Tigers Press the Reboot Button

We’ve all been there. Our buddy down the street is somehow beating us at “RBI Baseball,” even though we own this game. We always beat him! What is going on today? Well, no matter, we’ll just press the reset button and start over. That’ll teach him. This is my house.

That might not be precisely what the Detroit Tigers have been thinking this season, but it’s not far off. The Royals are good again? Exactly how are the Twins winning games? Detroit kept sinking further and further this year until they were far closer to last place than they were to first. And with their rest of season’s projection not that rosy anymore, the Tigers are bowing out. From Jayson Stark’s report yesterday:

Dombrowski labeled the decision a “rebooting,” saying the Tigers have a solid foundation going forward.

“We’re only going to make a trade if we think it makes sense for us,” the GM said, according to MLB.com. “But we think it gives us a chance to restock our club.”

This isn’t a reset, or a rebuild. Detroit wants to be good again next year, and given their current player mix that makes perfect sense. As such, they probably won’t be interested in Single-A prospects.

They’ll have plenty of time to analyze what went wrong in the offseason. For now, though, the team has precious little time to build helpful trades for their lame ducks: David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Joakim Soria and Rajai Davis (Alex Avila and Alfredo Simon are also future free agents, but those two don’t figure to attract much interest). So who should want these players, and who can put together a successful package?

Let’s tackle Price first. As Dave mentioned in his post yesterday, the four main suitors appear to be the Giants, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Yankees. One player who immediately springs to mind who could help the Tigers in 2016 is the San Francisco Giants’ Andrew Susac. The Giants’ top prospect — and the No. 86 prospect, according to Kiley this spring — hasn’t had the best season. He strikes out a lot, but he’s still one of the best young catchers in the game. As mentioned above, Avila is a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s been a long time since Avila has been any good. He’s more or less been a replacement-level player this year. Combine Susac with James McCann and you’ve got a pretty good — and cheap — catching tandem. The Giants also have a cache of mid-level pitching prospects, led by Tyler Beede, and word is that the Tigers like those guys. That might just be smoke, but again, there isn’t a whole lot of time to wait around.

If Toronto wanted to make a big splash, they could flip the top-shelf prospects they didn’t trade in the Troy Tulowitzki deal: Dalton Pompey and Daniel Norris. That’d be a good package, with Pompey being able to step in for Cespedes next season. If the Blue Jays wanted to be aggressive, they could talk about Roberto Osuna, or perhaps the Tigers would like to see what they could do with Drew Hutchison. Among those four players, the Blue Jays have enough talent to satisfy the Tigers’ “better in 2016” edict.

What about the two behemoths, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers? I can’t imagine the Dodgers parting with Julio Urias or Corey Seager, especially when they’ve already acquired pitching reinforcements in Mat Latos and Alex Wood. But the Dodgers definitely have the luxury of dealing either Jose De Leon or Zach Lee. Or both. Given Yasmani Grandal’s breakout, catcher Austin Barnes — who appears to be making a successful transition to the majors — could be a good target, as well.

And then there’s the Yankees. These aren’t your older brother and/or sister’s Yanks. This team has plenty of close-to-the-majors, tradeable assets. Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Jacob Lindgren are all top-flight prospects who have at least graduated to Triple-A, and would fill needs for the 2016 Tigers. Lindgren is out for elbow surgery, but it’s not the Tommy John variety, so he should be ready to go next year. Diego Moreno looked pretty good on Tuesday, too, though he isn’t exactly young.

I also suppose we shouldn’t discount the Houston Astros. Vincent Velasquez and Domingo Santana have both contributed in the majors this season. Jon Singleton is raking in the minors. He’s not a perfect fit for Detroit, but perhaps the Tigers could figure out something. Maybe Detroit thinks it can fix Max Stassi’s offense. Or maybe the Astros want to toss out their really high-end pitchers like Lance McCullers or Mark Appel. In fact, Peter Gammons says that Appel is available. Bottom line: if they want into the conversation, they can get into it.

That’s four or five teams with assets that can satisfy the Tigers — and we’re not even counting the Cubs, for whom Price doesn’t make as much sense. In other words, Detroit should have its choice of good packages. There are plenty of pitchers on the market, but none is better than Price. It will be interesting to see who they net for him.

The market for Cespedes is far murkier. Not only are there plenty of teams that could use outfield upgrades, but there are also plenty of outfielders on the market. Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce are two; there’s also Justin Upton and Gerardo Parra, and lower-tier players like Alejandro De Aza.

Teams that could do with acquiring a starting outfielder include the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and maybe the Giants, depending on how San Francisco feels about Nori Aoki’s health for the remainder of the season. The Twins and Astros are intriguing teams to watch here. In fact, my favorite idea would involve the Tigers sending Cespedes to the Twins for Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia hit 20 home runs in the majors last season, but the Twins have done their best to bury him. He’s been in Triple-A since the end of May, and if the Twins have given up on him, they should flip him for an upgrade over Eddie Rosario. Maybe Arcia can be the Tigers’ next J.D. Martinez.

Any number of teams could use Soria and Davis. If the Washington Nationals remain unsure about Denard Span’s health, they could nab Davis to be their plus baserunner and part-time center fielder. The Mets could use him too. Really, every team could. Davis’ stolen base percentage over the past three seasons is 81.9%. The best team in terms of stolen base percentage is the Indians at 76.9%. It’s not so simple to just plug Davis in and make a team’s rate shoot up, but chances are he’d help most teams.

The trade deadline has already been pretty spicy, but the Tigers taking their ball and going home is going to make it even spicier. At the very least, four good teams are going to be able to make solid offers for Price — offers that would accommodate Detroit’s goal of being better next year. Given all of the outfielders on the market and the fact Cespedes isn’t far superior to them clouds what return they can expect, but the Tigers aren’t one to sit around and throw up their hands. They’re pressing the reboot button. The fireworks come next.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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Pirates Hurdles
8 years ago

Tigers are 3.5 games out of a playoff spot with Miggy coming back in a few weeks. I’ll believe the Tigers are selling when I see it.

Pirates Hurdles
8 years ago

Well, I see it now, lol. Norris/Alford is a great return.

Jeremy Jamm
8 years ago

You just put your foot in your mouth…. Toe Jammed