RUT ROH ….

By:  Holly Horning

I happened to turn on the radio a couple of days ago and listened to one of the scariest stories ever told. And my blood ran cold.

No, it wasn’t on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was on MLB Radio and it was about Brad Ausmus’ chances of remaining the manager going forward.

A collection of former Front Office executives, including some former GMs, spent an entire segment talking about his situation and in the end, they agreed that his chances of staying are decent – unless he totally tanks the team.

Shocked? I was, at first, until I heard their rationales.

Let’s face it – if Mr. I were still in charge, the Tigers would have made changes by now as they pursued that dream of a ring. But there’s another Ilitch now running things and despite the silence coming from Chris and Al, combined with the continued lack of moves to improve the team, the direction of this organization has obviously changed.

And as a result, the managerial career of Brad Ausmus may get an extension.

But make no mistake, the many rationales for keeping Brad have nothing to do with his skills but everything to do with the changing direction and dynamics of the team. He may simply be in the right place at the right time.


Let’s lay out the arguments made, shall we?

1.  If the team is going to be sold, it is much easier to keep the current manager short-term and allow the new owner to make the changes. It is cleaner, less messy and understandable that way.

2. There is no longer any pressure for the Tigers to win any kind of title so there will be few expectations about performance.

3.  It is much more convenient to keep him not because he is the right one to lead the team. The manager will become less important on a team that is rebuilding.

4.  Ausmus is inexpensive as a manager. Anyone with more experience would want a bigger salary, as probably also his coaches, and that may not fit the Tigers’ near-future plans.

5.  It may prove more difficult to remove Brad because his coaches would also be released. Jim Leyland has a handshake deal specifying that as long as he is employed by the Tigers, Gene Lamont has a job with them, too.

6.  Currently, there are no other viable managerial candidates.

7.  The team will probably be transitioning from some of the more expensive names/stars into a team that will have more rookies. It is believed that the young fit Ausmus’ wheelhouse a little better.

8.  With the assumption that the Tigers will change significantly, Brad’s always-calm demeanor will be seen as a useful skill in keeping an evolving and unsure clubhouse relaxed.

9.  The Tigers don’t fire people. The last manager to be fired was 18 years ago. MLB’s average length of a manager’s tenure with one team is between 2.77 – 3.5 years based upon several studies.

10.  The Tigers have yet to declare any kind of direction for the future. They may not even have one, especially if the team is going to be sold. If there’s no goal, how can you hire a new manager when you can’t describe what skills you need him to possess?

11.  Al Avila’s reputation within Front Offices is one of avoiding the big decisions. Even when he assumed the GM mantle, he fired no one and brought in no new staff. It is believed that he would be unable to pull the trigger.

12.  It is also believed that Avila will not make changes simply for the sake of making changes.


Of course, there are also a myriad of reasons supporting why Ausmus’ contract should be allowed to simply expire. Both sides have plausible arguments. But the bottom line is that a decision will ultimately be based upon the team’s future as well as any financial considerations. And the latter point also includes whether the manager has fully utilized or wasted several sizable contracts of some star players.

The next 8 weeks will certainly tell us more. But don’t be surprised if we are told nothing even after the season ends. The Tigers appear to be reluctant to even tell us where they are going.


Totally Tigers reminds readers to follow the rules found above the Comment box as well as those listed under the Rules tab.  Comments not meeting these requirements cannot be published.

TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today, we address the hottest Tiger hitter, Justin Upton. He has been the highlight of a baseball season loaded with disappointment in 2017. And you know what awaits JUp at the end of the year. A decision about his future in Detroit.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.


Justin Upton is having his best year since 2011. Do you think he will opt out this winter?


KURT

Since the very day that Justin became a Tiger, I saw the 2-year clause as nothing. I never felt it would be something he would exercise and decline to continue as a Tiger. The money to me was too large. What would be the circumstances that would lead a player to leave $88M on the table and head somewhere else for what could be substantially less?

All we have heard, from the spring to the July trade deadline, is about the market and how there just isn’t that much of a demand for outfielders, especially expensive ones. But then as you look at the market after this season, there are 2 directions that support both ends of JUp’s upcoming decision.

First, the market is the same and the lack of demand is the same. But secondly, there is only a handful of choices for teams who are in the market for a corner outfielder. One is JD Martinez, who seems to be the prize of the small group.

But is JUp now making a case as the biggest prize? He has more speed, is a better baserunner and is the better outfielder. These are big things when a team must decide whether to invest in a 30-year-old outfielder the year after his best season.

