After an up-and-down start to the 2017 campaign, the Detroit Tigers might finally be breaking up the band.
Fox’s Jon Morosi reported that if the Tigers are below .500 by the end of June, the front office would go into full sell mode. Basically, do what they tried (and failed) to do last offseason. So if the Tigers really are selling, who’s buying?
I can’t imagine general managers lighting up Al Avila’s phone with offers for Justin Verlander. The 34-year old is owed $28 million per year through the 2019 season with a $22 million option in 2020. That’s a hefty price to pay for an aging ace with a 4.87 ERA this season who can’t keep the ball in the park on the road.
Teams won’t be knocking down Avila’s door to trade for designated hitter and noted bunt specialist Victor Martinez. He’s 38 and is owed $18 million next season.Yes, he’s a year removed from hitting 27 home runs and three years from his best statistical season of his career. But at his age, the decline comes fast. This season, he’s going nearly twice as many at bats per home run than a year ago,. which means his power is all but gone. No power and no speed is not a great combination for a designated hitter.
What about Miguel Cabrera? Surely someone will want one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time, right? Detroit certainly won’t give away the face of their franchise for pennies on the dollar. He has six years and $184 million left on his mammoth contract, with two options after that. He’s also 34 and is going through a slow start this season, hitting just .266 with five home runs in 38 games.
For the Tigers to make a deal happen, they’d likely have to pay a chunk of his contract, similar to the Prince Fielder trade (they’re still on the hook for $6 million per year until 2020 for that one). With the MLB gravitating towards younger, faster teams, power hitters like Cabrera might get left behind. Now, I’m not saying his career is over by any means. But in terms of his trade value, what the Tigers would want for him and what teams would give for him are likely two very different things.
Nicholas Castellanos is tanking his trade value so far. Before the season, his value was one of the highest on the team. He was destined to make an all-star team and emerge as one of the premiere young third basemen in the MLB. Since then, he’s been hitting .212 with four home runs and 58 strikeouts, second on the team.
Who’s first in strikeouts, you ask? That would be $132 million dollar man Justin Upton. If it weren’t for an incredible September last season in which he clubbed 12 home runs and batted .307, he’d be known as one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory. He has four years and over $88 million left on his contract after this season, and last time I checked, no one wants to pay that kind of money for a player to lead your team in strikeouts.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Avila. He does have an upper-tier left-handed reliever in Justin Wilson who still has another year of arbitration before hitting free agency. Right fielder JD Martinez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since his return from the disabled list and he’s a free agent after this year. Some teams might be interested in the leather-flashing shortstop Jose Iglesias, but his .226 batting average will certainly hurt his value.
Is a rebuild a good idea for the Tigers? Absolutely. I think it should have happened this offseason. But Avila realized the market doesn’t value expensive, aging stars like it used to. If the sell-off does happen, don’t expect him to be able to pull any Dombrowski-esque highway robbery. The Tigers will likely get mid-level prospects and return to their pre-2006 losing ways. That’s the price you pay for years of going all-in for a World Series and failing.