With the MLB trade deadline less than a week away, the Detroit Tigers face a huge decision on the future direction of the franchise.
So close, and yet so far.
The Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series in 2006, losing to the Cardinals in five games. After a run to the ALCS in 2011, the Tigers won the AL pennant again in 2012, but were swept by the Giants in the Fall Classic.
Two division titles in the next two seasons (which brought the streak to four in a row) also ended in disappointment. In 2014, the Orioles swept the Tigers in three games in the ALDS. Detroit hasn’t appeared in the postseason since.
The Tigers enter the final six days before the MLB trade deadline with a 45-54 record, 8.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and seven games back in the Wild Card race. Only two AL teams are farter out of contention. And yet, the Tigers have a lineup card filled with big names and big contracts. Over $199 million worth, according to Cot’s Contracts from Baseball Prospectus.
Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann are all making salaries of $11 million or more this season. Verlander, Cabrera and Upton each make more than $22 million, and Zimmermann will join them in 2018.
The Tigers have a decision to make. Though there are some players the club should keep and build around – reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, primarily – it’s time to unload many of the high-priced veterans holding the franchise back.
With that in mind, we explore five trades the Tigers can make this week to save money, build the farm system, and put the franchise in a better position to compete for a World Series in the years to come.
5. Trade Justin Wilson and Shane Greene
Relievers Justin Wilson and Shane Green would be two of the easiest players for the Tigers to trade. Wilson, a lefty currently serving in the closer role, would be the most valuable and would likely bring back multiple prospects from the right trade partner.
Wilson has a 2.75 ERA and 3.22 FIP with 55 strikeouts in 39.1 innings spread across 41 appearances. The 29-year-old began the season as the top setup man for Francisco Rodriguez, but has 11 saves in 12 opportunities since taking over the role in May (and 12 total saves this season). He would likely move back into a setup role for a contender in need of his services, and could help most against left-handed hitters. Wilson has struck out 19 of the 45 lefties he has faced this season – 42.2 percent. He is eligible to be a free agent after the 2018 season.
Greene has appeared in 48 games this season, the most in the American League. He has a 2.82 ERA and 3.73 FIP with 50 strikeouts and 25 walks in 44.2 innings. Greene is controllable through 2020.
Several contenders would like to make an upgrade in the bullpen. The Nationals added Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle earlier this month, but could still be in the market for depth. The division rival Twins ranks 28th in Wins Above Replacement by relief pitchers (0.3 fWAR), according to FanGraphs, and have a 4.80 ERA. The Rays, Rangers and Mariners all rank in the bottom third of the league in bullpen fWAR as well, and the Red Sox have been active in trade talks for relief help as well.