The Tigers win either way in this scenario. If he stays, they have a younger centerpiece who is taking over the offensive mantel from Miguel Cabrera, and another big marketing chip for the organization, side-by-side with Miggy. Until we find out otherwise, the Ilitchs still like star power, and Upton has certainly been a star this season.

And if he leaves? Well, the Tigers get out from underneath a huge contract which could be just as important as they head in a new, more responsible direction.

Where I sit, as much I have wavered, I still feel he will not only choose to stay but he will be advised to stay. It’s his agent’s job to get him the best deal possible and I believe he has it already. In a pretty darn good baseball town.


HOLLY

After last year, who would have thought that Justin Upton would be this year’s savior at the plate? Is his best season in 6 years a result of having a year to learn the league or maturing as a player or is he playing for a new contract?

Opting out has a better chance of happening despite those who say that teams aren’t giving those big, lengthy contracts anymore. But potentially the biggest factor that may spur JUp to leave is a personal one that is only shared with his family and manager.

Players obviously value their lucrative contracts but there are other factors they consider as well. Geographic locations, the size of the market, league and stadium to name a few. But Justin has 2 other factors to consider – his legacy and the future of his current team.

He will be 30 in just a few short weeks and at a point in his life where he must consider how he wants to leave the game. Can he advance his stats and reach his goals on another team? Does he want to be with a viable contender, playing October baseball and given a chance at a ring? Or does he want to stay with the Tigers, who will be going into some kind of rebuild mode during his last 4 years and try to get another contract at age 34?

Justin actually has 3 different path from which to choose.  Obviously, he can stay but leaving and taking a risk re a new contract is not as dangerous as many believe. Several former GMs have mentioned that while it is illegal for other teams to approach a player, there are ways around the rules. Ways that involve sending indirect hints to the agent that help him and his client gauge the level of interest.

These same GMs also mentioned that the team could craft an agreement where Upton agrees to stay with Detroit in exchange for a trade to a team he prefers and offering the same or similar money.  Upton maintains his salary without the riskand the Tigers get compensated for his departure. And this could be a real option because Justin has until January 19th to exercise his opt-out clause.

Also enough time to see what the Tigers, and the Ilitch family, have done to prepare the team for 2018. Enough time to determine whether the Tigers are being prepped for sale, going into full rebuild mode or simply tweaking their roster.


Totally Tigers reminds readers to follow the rules found above the Comment box as well as those listed under the Rules tab.  Comments not meeting these requirements cannot be published.

FORMER MET FULMER FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Well, it hit me on Sunday. No, it had nothing to do with Anibal Sanchez and his audition to pitch for next year’s Home Run Derby. He certainly won that easily if there’s ever a competition.

Nope. This is about another pitcher. It’s about the Atlanta Braves and their alleged interest in Michael Fulmer in July. They had interest in him in July and may again have interest in him over the winter. In fact, that is the strongest story out there when it comes to Tiger trades in the off-season. That, and the potential that JV may not make it to 2018 with the Tigers.

Michael Fulmer was the player the Tigers shouldn’t trade, at least in my head.  Fulmer arrived having  been poached from a Mets minor league system that had already produced a formidable starting rotation including 3 young studs. Pitchers that took them to the World Series. Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard – young, hard throwing, dominant pitchers, unfairly all in the same rotation.

Incredibly, the Mets had more. They had Michael Fulmer waiting in the wings. More great pitching talent. A pitcher who Dave Dombrowski demanded in the 2015 deal for Yoenis Cespedes.

But just as quickly as the Mets have built this dominant staff, the pillars have been falling. Harvey and Syndergaard have both been hit with injuries that have cost the Mets dearly.

Syndergaard tore a lat muscle pushing it just a little too hard trying to come back from an injury considered to be bicep tendinitis, after refusing an MRI.

Zach Wheeler, another young pitching talent, has missed considerable time potentially coming back too early from injuries (2015 Tommy John Surgery, bicep tendinitis, bone stress) as well.

And Harvey? Well, he’s a been dealing with a stress injury to the scapula bone in his shoulder, preceded by thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder which was preceded by Tommy John Surgery. Nice resume, huh?

If you are Robert Gsellman, another promising Met pitcher, I would be just a little nervous, even though he’s out with just your normal everyday hamstring injury.   And I haven’t even mentioned Seth Lugo and Stephen Matz, who both missed 2 months this season.

Michael Fulmer, the assumed next Mets phenom-to-be, has apparently been dealing with an elbow injury causing numbness in his fingers which, of course, affects his grip on the baseball. And he’s been dealing with it on and off for more than 2 years!

Michael Fulmer is a former Met. And he is beginning to have the injury history to prove it.

