The next two weeks are going to tell us a lot about where the Tigers are headed. No, not in the standings. We’re talking about the future.
As much as I always try to lean towards being “cautiously optimistic”, we pretty much know how this year is going to play out. A pattern that has only entrenched itself further from the first hints seen several years ago. What we need to start considering, and be concerned about, is translating the actions that will indicate the direction going forward.
Which is why the next couple of weeks are so important. The Tigers need to make at least one significant trade.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Tigers and will weep if I see any of my favorites get traded. But more than that, I fear for what this team may possibly become. The New Phillies. A group of expensive, older players who can’t be traded and spend the rest of their years in Detroit while fans see them wither on the vine while being forced to witness stale, disappointing play and some quality time in the cellar.
It was pointed out in an analysis that the Tigers have the 6th oldest roster in baseball. And more alarmingly, one of the oldest core group of players. Not a good indicator when many of these same players also have some rather significantly expensive contracts.
A former GM the other day talked about the different contracts that are given to star players. There are the ones that ensure the player will stay with the team for a while and then are the “legacy contracts.” These are contracts that go above and beyond the former and offer even greater length and salary. And the reason? To ensure that the player, who is likely to head to the Hall of Fame, will remain with the team until he retires. Done to also ensure that he goes into the Hall wearing their cap.
The Tigers have 2 legacy contracts who unsurprisingly are also their franchise faces. A deed that years ago was hailed by many fans but today, threatens to hobble this organization going forward.
There is almost zero chance that Miguel Cabera will be traded given his enormous salary combined with his own admission of dealing with current injuries. Justin Verlander has a better chance of leaving given 2 remaining years left on his contract and the scouts who are present whenever he pitches. However, the Tigers are aware that trading such a prominent player will create significant fan backlash which is why they won’t allow him to leave unless the return is formidable in either return players or salary relief.
And as much as we may like to see JV stay, for old time’s sake, the future of this team will depend upon his trade – or at least trading other multiple players.
Whatever happens this July will be a bell weather about Al Avila’s desire to get “younger and leaner.” And that’s because July is the very best time for trading. Teams now have proof of their contention status as well as an indicator of their current needs. Owners become much more involved in the process. And the approaching trade deadline makes for a more nervous and desperate organization as they realize they do not yet have the pieces they need.
As proof, remember when Dave Dombrowski finalized a deal with 5 minutes to spare that brought David Price to Detroit? And brought him running to the dugout to pull Austin Jackson from the game because he was part of that trade?
GMs are much more likely to deal in July than they are in November when the slate is wiped clean and hope replaces anxiety. Which is why the Tigers need to trade some players this month. Their players will reap the highest value now instead of during the winter when they will also be another year older.
Unfortunately, Al Avila doesn’t inspire confidence when he says he’s “not actively shopping Justin Verlander.” He’s waiting for his phone to ring. Please let this be just PR talk and posturing because Al should be proactive and have every single GM on speed dial. Playing hard to get doesn’t work well in baseball.
Call me crazy but I don’t think Dave Dombrowski ever sat back and waited for someone else to initiate the trades. He also never advertised that players were available for trade – until it happened. Welcome to the Detroit Tigers – A.A. version.
In a previous blog, I outlined the different levels of trades that would give us a hint about where the team was headed in the future.
A blog that argued that all trades are not created equal.
But what if Al Avila only manages to trade the expected players like JD Martinez and Justin Wilson? What does that say about the future rebuild? Would it be better to also send another player or two packing? Would that help hasten a faster rebuild?
And how should we view a situation if the older players remain and the ones who are less expensive and have manageable contracts get traded? Should there be alarm bells?
More importantly, how should we view this team, its future and the abilities of our GM if no one gets traded?
And will a single trade, small trade or lack of any trades say more about the talent on this team or more about the abilities of Al Avila?
We’ll have an answer in less than 2 weeks…..