The Tigers didn’t have the prospects to beat out teams like the Pirates, Cardinals or even the Dodgers for David Price. If another team decided it was willing to go all-out to get him from Tampa Bay, the Tigers didn’t stand much of a chance. Teams like Pittsburgh could give up too many prospects for Tampa Bay to turn down and still have a rich system.
That didn’t happen. And while teams in desperate need of starting help either hesitated or moved on to other options, the Tigers added to their star-studded rotation by getting creative.
If they couldn’t match other teams on prospects, they could offer young, cost-controlled talent. Drew Smyly is eligible for arbitration this winter, but he has four more seasons before he hits free agency. Austin Jackson isn’t cost-controlled with free agency looming after next season, but his trade to Seattle drew the Rays a young infielder in Nick Franklin, who fits the profile.
The one prospect the Tigers dealt from their system, shortstop Willy Adames, is a high-riser at age 18, but comes from a position of relative strength in the system, the middle infield.
“The way we looked at it,” president/GM Dave Dombrowski said, “the question that we asked ourselves is, ‘What gives us the best chance of winning a World Championship this year?’ We have to get there. We know that. It’s getting there but also trying to win a World Championship. We felt that adding him to our rotation gives us the best chance of getting that. We think with the addition of Joakim and David Price, that that really does help our ballclub.
“We traded two players from the big-league level that we like a great deal. We just thought that it would give us a better chance to win with David Price taking the ball the rest of the season.”
That part, giving up not only big-league players but key ones, was a twist in the deadline deals, one which Pirates general manager Neal Huntington noted.
“It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years,” Huntington told MLB.com’s Tom Singer and reporters in Arizona for the Pirates series against the Diamondbacks. “We engaged teams for the top guys on a lot of fronts, and didn’t find the right situation for us.”
For Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, the focus was always on the prospects.
“Winning and developing at the same time is not always easy to do,” Colletti told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other Dodgers writers. “We’re trying to do both. This is the first time in maybe eight or nine years we think we have the prospects that can be everyday or even star players.”
The flip side of that, of course, is filling the holes left by the players traded. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes, but received outfielder Jonny Gomes as part of the return. The Tigers received nothing to fill the void in center field left by Jackson’s trade.
“It’s difficult, but I think you have to weigh it,” Dombrowski said. “We don’t make that deal unless Austin’s involved. We think Rajai [Davis] and [Ezequiel] Carrera will do a solid job for us out there. Correra’s done a real nice job for us in Triple-A. We’ve actually struggled on how to get him up to the big-league club at times. We’ve said this guy could help us now, he’s hitting .300, he’s a base stealer, he’s a very good defensive outfielder. He’s a left-handed hitter. Even if we brought him up, we didn’t really have a place to play him.
“We like Correra and we think Rajai, between the two of them, will give us solid work out there in center field. We’ll still get some offense out there.”
This was Torii Hunter’s reaction Thursday morning to the Jon Lester trade:
“Oh my God, that’s impressive. That’s all I could say. You lose Cespedes, a guy with power, but you gain another pitcher. And we all know in the playoffs, when you get there, pitching and defense win games. You have to give a little bit to get a little bit, so I think it’s a pretty good trade.”
He was talking with Austin Jackson about the deal and what Cespedes could do at Fenway Park. He had no idea at the time that he’d be looking at his own club doing the same thing by the time he left the ballpark Thursday evening.
“I mean, we’re neighbors in the offseason. We hang out. We worked out this offseason,” Hunter said. “Just talking to him all the time, on the phone or a text or being together going to dinner, whatever it may be, we’re always together. It’s tough to see him go. But you know, that’s why I try to pour into him so much at a time, because you never know what happens in this game. I told him that several times and this happened. He kind of gets it. I’ve been preaching that for the last couple years.”
That was the personal side. He had to divide that from the professional side.
“As players, as human beings, you’re like, ‘Look, Lester went to Oakland. OK, I want to know if we’re going to do something.’ And it actually happened,” Hunter said. “But that’s something where we might not even play Oakland. We have to get to the postseason first. We’ve got these next two months and I think David Price is going to help us out. Once we get through these next two months, I think getting to the postseason, David Price is a bulldog. That was a great pickup for us. Can’t worry about what Oakland’s doing. We only have to worry about what the Tigers are doing.”