So, scratch whatever indication I have been giving that Fulmer is the next Tiger ace. I am not so sure now. The Tigers may be wise to treat these injuries as more than ‘minor’ and ‘no big deal’ setbacks while they contemplate their future.

Remember, this is the Atlanta Braves, owner of arguably the top farm system in baseball, who have supposedly come calling about Fulmer.

Given that and all they have learned, the Tigers need to be proactive and strike if they get offered something big. There are potential chinks in the armor here associated with another talented pitching product of the New York Mets system.

The Mets are an organization with a poor reputation for treating injuries and protecting their players, so these red flags should be treated more seriously than most.

Is this an overblown theory or synopsis? I don’t know. But when you are discussing someone considered to be a long-term pillar for your future, you hope they will have the same kind of dominance and durability as Justin Verlander. You can’t disregard anything.

Don’t panic yet. Maybe a little nervousness is appropriate. All indications are that this is just something nagging that occurs for Fulmer on occasion. They say it’s not something career threatening or something fans should be concerned about. That’s the spin, anyway. That’s what we are being led to believe.

But is it nothing? Should we continue to plan to anoint Fulmer as the ace of the future?

Well, under the circumstances and considering the state of the organization, I think I will want to talk to the Braves a little more than I previously wanted.


Totally Tigers reminds readers to follow the rules found above the Comment box as well as those listed under the Rules tab.  Comments not meeting these requirements cannot be published.

 

THE SECOND SEASON

By:  Holly Horning

Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, the Tigers are gearing up for that final push.

Not the players. The Marketing Department. This is their second busiest time of the year. The final push for attendance and ticket sales.

And it will be an easier year for them. The season that saw David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and others leave was tough, but not so much this year. Justin Wilson and Alex Avila were not attendance draws for the team, but JD was.

That is until a perfect little storm of a winning formula took hold recently that included some rather terrific pitching, the dramatics of Justin Upton and some young, fresh and fast outfielders who stole some HRs away from the opposing team. The Tigers have been playing some exciting baseball lately.

It was good timing.

But Marketing’s work is never done. Despite the team still being under .500 and sitting in 4th place, attendance hasn’t dropped by much this year. They are currently sitting smack in the middle of all MLB teams despite having the 4th worst record in the AL. They also have the best attendance figures of any AL Central team.

The Tigers are still averaging slightly over 29,000 fans per game – down by approximately 2,000 per game from 2016. And these figures are not actual attendance – they are tickets sold combined with tickets given away. Teams never reveal actual attendance which is the number of actual people who file through the turnstiles.

Currently, the push is to sell more tickets for this season, but also to create excitement about 2018. The mood created by the end of the season carries over to the winter months and influences whether or not fans renew or up their ticket packages as well as make plans to attend games in the future.

And the importance of selling tickets remains as the single biggest factor in revenue and accounts for 40% of it.

It’s a Herculean task but Marketing doesn’t do the work alone. They have elves. And the people who help – the facilitators – are those in the commercial department, behind the microphones in the radio and tv booths and in the newsrooms. Thus is the issue when these people are either directly or indirectly employed by the Tigers, dependent upon them for access or work for companies who benefit from having the team as a client.

The Tigers aren’t the only MLB team to practice this. Most teams do. It’s just that the Tigers are one of the best and also one of the most obvious at pushing sales. And the message they create is one of positive, exciting play combined with feel-good memories.

If you’ve been reading the papers recently, take a look at the headlines. Negative adjectives are seldom used. Terms like “outstanding”, “exciting”, “on fire”, “patience and perserverance” and “swings with authority” are used. And within the articles, words such as “rebuild” are never seen. Instead, it’s “chipping away.”

Multiple articles in each local newspaper have repeatedly reinforced that Al Avila is “happy with the hauls” in referencing the players exchanged for JD, Justin and Alex just to make sure fans understand there is nothing to be worried about. Placing JV on waivers warranted Avila’s exclamation “not to worry.” And interviews that claimed that the new prospects would be to address the minor league system were made to reassure not only the current MLB roster, but to calm fans who may worry that their favorite faces would be replaced with unknowns.

“Faces”, as they are known, are the ones who attract the most fans. Most teams have one face. The Tigers have two.

And two weeks after the JD trade, the newspapers are still writing articles defending the trade. Just in case some fans are still upset. Not a coincidence that both local papers published the same message on back-to-back days less than 72 hours ago. In fact, the same stories, with the same messages are published in a 1-2 punch pattern on a regular basis. Coincidence? Not likely. It’s part of a typical marketing strategy.

