Going into the trade deadline, everyone knew the Tigers would be sellers, but nobody knew how much they would sell. Would it be a fire sale? Would we be willing to eat money on big contracts to tear the whole thing down? Or would we sell the pieces that were movable and hope for other guys to build their value back up? Now that the deadline has come and gone, those questions are answered, but the future is still foggy in Detroit.
The Tigers made two big moves around the trade deadline. One of those moves included trading JD Martinez a while before the actual deadline for three infield prospects from the Diamondbacks. The opinions on this trade are mixed. Lugo appears to have some upside, while the other two still have a lot of unknowns. I felt this return was just average. I would have been curious to see what we could have got for JD had we held onto him until a little closer to the deadline. Surely we could have received at least one top 100 prospect for the best hitter on the market. The other trade involved Justin Wilson and Alex Avila going to the Chicago Cubs for top prospect Jeimer Candelario and promising shortstop Isaac Paredes. This seemed to be a good trade for both teams. The tigers added a top 100 prospect, albeit another infielder and an 18 year old that is proving himself in single A. Overall I would give the Tigers trade deadline a B- grade.
Detroit certainly bolstered its farm system with some promising young players, but the acquisition of so many infielders raises a lot of questions moving forward. Are we still trying to compete next year? Is Nicholas Castellanos going to move positions? Are Victor Martinez’ days as a Tigers player numbered? Will Justin Upton opt-in to his 2 year player option? Is Justin Verlander going to remain a Tiger?
With the acquisition of Candelario, it seems Castellanos’ days as the Tigers third basemen may be numbered. There are a couple of options of what position Castellanos could move to. The first option would be to move him to the outfield, a position he played in the minor leagues. He could certainly slide into right field or left field, albeit with slightly below average defense. The other option would be to have Castellanos or Candelario play first base and move Miggy to the designated hitter spot. Miggy isn’t getting any younger and giving him a break from playing the field may be just what he needs to stay healthy and return to the Miggy of old. Candelario has some experience playing first, but I like his glove a little better than Castellanos’, so I’d like to see Castellanos slide to first base.
If Miggy does move to designated hitter, it would signal the end of Victor Martinez’ career with the Tigers as a player. The Tigers are on the books for Martinez’ contract next year, so I think a good option would be to have Victor serve as the team’s hitting coach. As a switch hitter, Victor has been one of the best hitters in the major leagues for years. Players already pick his brain (JD Martinez) and the results speak for themselves. If we are going to pay his salary, he might as well help us out as a hitting coach.
As the Tigers try to continue to shed salary, Justin Upton has a big decision to make this offseason that could save the Tigers a lot of money. Upton has a 2 year player option after this season. If he opts in, the Tigers would welcome him back with open arms, especially after the season he’s had thus far. If he decides he wants to opt out to play for a better team, the Tigers wouldn’t mind either. Upton coming off of the books would save the Tigers a lot of money moving forward. Failing to pick up Ian Kinsler’s $10 million team option would also save the Tigers $5 million, as he has a $5 million buy-out. I think Kinsler is as good as gone in order to offer Dixon Machado an everyday role to see what he can do. If Kinsler and Upton both come off the books, Verlander’s $28 million salary is much more manageable for a team trying to cut down on payroll.
This brings us to the Justin Verlander situation. I believe the Tigers will continue to try to move him (as evident by placing him on revocable waivers), but I fully expect the Tigers to have to pay a large chunk of his remaining salary. This is why shedding salary like Upton and Kinsler is so important. It makes it much easier to eat a chunk of change if we have those other big contracts coming off of the books. Hopefully Verlander pitches well down the stretch and regains some of the trade value he once had. Look for the Tigers to continue to try to collect young, talented players.
While the future is foggy in Detroit, there is plenty to look forward to the rest of this season and beyond. Look for Shane Greene to assert himself as a very good closer, Dixon Machado to get a chance to show us what he can do in an everyday role, and a little experimentation with Castellanos. While we may not enjoy the run of success we’ve been accustomed to over the last decade, the Tigers have some promising pieces that could pan out. With a lot of unknowns, this offseason should bring us the answers we are looking for. Until then, we will sit back and anxiously wait for everything to play out. Go Tigers!