A lot of Tigers were dealing with those dueling emotions. Jackson wasn’t a prospect, and he wasn’t really a young talent. He’s 27, but he was one of the core Tigers in their run of three straight division titles. Just five Tigers had been with the Major League squad longer than Jackson (Max Scherzer and Phil Coke were tied, having come up at the same time in the same deal). In many ways, he grew up with a lot of these players together.
“It’s hard,” Scherzer said. “I mean, you’re super sad because you have to see Smyly and Austin go, and they’ve been a huge part of what we’ve done here. But at the same time, I know what Price brings to the table, watching him pitch. He’s an unbelievable pitcher. It stings today, but tomorrow when we come to the park, I’m sure we’re all going to have huge smiles on our faces. …
“It’s tough. It’s real tough. Today stinks. Today we lose Smyly and Austin, and I know we’re getting David Price and he’s a great pitcher and everything. But in this moment, it stinks. You have to remember, we’re family in here. Austin and Smyly are part of this family, and we’re losing two of our guys. I get that the guy who we’re getting is very talented as well, but right now it stinks.”
Justin Verlander, the longest-tenured current Tiger, reacted much the same.
“You have mixed emotions,” Verlander said. “I’m paying attention to the game a little bit, trying to check and see what’s going on with the trade deadline. I’m just as intrigued as everybody else. And Mr. Dombrowski is pretty tight-lipped. He doesn’t let anything leak. But you see him running out there and you think, ‘Oh, man, something happened.’ Well, there goes my brother running off the field. I know he’s going somewhere else. You definitely have mixed emotions.
“I wish those guys the best of luck. They’re two extremely talented players and extremely good guys. They’ll be great.”
Verlander has also had the chance to be teammates with Price on the AL All-Star team.
“You’re talking about a caliber of pitcher who has one a Cy Young two years ago, and I think that answers how he can fit in and help this team,” Verlander said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s left-handed. He’s a power pitcher, which always plays well in the playoffs. We have to get there first. You don’t want to look beyond. We’re not there yet, but we’ve got a good quality team. Just continue to play good baseball and hopefully you make it, then power pitching’s always a good thing.”
On the emotions as he left the field, Jackson said: “It was kind of hard to explain. It was kind of weird because I knew what was happening, but at the same time, I was in a daze a little bit. I really wanted to go hug all my teammates, really. But it is one of those situations where you don’t know what to do. You’re just stuck.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. But I think when I put that Seattle uniform on, I think it’ll turn the page and start a new chapter.”
Asked to recall his best Tigers memories, Jackson had a list.
“There’s a few. It’s hard to just really go to one,” he said. “Getting to play in the World Series here in my short career was probably the best moment that I’ve had here. The Gallarraga catch. I get chill bumps when I see that still. When we beat the Yankees and seeing Coke point that ball out. “
I have a lot of good moments here and good memories. Go try to start it somewhere else now.”
As we wait to see what the Tigers do before this afternoon’s nonwaiver trade deadline, there’s still a game to be played. And with John Danks seemingly set to make his scheduled start for the White Sox, there’s a lineup to clutter with right-handed hitters. However, Alex Avila surprisingly gets the start behind the plate for the day game after a night game.
Eugenio Suarez, meanwhile, is back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with a bad lower back.
On the South Siders’ side, Paul Konerko gets the start at DH with the day game after a night game.
TIGERS (career numbers off Danks)
- Austin Jackson, CF (16-for-42, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (13-for-38, 3 doubles, 4 HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (11-for-41, 2 doubles, HR, 7 walks, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-48, double, 3 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (15-for-49, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-3, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Alex Avila, C (7-for-25, 2 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS (0-for-0, 2 walks)
P: Drew Smyly
WHITE SOX (career numbers against Smyly)
- Adam Eaton, CF
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (3-for-7, double, triple, K)
- Jose Abreu, 1B (1-for-3, HR, 2 K’s)
- Dayan Viciedo, LF (3-for-7, HR, K)
- Paul Konerko, DH
- Gordon Beckham, 2B (2-for-4, double, walk, K)
- Tyler Flowers, C (0-for-2, K)
- Moises Sierra, RF
- Leury Garcia, 3B (2-for-4, double)
P: John Danks
Nick Castellanos said last night he planned to be in the lineup “one way or another,” despite his bruised right index finger, and for now at least, he is. He’s starting at third base and batting seventh. Eugenio Suarez, on the other hand, is out, replaced by Andrew Romine. From a matchup standpoint, it’s interesting, because right-handed batters are hitting .320 (56-for-175) with an .871 OPS off Hector Noesi this year.