The tv booth is not immune either. The hot stories given life in social media are routinely served up as talking points for the broadcasters. The first night after JD was traded, Kirk Gibson was anointed with the task of reassuring the fan base that it was a great move. Yes, the beloved Tiger, not Mario, chosen specifically for the task because he pulls more weight with the fans.

Gibby spent an entire half inning talking about it and then the next night, it was once again addressed in the first inning as he continued the dialog with another former Tiger player. Just in case the entire tv-watching fan base did not hear the message from the previous night. And it was anything but spontaneous. Again, that 1-2 punch.

You may have also noticed that the broadcasters are spending less time talking about the games these days and more time talking with other people. The number of former Tigers from notable years visiting has increased in the past month. Visits to seats to interview fans celebrating special moments, traveling from afar or fans who share their memories from 1968 and 1984.

And now they are even pulling food vendors in to showcase the food. And, of course, adorable children into the broadcast booth to get autographs. It’s getting kinda hard trying to watch the games some nights.

And in-between those innings, commercials celebrating special Tigers moments run. The program to get fans to come in before games to listen to former World Series champion players talk about those special years has been renewed and expanded.

So much effort put into creating feel-good moments. Feel-good moments that are supposed to reconnect or strengthen the bonds fans have with their favorite team. Feel-good moments that are supposed to make fans forget about the struggles of this year and potentially those of the future. Feel-good moments that will hopefully inspire fans to buy more tickets now – and for 2018.

We may not like the obvious push by Marketing but they serve a very useful purpose in keeping this team together. Especially given that the Tigers only shed approximately $4 million of their payroll with the 2 trades. Payroll that ironically won’t even cover the salary increases due to both Miggy and Zimmermann next year.

Marketing offers that double-edged sword: Disliked for their blatant motives but necessary for their crucial role in maintaining the roster.

They need to be very successful at their job because payroll still greatly exceeds revenue due to the lasting actions of Mr. I. And their operating expenses are double that of the average MLB team. And if Marketing can’t maintain the robust attendance figures, don’t be surprised if more Tigers aren’t wearing different uniforms after this season.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 108 games (51-57), the Tigers have perked up a bit since the trade deadline, but remain a long shot for any playoff contention.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


HOLLY

KUDOS

(Written tongue in cheek.) It only took Dave Dombrowski less than 2 years to decimate the Red Sox Farm system with more than 2 dozen trades of their top prospects and the reason why the Sox couldn’t be serious contenders for a pitcher by last week’s trade deadline. And now he’s on the hot seat for his signing of David Price for 7 years at $217 million dollars given Price’s 2+ continuing months of being unable to pitch plus his ongoing fights with the fans, media and even with Boston’s own employees. Red Sox fans aren’t as enamored of Dave, who they say has taken the same strategies he employed with the Tigers and turned their team into a top-heavy one.

COMMENT

It took a midnight meeting with Mr. I to get VMart and his dragging leg on the DL a couple of years ago and now Miggy’s statement that he’s hurt but won’t go on the DL. This time, Ausmus told Michael Fulmer, despite his protests, that he was going on the DL. The difference being that Fulmer is still relatively new and not yet a highly paid star which further supports the many reports that the more expensive, established Tigers call their own shots and don’t answer to the manager.

KUDOS

After last week’s sobering Saturday summary,  this week has brought some enjoyable baseball games that didn’t employ the usual stale formulas. Hats off to the young, fairly new, relatively unknown and hungry guys on the team not named Miggy, VMart, Castellanos or Kinsler. And to see Zimmermann and Sanchez, along with Greene and others, pitch great games, makes this week’s experience a breath of fresh air.


KURT

QUESTION

Is the pressure off the team now that the trade deadline has passed? Can players now return to thinking baseball rather than having that deadline hanging over their heads? Regardless, the Tigers are playing better baseball and I am not sure if it’s easier not having much to play for or if the team is relieved to be able to refocus.

QUESTION

Could the stars align enough for Justin Upton to be able to opt out of his 6 year / $22M a year salary with Detroit and garner him an even better salary with another team? Since the day he signed with the Tigers and that 2-year option was discussed, I never imagined he would be foolish enough to risk exercising it. But the timing of perhaps the best year of his career could not be better and the odds have certainly improved for him to get an even better deal elsewhere, and with a contender to boot.

KUDOS

I wasn’t alone last season in raving about how much energy and fire Cam Maybin brought to the Tigers. And I wasn’t alone in wondering where we would get that from this season after his departure. Given a steady dose of playing time now, Mikie Mahtook has taken his opportunity and run with it, and is showing that energy and fire the team continues to need; and playing very well certainly hasn’t hurt his enthusiasm.

OPEN MIKE!

