It’s as if the first few months of Detroit Tigers’ 2018 campaign were just a dream.
Winning streaks, come-from-behind-wins, and the birth of the Rally Goose allowed us to think that maybe, just maybe, the Tigers might be able to be something hilariously special. Even more so since they reside in a division as horrendous as the American League Central.
But this current stretch — a ten-game losing streak for the first time since the 119-loss season in 2003 — tells us all we need to know about this year’s Tigers: they’re not built to compete just yet, and it’s time to face reality. For the second consecutive summer, the Tigers could be pretty active sellers at the trade deadline.
There are a handful of names the Tigers will field offers for. Let’s take a look at some names general manager Al Avila might dangle in trade discussions.
RHP Michael Fulmer
This is nothing new to the 25-year-old. Fulmer’s name has been linked in trade talks seemingly ever since he captured the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016. Since then, he’s been viewed as a rising star, groomed into the ace role which was previously held by Justin Verlander.
Though Fulmer’s 2018 numbers don’t exactly mirror what he did in his first two seasons in Detroit, he still projects to be a heck of a major leaguer over the span of his career. He’s posted a 3-7 record with an ERA of 4.20, but his June suggests he’s soon to pitch like the Michael Fulmer that Tigers fans fell in love with over the last two years. He went eight innings while surrendering four runs against the Oakland Athletics in his most recent start on June 28.The @Tigers could kick their rebuild into high gear at the trade deadline by selling off these productive players.Click To Tweet
Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported that the New York Yankees had scouts present at Fulmer’s start against the A’s. The Yanks have shown steady interest in the young right-hander over the last year, and they’ll certainly be active at the deadline. Other suitors interested in Fulmer’s services may include the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies.
And a plus for Detroit: Fulmer remains under team control through 2022 and is eligible for arbitration in 2019. If the Tigers were to trade him, they’d be expecting quite the return.
Martin has been a pleasant surprise for a Tigers team that surprised many over the first few months of 2018. A ten-game losing streak has since derailed those initial surprises, and Leonys Martin is a guy Detroit should be able to flip at the deadline.
After several disastrous seasons as a member of the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago Cubs, Martin has settled into a nice little groove in Detroit. He’s batting .257 in the leadoff role with nine home runs, 28 RBIs, 44 runs, and 27 walks. He’s a good baserunner and an above-average defensive center fielder. He’s on contract with the Tigers through the 2019 season for just under $2 million.
A Martin trade won’t restructure the Tigers’ farm system with top-tier prospects. Regardless, this is likely why the Tigers signed him to a one-year deal back in December, for the hopes of a strong first half where they’d be able to flip him to a contending team at the deadline.
Martin has provided some durability and pop at the top of Detroit’s batting order, and the Tigers should engage in trade talks with other teams when they call about him.
It’s a rebuild, right? Why not blow it all up and trade the franchise’s rising star?
There is speculation around the league that the Tigers could possess this mindset regarding their right fielder Nicholas Castellanos. The 26-year-old has excelled in 2018 and will likely receive the first All-Star appearance of his career after slashing .307/.354/.508 through 80 games. He’s also had somewhat of an easy transition to right field, though defense has never, and will never, be a strong suit in his game.
The Tigers will likely handle Castellanos the way they’ve handled Michael Fulmer over the last few years. They won’t actively engage in trade talks and look for a deal, but they’ll listen. They should listen, too. Because the way Al Avila views it, guys like Fulmer and Castellanos are technically off-limits unless a team calls with a ridiculously good return package. He’s driving up the price, as he should.
I don’t believe Castellanos will be traded this summer, but his bat and ceiling is certainly desirable for contending teams looking for an extra nudge toward October.
Not to mention, with Miguel Cabrera‘s season-ending injury, this is Castellanos’ team, and it’s shaping up to be that way for as long as he remains a Tiger
Like Martin, Francisco Liriano has been a revelation for the Tigers. Detroit gave the 34-year-old southpaw a one-year deal worth $4 million with the hopes of a strong first half that would parlay into expressed interest from contending clubs at the deadline.
He’s been a viable pickup in 12 starts this season with an ERA just a touch under four while holding opposing hitters to a mere .218. Another plus is his relentlessness against left-handed hitters. In 2018, Liriano has faced 58 lefties and has given up just five hits. Those hitters are slugging just .220, opposed to the .415 slugging percentage that right-handed batters post.
It wouldn’t take a pretty penny to acquire Liriano — who’ll turn 35 in October and is a free agent this year — but teams looking to beef up their starting rotation for the second half will likely inquire about him.
LHP Matthew Boyd
Boyd falls under the same category as Fulmer and Castellanos as guys the Tigers could receive a lot for, but also guys the Tigers could, and should, build around during the rebuild.
In his age-27 season, Boyd is shaping up to be a solid major-league starter. His last two starts have been clunkers that really skew the numbers he posted in the first few months of 2018. In his last two outings, he was saddled with 11 earned runs over seven innings of work.
In April and May, a span of 10 starts, the Oregon State product owned a 2.96 ERA and punched out 45 hitters in 57 innings of work. His 1.5 WAR is already the best mark of his career since making his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015.
Boyd is under team control until 2022 and available for arbitration in 2020. Per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Seattle Mariners have shown interest in Boyd since before the 2017 season, when they tried to trade for him alongside then-Tiger J.D. Martinez.
The Mariners make sense, and I’m sure Boyd would quietly relish the opportunity to play in Seattle. He grew up in the Seattle area as a big fan of all the city’s sports, and he currently lives there.
Although, I don’t expect Boyd to be moved this summer. The Tigers, however, should approach this like Fulmer and Castellanos and hold off on a deal unless they’re absolutely blown away with an offer.
RHP Mike Fiers
Regardless of what transpires at the deadline, the Tigers have enjoyed plenty of success from they experimental one-year deal signees. Fiers joins Martin and Liriano in that club, as all three could be moved on or before July 31.
The Tigers inked Fiers, 32 at the time, to a one-year contract for $6 million in December. Since then, he’s been another serviceable addition. He’s 5-5 on the year to complement a 4.04 ERA in 84. 2 innings of work. His K/9 rate (6.7) is the lowest its been since the 2013 season, but his BB/9 rate (2.0) has been the best its ever been over his eight-year career.
Fiers could serve as a fifth starter on a contending team, and it certainly wouldn’t take much to acquire him. The Tigers are expected to be active at the deadline, and Fiers could be one of several names they look to move.