Unless there’s a massive fire sale at the deadline (and there might be) and possibly even if there is one, all of that 100 loss talk has left the building. Won another one today to sweep Chicago on the road (Chicago being one part of why I thought 100 loss talk was over the top to begin with…said it in April, someone has to win these games and it turns out “someone” is Detroit), get to within one of the break even mark and stay 2.5 back of a disappointing Cleveland team.
Now, I’m not even remotely ready to suggest that I think they’re *really* in the division race but that’s not so much about them as it is Cleveland having enough starting pitching and offense that, if their bullpen ever gets halfway to decent, could do something like they did last year and win 19 or 20 in a row. However, we’re just about at the halfway mark now and that’s a point I think you can begin to judge a team, and judgement re: the Tigers is that they’re far more competitive than even optimists could have imagined. They’re doing it with better than anticipated starting pitching, a reasonably good back end of the pen (including a lights out 8th inning guy), respectable defense overall and enough hitting and run manufacturing to overcome a lineup that’s hit only about half as many HRs as the league leading Yankees (and is tied for last in the AL with KC).
How long can they keep it up? I suspect the answer lies with the rotation. Fulmer is showing signs of seriously righting the ship, and I think it’s reasonable to think he’ll have a better second half than he did a first. Can Liriano stay healthy and keep up his level? Fiers? Can Zimmermann give them anything? Is Boyd for real? Hardy? I think this is the area overall primed for the most regression if for no other reason than I think Liriano for sure and maybe Fiers could find themselves dealt. I’m really encouraged by Boyd, though. He’s 27 this year, so it wouldn’t be the first time a guy started to put it all together at that age. He can’t get by on stuff alone but I really think he’s shown signs of having learned how to make the stuff he does have work for him via location, pitch sequence and command. If the Tigers get another good half of pitching from Boyd and Fulmer keeps that ERA of his heading south, I almost don’t care whatever else happens with their starters, because those are the guys who could still be part of this thing when they’re ready to really contend again…or who would have significant value in a trade.
Trade deadline is about 6 weeks away (the non waiver version, that is). These would be the most likely guys to get dealt in approximate order, IMO:
1. Liriano (if healthy…we’ll find out starting this week, I think)
2. Greene (if anyone’s closer gets hurt, he’ll be immediately discussed and I think contenders will look at him as a great 7th or 8th inning option as well)
3. Martin – I don’t think you’d get a major piece back for him but he’s definitely got value and maybe you get lucky as the Tigers appear to with say the Candelario (and Paredes) deal last year. Martin is at 257/325 but has shown power with 9 homers (not a fluke…he’s hit the ball hard most of the year), very good speed and really, really strong defense in CF. Plus, he’s not a rental…a team acquiring him would have to deal with arbitration but could retain him for 2019.
4. Iglesias – Quietly having a really nice year after a rough start. It’s funny…analytics people seemed to feel his defense was overrated in earlier years but from what I’ve seen, he’s checking out very well defensively under any system this season. The bat is what it is…no power, not many walks, and mid .200s in BA. He is showing more on the basepaths this year than he previously has, though. He’s a FA so you’re not likely to get more than a lottery ticket back for him, but when it’s that versus nothing at the end of the year, I think you try to get that ticket.
5. Fiers – If injuries hit some contenders, he could be a guy teams look at as an option. I look at him as a poor man’s Doug Fister during his good years in Detroit…it’s all about location and command, with a fastball topping out at 90. He’s pitched in pennant races and has a wealth of experience to rely on. I’d lean toward him being slightly higher than a 50% chance to be dealt, especially if he keeps up recent solid performances.
6. Castellanos – This is the big one. I’ve got it here because I don’t think they’re going to get a package offered which will tempt Detroit to make the deal, but you never know. He’s having a really nice year with the bat, but I look at what JD Martinez produced last season in a deal and it’s not encouraging (you seem to get more now as always for pitching). The difference is that Nick isn’t a rental, and maybe that will matter.
7. Fulmer – Same as Nick except even tougher to deal. I think if the Tigers put him on the market they would get strong offers, maybe very strong ones. WIth both of these guys, they’re going to have to think through whether they see them as guys who will come through the rebuild or guys who can get pieces who will. Avila said as much today before the game.
Speaking of which, if you didn’t see it, Avila had some interesting things to say overall on the organization.
– They’re not going to look to add any pieces, even if they remain in contention. That’s absolutely, 100% the right move, no question. That includes first basemen…they’re going to give John Hicks the every day job and that’s smart move as well IMO. He’s hit well enough to justify it and given that they could retain him for four more years, there’s no reason to not play him as much as possible and see what you have. I wasn’t high on him at the beginning of the year but more and more he’s striking me as a really nice bench piece on a good team, with the ability to catch and play 1B. Might as well find out if his first half is sustainable at the plate.
– Casey Mize IS going to pitch some in the minors this year, likely at Lakeland. Some thought he would be shelved the way Faedo was last year, but I think Auburn going out before the CWS made that decision easier.
– Looks like Beau Burrows will soon be heading to Toledo and Faedo to replace him at Erie. Sounds like it could happen very soon. Burrows has been really good, though his Ks have been down (I’ve seen speculation that it’s in part because he’s been working on secondary pitches and not just looking to blow guys away with his FB the way he did last year). Faedo has also pitched well though his velocity has been down. Avila did not sound overly concerned and they are apparently promoting him, so we’ll see how that goes.
– Franklin Perez, the centerpiece of the Verlander deal, appears likely to finally make his Tigers debut at the end of this month in Erie. That’s going to be an important two months for him. If he stays healthy and pitches the way he did in the Astros organization, I think Detroit might have two guys in he and Burrows pushing for rotation spots next spring…they’d at least be in the conversation.