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers on a specific topic.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on the question of the week.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


 Now that the non-waiver trade deadline is over, grade Al Avila on his work.  Support your argument!


 

 

 

 

 

20 JULY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

The dreaded month of July. It was everything we feared it would be, wasn’t it? Where the Tigers would continue to flounder, fall further out of the race and be forced to sell at the trade deadline.

It has all happened. And we as fans now linger in the aftermath wondering what is next. Well, let’s first put July to bed and cover my 20 Thoughts, before wondering what the rest of the season holds for us.


1. Justin Verlander has had the strangest year of his career. His velocity has returned in a big way, something no one thought possible, but has walked more batters than he ever has before. Having survived the trade deadline, we now await what may happen now that he’s been placed on revocable waivers.

2. Daniel Norris has had a disappointing season, first with inconsistency and now more injuries. Until he overcomes both, he is a big question mark.

3. Matthew Boyd may end up with the higher ceiling than Norris. He has experienced a return to Toledo but has shown his mettle in his return. I look forward to his future with the Tigers.

4. After being considered done and washed up, Anibal Sanchez went to Toledo voluntarily to work on becoming a starter again. Well, he is a starter again. And an effective one at that. I defy anyone who saw any of this happening. It’s what makes baseball great. No one can really be sure of anything.

5. Miguel Cabrera: the mystery of 2017. The injuries, the troubles in Venezuela, etc. It’s all a puzzle we can’t put together. Has he given up now that the Tigers are losing? Is his heart still in it? His numbers are saying a lot; we just aren’t sure what.

6. Continuing the subject of Miggy. Have you ever seen him swing so poorly for so long? He seems so lost, so unbalanced and often fooled at the plate. That’s a sentence that has never described Miguel Cabrera. Where has that smooth stroke gone? Where has the plate discipline gone? Where has Miggy gone?

7. Justin Upton: The good news and bad news and maybe good news again depending on how you look at it. He is far and away the Tiger of the Year and yet may opt out of his contract now that the direction of the franchise has changed. He has been fun to watch, I would love to keep him, but for the good of the franchise, we may be better off without him and his huge salary.

8. And speaking of JUp and the potential that he may opt out and leave, it aggravates me to no end that his signing sealed the future and departure of our most dangerous hitter of 2017: JD Martinez. But who knows, maybe the Tigers would have still shipped him out even if Upton wasn’t here.

9. I feel horrible for endorsing the re-signing of Victor Martinez to a painful contract that never seems to end. I am witnessing a point in his career where he is now hurting the ball club, with still one more year to suffer through. What makes me feel the worst is that he has been a great and very respected player for the Tigers, and yet, after 2018, he will have been here 2 years too long.

10. The Tigers are slowly but surely introducing a new combination at 2nd base and short. Machado seems to work well with Iggy and makes you wonder if Iglesias will survive the trade deadline deals, but Kinsler won’t. (Holdover from June)

Update: Both Iggy and Kinsler will never survive this season or the off-season and return in 2018. And that will be a sad time for me, because they have been the most exciting and talented keystone combination since Trammell and Whitaker.

11. Michael Fulmer? Future ace of the Tigers. That’s right, future ace! Until JV walks out of that clubhouse door, he is still the man. There is a word for JV that has been used a few times of late and it is appropriate; he is a Tiger icon. Even in a down year, JV has done things we thought he could never do again. Remarkable, remarkable pitching talent.

12. Justin Wilson. What can you say? Gone but not forgotten. Did one heck of a job grabbing ahold of the closer role and stabilizing the back end of the bullpen. He will have a lot to say about the Cubs returning to the World Series should it happen.

13. A word about KRod. After such a glorious career as one of the greatest closers of all time, I wish he didn’t make it so ugly at the end. I can’t say he departed with a lot of class. But we must also respect how difficult it must be to go from one of the best to out of the game so quickly.

14. The Tigers have much more patience with Bruce Rondon than I have. Ironically enough, I have supported him during the toughest of times mainly because I lived by my dad’s mantra of ‘never giving up on a good arm.’ The great arm though is being overshadowed by continued relapses of poor judgement and attitude. How many strikes does one man get?  He is a distraction always waiting to happen.

15. Nick Castellanos read his press clippings before the season. He showed up with a new name, new tattoos and expectations for a career year. He has disappointed and has taken a step backward defensively. Offensively, he has been lauded for hitting the baseball as hard as anyone in the game. I will never catch up on stats if baseball comes up with new ones every season. This one means nothing to me unless it corresponds with actual hits.

