect, he was the No. 5 player in the Tigers' organization in 2013 before making his MLB debut.
In 2014, he posted an .850 OPS in Double-A Erie and a .939 OPS in Triple-A Toledo to earn a call up to Detroit. He struggled at the MLB level, but showed some extra-base power and an ability to draw a walk.
When they shipped him to Cincinnati, he posted a .761 OPS with 13 home runs in 2015. He also struggled in 2016, hitting 21 home runs but finishing with a below average OPS of .728.
Suarez as a slugger
When he turned 25 years old, Suarez hit his stride.
In 2017 and 2018 combined, Suarez hit 60 home runs, 47 doubles and drew 148 walks while posting an .860 OPS. He made his first all-star game last year.
This season, Suarez has hit 44 home runs in 141 games. He trails MVP candidates Mike Trout and Pete Alonso by one in the home run race and is tied with fellow MVP candidates Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger.
Those are four of the best hitters in the world right now, and Suarez is keeping pace. Nobody else in baseball has more than 41 homers.
Suarez also has 54 walks and a .346 on-base percentage. His .914 OPS is 141 points higher than the Tigers' highest mark -- Victor Reyes' .773 OPS.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have gotten a combined 14 home runs and a .666 OPS from the third base position. Jeimer Candelario and Dawel Lugo are the team's answer for the position in the near future, and neither can hit.
More pain for Tigers fans
This weekend while fans were watching the Tigers lose another series to the Oakland Athletics, they might have noticed Suarez's name scrolling past on the bottom of the screen, announcing he had hit another home run.
He went 6-for-13 in their weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting three more home runs.
In a year when home runs are at an all-time high, Suarez is competing with the game's elite for the homer title.
The top three home run hitters on the Tigers' roster -- Brandon Dixon, Ronny Rodriguez and Niko Goodrum -- don't have as many home runs combined as Suarez.
Oh yeah, and Simon was a below replacement level player for the Tigers in 2015, posting a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts with a 1.44 WHIP, 4.77 FIP and 5.6 K/9.
He allowed 61 earned runs in 58.2 innings the following year for the Reds and never threw another pitch in the big leagues.
It was a terrible trade at the time, and just like the Tigers, it's only gotten worse.
As the Tigers continue to search for a bat to build their offense around, remember: They already had one.
Or, don't remember. This season is already bad enough.
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