After a few weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation, the Tigers have reportedly decided that 2015 just isn’t going to be their year after all, and are going to start taking offers for pending free agents David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, among others. Price should be expected to command an equal (or likely somewhat better) return to what Johnny Cueto fetched from the Royals, while Cespedes becomes another option in an outfield market that is suddenly looking a little bit crowded.
The teams in the hunt for rent-an-aces have been pretty clearly defined, with the Blue Jays and Dodgers mentioned the most frequently, and the Yankees, Cubs, Giants, and Astros also a possibility. With Dallas Keuchel and Scott Kazmir at the front of their rotation, the Astros might not be as inclined to pay for a third lefty, which might make them a little too easy to match up against in a postseason series, so I’d probably put them on the outer edges of the Price market, but they reportedly made a run at Cole Hamels, so it’s not impossible to think they’ll pivot to make a run at Price as well.
I still don’t think the Cubs really should be in the market for a frontline starter not under control beyond this season either, as they have both Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta as legitimate options to start a Wild Card game and Game 1 of a postseason series if they reach those spots. Giving up significant long-term assets to bump one of their best players out of the only playoff game they might appear in doesn’t seem like a good risk-reward balance.
So for my money, the front-runners should be Toronto, LA (if they don’t get Hamels), San Francisco, and New York. But the deadline is often full of mystery, and no one saw the Jon Lester/Yoenis Cespedes trade coming a year ago, so perhaps we’ll see another surprise entry into the market to give Detroit the kind of short-term package they’re looking for. With Dombrowski stating that this is a “reboot” towards making their 2016 team better, this isn’t going to be about getting the best prospect package back, but about who can offer the most short-term help for the Tigers roster next year.
The Cespedes market isn’t as clear cut, as a number of teams could use another good outfielder. Considering that he’s having a better season than Justin Upton and the Tigers don’t have a qualifying offer to use as leverage to demand a certain minimum return in order to make a deal, teams interested in Upton may do well to pivot to Cespedes instead. The big losers in this news are likely the San Diego Padres, who might have just seen their interested buyers get distracted by newer and shinier objects up in Detroit.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.