(Sound familiar? – it’s a rewrite / update of a carryover from June)

16. Joe Jimenez has a real opportunity to audition for a shot at the closer role in 2018. He has a solid 2 months to show this team what he’s got.   Good luck Joe!  We need you!

17. I am going to assume that Justin Wilson will be part of a trade package at the trade deadline. Having said that, it would be interesting to see how Shane Greene would respond in the closer’s role. (Holdover from June)

Update: Justin is gone and Shane is the closer!

18. It’s now July and the only baseball game I have attended was at Wrigley Field. Does this say a lot about our baseball team? Looks like I am a contributor in the attendance decline at Comerica Park. (Holdover from June)

Update: I blew through July and this is still true. The only ballpark I have stepped in this season is still Wrigley. String will end on August 24 – a Thursday afternoon game versus the Yankees.

19. The trade deadline deals left me feeling unsure about the credibility of Al Avila. But hopefully I will someday realize what a great job he has done, something we could never conclude for sure at this point in time.

20. I am very concerned heading into July with Al Avila and Brad Ausmus representing a very underwhelming Tiger culture for any new prospects who come to the organization as part of any trades. As I have said before, the team is very poorly equipped for a very important month coming up. Getting good value in trades is one thing; exposing them to this culture is a double whammy of concern. (Holdover from June)

Update: It’s now August. Just as concerned now as I was then.

LETTING IN THE LIGHT

By:  Holly Horning

The non-waiver trade deadline is over and the dust is now settling as everyone makes sense of the 2 trades. And as expected, the Tigers are doing their very best to spin everything in a positive light.

All the trades were great……. Al was very happy……..and the newly-acquired players will be contributing to the farm system for a while. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But would you expect anyone within the organization to say otherwise? Or any other team for that matter? That they weren’t happy with the haul? That they weren’t thinking of replacing some of the current roster with younger, cheaper versions? Of course not.

Because doing so will negatively impact attendance and ticket sales going forward. Fans have their favorite players and prefer the familiar faces and established track records over those still unknown.

And the Tigers, for over 10 years now, have a payroll that exceeds revenue. They need every single fanny they can get. And they do that by glossing over issues and concerns and throwing hope out to the masses on a regular basis because it keeps the turnstiles clicking.

And so far, the plan has been extremely successful. While attendance is down somewhat, the Tigers still sell close to 30,000 tickets per game for a team that is 10 games under .500 and the third worst team in the AL. Serious props to the marketing and PR departments.

But while the jury may be out for awhile as to the potential of each of the new acquisitions, what we did learn during this period was the focus of the team going forward. Every action taken, or not taken, gives us clues about the direction as well as the future actions of the team.

To start, let’s remember that Al Avila has not publicly mentioned where he plans to take the team. Over the winter, we heard that he “hoped” the team would be competitive this year. We got the “younger and leaner” spiel but not the messy details. And the organization may never tell us anything more. Again, the devil is in the details.

But he showed the organization’s hand in the trades made, attempted and failed.

We affirmed that Miggy and VMart are absolutely untradeable given that there was zero buzz about them and no effort by the Tigers to try to trade them. And that the only reliever any team was interested in was Justin Wilson.

(For the record, literally 100+ established sources were monitored over the past month and I have the blurred vision and carpal tunnel to prove it.)

The youngsters – McCann, Boyd, Norris, the rest of the bullpen and the CFers and RFers – also were not sought nor were they offered up.

But the ones who did appear on the sacrificial alter were the ones who have been with the team for 2 or more years and earning significantly more than the minimum league salary.

There was the secretive attempt at several salary dumps. That is, until an anonymous GM leaked information about several deals the Tigers presented to him. The scariest being a two-fer deal where the Tigers would package Michael Fulmer with either Jordan Zimmermann or Justin Upton. (Anibal Sanchez, unsurprisingly, was also put on the block.)

Of course, no one is going to affirm that salary dumps were attempted. It is a “third rail” topic that immediately indicates to fans that their team won’t be competitive for some years. And it is the very best way to send fans fleeing for the exits. Even if the Tigers manage to cut payroll, they still need strong attendance figures.

And multiple sources reported that Avila was actively shopping Justin Verlander. If not a salary dump, how else to explain trying to trade your second-best pitcher with stats that would be much higher with other teams who offer better run support and bull pens? Or that Upton, who ranks this year as one of the top 15 position players and currently the only Tiger determined to play to his salary level, was put on the block last winter and also this month.

We also learned that the Tigers have continued to try trading Jose Iglesias since last winter. Unfortunately for Avila, the third time was not the charm. Kinsler, too, was actively shopped.

