By now, we are all aware that the Chicago White Sox traded pitcher Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for stud prospect Eloy Jiminez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete. The Cubs got the left handed pitcher under team control for multiple years that they desperately needed, while the White Sox added more elite prospects to an already impressive farm system. The case could be made that both teams came out ahead in this trade. People don’t seem to be talking about how this trade affects the rest of the American League Central, in specific, the Detroit Tigers, so let’s break it down.
The Tigers have had a rough three years (counting this one) after being a playoff lock for the better part of 4 years prior. The Tigers were loaded with a dominant pitching staff and a potent lineup lead by one of the best hitters in baseball history, Miguel Cabrera. On paper the Tigers looked capable of winning a World Series for many years, but could never get over the hump. This caused the Tigers to overpay players based on past performance, without taking into account what their value would drop to over time. Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez stick out as two of those bad contracts, but Verlander and Cabrera’s contracts are starting to look not so hot as well. Giving out those contracts forced the Tigers to monitor spending. This lead to the departures of Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and eventual Cy Young Winner Rick Porcello. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to say the Tigers should not have given out those contracts, but at the time it was World Series or bust for an owner in Mike Illitch whose last dying wish was to bring a World Series to the Motor City.
While other teams were selling off veteran players to rebuild, the Tigers have been trying to milk these veterans for “one last run” for the better part of four seasons. At this point, it is fair to say that the Tigers have held onto these veterans for too long. All of the rumors about this offseason signaled that a rebuild was in the works. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they quickly found out that their veteran players were no longer bringing the value back in potential trade packages that they once had. The Tigers decided to bank on their veterans regaining some value to try to trade them midseason. This plan appears to have backfired. Miguel Cabrera is having one of the worst seasons of his career, Justin Verlander has looked like a shell of his Cy Young runner-up performance last year, JD Martinez started the year injured, and Ian Kinsler has struggled as well. Add in a lack of consistency from the pitching rotation and bullpen and one can see how this is shaping out to be a disaster.
While the rest of the American League seems to be trending upward with loaded farm systems, young and exciting players, and smaller payrolls, the Tigers seem to be stuck in neutral. The Minnesota Twins are competing for the divisional lead at the All Star break, the Cleveland Indians seem primed for another deep playoff run, the Kansas City Royals have been playing great baseball heading into the break, and the Chicago White Sox have one of, if not the best farm system in baseball after today’s trade. It is hard to envision the Tigers being relevant in this division for the next few years. Two words. Fire Sale.
A rebuild is easier said than done and you want to be sure to get a fair return for your assets, I get that. At this point, however it is time to get what you can. The goal should be to stockpile as many assets as possible. At this point no one on the team should be untouchable, except for Michael Fulmer. If teams come knocking at the door with offers for these veteran players, deals have to be made. If some salary has to be paid by us, so be it. This rebuild will not be quick and painless. It is going to be tough to see guys like Verlander, JD, Kinsler, and others in different uniforms, but this is a business and it is time for the tough decisions to be made.
The Tigers cannot expect to compete with teams like the White Sox, Twins, and Indians in the next few years with a depleted farm system. In the next few years the White Sox could have a pitching rotation lead by Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. Those are four very highly touted prospects. The lineup has potential to be equally as scary. Top prospect Yoan Moncada looks the part of the next big MLB star, Eloy Jiminez is another top 10 prospect in baseball, Tim Anderson is a promising shortstop, Avisail Garcia is fresh off of his first All Star appearance, and if Jose Abreu sticks around, this could be a team competing for multiple World Series. With that being said, the Cleveland Indians cannot be forgotten. Lead by Francisco Lindor, up and coming Bradley Zimmer, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco, they don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Even the Minnesota Twins have a very bright future with ace Jose Berrios, slugger Miguel Sano, and a handful of prospects ready to break through. The point is, while the rest of the AL Central is only getting better, the Tigers do not have much to look forward to at this point. That could all change with some smart trades and tough decisions.
The Tigers must start stocking up their farm system. Although they may have waited too long on some of these guys, they can still fetch us some decent returns. The path to competing in the AL Central within the next few years hinges on what we can get for our current players. Here’s to hoping we make some great moves, shed some bad contracts, and get some exciting, young players wearing the Old English D.