Which leads us to……Nick Castellanos. No official rumors just yet but the fact that the Tigers have now acquired 5 players who all play the infield is telling. Three capable of third base, three with experience at SS and 1 with time at 2B. Sounds like a team with a plan for the future and a plan to replace. And multiple options are one way to enhance the chances that your strategy will pan out hopefully sooner rather than later.

Ian Kinsler will be 36 next summer and has a contract for $12 million. It will cost the Tigers $5 mill just to send him packing.

Jose Iglesias will be going to arbitration this winter where he could potentially earn $7+ million. And it’s his last year before he becomes a free agent. The Tigers will get maximum value by trading him before the 2018 season. Add in the Tigers announcement that Dixon Machado will be spending more time at SS and the dots are starting to connect.

Castellanos represents the Tigers’s old way of play. Some decent traditional offensive stats but slow and a defensive liability. His metric stats, the ones that teams tend to use in evaluation, are just horrible. He, too, will be arbitration eligible this winter and is expected to earn $5-$6 mill.

All three with solid rationales supporting their trades. But also, trades that factor into Miggy’s salary. Believe it or not, Cabrera will earn more next year – $30 million. And in a couple of years, it will continue to climb to $32 mill. If Avila is able to trade the 3 mentioned above, and replace them with MLB minimum-salaried players, he could cut as much as $25 million to help offset Miggy’s “ginormous” contract.

Because the Tigers were unable to trade even 1 large contract, it now means they will be forced to cut multiple smaller contracts in order to reduce payroll.

Of course, this is all part of the plan to get one of MLB’s top 5 oldest teams “younger.” By trading the more expensive contracts, it also gets them “leaner.”

Despite the fact that many of us will be sad to see some of these guys leave, it just may be the smart thing to do by collecting a team of younger athletes who will sync better with the rise of Fulmer and hopefully Norris and Boyd.

And of course, a reduction of operating expenses – double the amount of the average MLB team – will help make the books look better in case the team goes up for sale. All topics that will keep us riveted for the rest of the year and into the winter.

TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today, we address the trade deadline, which has now finally and mercifully expired. The Tigers have made some deals and now it’s time to dig in and let our writers dissect what has taken place.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.


What’s your take on what happened – or didn’t happen – now that the no-waiver trade deadline is over?


KURT

I tend to listen closely when Al Avila is being interviewed. He has had a reputation of being very transparent; disclosing more than you would think he would share as the GM of a MLB team.

So when he was interviewed following the expiration of the trade deadline, he shared. He is happy with what the Tigers received in the deals involving JD Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.

What I was looking for from Avila was a confirmation that they had reasonable success. And I sensed his message was genuine.

Al could not stress enough how devoid of talent the team’s minor league is when it comes to position players, but many people have been critical about how heavy the return was on shortstops and third basemen.

How close were they to trading JV? Well, in addressing the Verlander situation, Al once again shared something that I don’t know needed to be shared. JV is more of a candidate to be traded during the winter according to Al.

Please tell me Al – why do you insist on showing everyone your cards? It’s just not necessary. If he had conversations with teams about the potential for a JV deal after the season, fine, keep those irons in the fire. But why share it with us? Why share it with the media? We don’t need to know.

From what we are being told, there is no special magic associated with the retooling of the organization. This is about rebuilding a minor league system, at all positions.

In the world of fantasy baseball, I am always checking the minor league landscape for some of the better, head-turning talent about to emerge and head for the show, so you recognize the names when they do indeed emerge.

Did we get anyone like that or close to that? The answer is no, initial impressions have revealed there are none.

We offered up one of the most dangerous power hitters in the game, rental or not, in exchange for what appears to be average minor league talent.

We offered up the most sought after left-handed power pitcher who will fortify the back end of the Cubs’ bullpen. And we threw in a veteran catcher having a very good year. And who did we get?

Well, Al says we did very well. But frankly, I would rather know before he even said a word. I am not in the mood for someone trying to convince me.


HOLLY

I keep looking for Al Avila to develop a pattern in his thoughts and actions and today still didn’t show me enough consistency to get a clear read on the team’s intentions.

First he says he’s open to trading everyone and anyone but then doesn’t do anything last winter. Avila should have traded some players before this season to take advantage of their best value but didn’t. Then he poorly timed JD’s trade this month but did better with Wilson, yet waited too long on Avila.

To continue the pattern of non-pattern, so to speak, he did poorly with JD yet gets props for the Wilson/Avila trade.

Avila also said that they were not doing a salary dump, yet he actively attempted to trade JV, Upton, Sanchez, Zimmermann, Iggy and Kinsler both last winter and this month. However, reports say he wanted too much for each of them so it wasn’t a classic salary dump in which players are traded for the sake of being traded.

So, is Avila’s actions/non-actions based upon not being up to the task? Are he and Chris waiting on news that will impact which path they take? Or, are they purposely playing a game of non-disclosure? A combination of 2 or 3 of these?

It appears that some kind of tightrope is being walked. Wanting and needing to shed salary but not wanting to appear anxious. Wanting to trade more players but hesitating at pulling the trigger.

And this confusion about where the Tigers are headed with their roster adds fuel to their refusal to explain where this team is headed. Do they intend to stay competitive? Re-tool? Re-invent? Re-build? Your guess is as good as mine because no one is saying anything. Yet.

And I don’t expect them to say anything for months to come – if ever. Leave the fan base guessing – and hopeful so the seats continue to be filled.

What they’ve done – or haven’t done – is really open to interpretation which is what I believe they really want to accomplish in the long-term. And the reasons supporting it are multiple:

1. Attendance is still really strong and any attempt to mess with the formula will be avoided until as long and late as possible.

2. They are trying to minimize fan/social media blowback by focusing on making off-season actions.

3. As the Ilitch family awaits the IRS judgment – with some form of penalty expected to be paid – it may or may not determine whether they keep or sell the team.

4. If the timing of selling the team continues to be explored, they may be waiting until a suitor, the process, an announcement or the desired financial balance is achieved before they show their hand.

This year is one of transition and intrigue. We shouldn’t expect to know more until this winter.

OPEN THE DOOR, I AM COMING IN!

By: Kurt Snyder

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Tigers had a going away party. The Astros left town having lost 2 of 3 and could have been swept if not for a Tiger managerial brain lock.

So all there is left to do now is sit, wait, scroll through Twitter and wonder what our team will look like after 4 pm on Monday.

The Diamondbacks lost their SS to injury making the “experts” wonder if Iggy is on his way to replace him. The Brewers are still sniffing around Ian’s locker and talk is getting hotter. And Justin Wilson can pack now, his destination is unknown, but he is headed somewhere else.

Alex Avila? Could be gone. JV, a stretch but could be gone as well. And from what I am hearing, this level of tear up could force JUp to opt out of his contract. That’s a high level of ouch!

Let’s assume for a moment that all that happens. And let’s assume that the Tigers receive prospects, none quite ready for the big club.  Who’s ready to take on that mess?  Well, I would like to sign up for the teardown.  After that, it’s not my problem.

Beginning August 1st, I am the interim manager and the interim general manager for the rest of 2017. Are you scared? Well, you should be. I only have a short amount of time to make sure that the most obvious things that need to happen … happen.

I am the cleanup crew. I will be that guy who burns down all the areas that have been smoldering already.

So, I have plenty of work to do. Since I am the interim GM / the ‘someone fire everyone please’ savior of all, I am firing Al Avila. Al has spent plenty of years in player development, but I don’t like him as a GM. We will need some fresh eyes on this organization and the off-season will be spent benchmarking teams who have won, while looking for the next guy who will professionally lead this team into the future.

And since I am the short term ‘clear the decks, broom out the mess’ manager, I am immediately firing Brad and Gene. Just because, you know, they make me tired. VMart becomes my player-bench coach. All the other coaches can be kept until the off-season. But they will all be fired at the end of the season. All of them. And they will be told immediately.

Are you starting to feel better? I know I am!

At this point it’s time to talk with the team leaders. I need to have a heart-to-heart with Miggy to find out what the heck is going on in his head and then let him know that he is DH’ing for the rest of the season.

VMart will pinch hit and DH when Miggy sits. Whatever role for Victor which allows me to sit and talk with him about what has been lacking in the dugout from a leadership standpoint, is what is best for this team at this time.

I will then sit down with my catcher, James McCann, to have the same conversation. I would expect to get all I need and more from him. There will be no pressure. He will know I am not staying, but he will also know I will have a role in hiring the next manager, one who has done it and one who has had success.

The cuts? Well, in the interests of clearing more bad air, whatever I have to do to purge the team of Bruce Rondon, I will do. At some point in the middle of more promise, he stumbles, and it mostly has to do with what is between his ears. All that talent will be wasted, but it’s over. The Rondon Circus is being shut down once and for all.

Joe Jimenez will be brought up immediately and will help support the 8th and 9th inning roles. No one will be named closer. Several will get a shot.  Whoever owns it, owns it.

And that’s it. But it’s only a start. But these were the areas that needed immediate action. It’s now Alan Trammell’s gig until the off-season.

I have been itching to attack. And since no one seems to want to act, I will. This place looks better already. Too bad it’s still Comerica Park.