TIGERS (career numbers off Noesi)
- Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-3, 2 walks)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-13, double, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-8, 2 HR, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-4, HR)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-2, double)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (3-for-5, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-4, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-2, K)
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-1)
P: Max Scherzer
WHITE SOX (career numbers vs. Scherzer)
- Adam Eaton, CF (0-for-5, 2 walks, K)
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (6-for-51, 2 doubles, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
- Jose Abreu, 1B (1-for-10, double, 3 K’s)
- Adam Dunn, DH (10-for-44, 3 HR, 5 walks, 21 K’s)
- Dayan Viciedo, RF (9-for-29, 3 doubles, triple, 2 HR, walk, 10 K’s)
- Conor Gillaspie, 3B (3-for-13, double, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Gordon Beckham, 2B (9-for-41, 3 doubles, 4 walks, 12 K’s)
- Alejandro De Aza, LF (10-for-38, double, HR, 5 walks, 12 K’s)
- Tyler Flowers, C (2-for-6, walk, 4 K’s)
P: Hector Noesi
The Tigers headed into the final full day before Thursday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline in much the same position as they were over the weekend — still looking for relief help, notably left-handed, still seemingly finding the asking prices high. The same supply-and-demand issues that inflated the market coming into the heart of the traded still hold, at prices resembling the starting pitching market in a lot of years, and the late-inning relief market already.
Which begs the question: If the Tigers would have to pay prices for another reliever resembling that for a starter, could they simply trade for a starter instead, then move lefty Drew Smyly back to the bullpen?
It might not be that far-fetched. One AL talent evaluator raised the possibility earlier in the month. And while there’s nothing suggesting a deal is close, there are signs not to rule it out.
The Rays have had a scout watching the Tigers’ Double-A Erie team since early last week, including Jake Thompson’s start just before his trade to Texas in the package for Joakim Soria. The SeaWolves are currently in Altoona facing the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates, whose search for starting help and deep prospect ranks have made them a much-speculated suitor for starting pitching. The scout, however, is believed to be watching both clubs.
Six weeks ago, the Tigers and Rays seemed like a logical match for Ben Zobrist, but shortstop is no longer a trade target in Detroit. While the Rays have relievers who would carry some appeal on the trade market, there’s little urgency to make a deal. Their main remaining trade bait, even amidst their charge back into the AL East race, is David Price.
It’s shaky at best that the Rays would decide to buck their recent charge and trade Price. If they did, even with the Tigers enjoying some depth in prospects, they can’t match other clubs in what they can offer. If Pittsburgh to St. Louis were to make a serious run, their best push would beat anything the Tigers could come up with, especially after trading Thompson and Corey Knebel to Texas. Something crazy would have to happen. Still, it’s interesting to have the Rays scouting them.
Meanwhile, a Tigers senior scout spent the weekend in Houston, where the Astros were swept by the Marlins. Both clubs have lefty relievers rumored to be on the trade market — Mike Dunn for Miami, Tony Sipp for Houston. However, the Marlins aren’t expected to sell, according to reports, and the Astros aren’t inclined to deal relievers at this point. By contrast, the Astros are reportedly more willing to deal from a surplus of starters.
If the Tigers traded a starter and shuffled Smyly back to relief, it would certainly be an end-around to address their pitching needs. The problem is that it doesn’t actually add to their bullpen depth when it counts. Though Smyly has spent all season in Detroit’s rotation, he’s likely to shift to the bullpen in October anyway, since the Tigers need just four starters for the postseason. Essentially, then, all a trade would do is put Smyly in the bullpen sooner. So if the Tigers were to trade for a starter, he’d have to be be worth it.
That said, trading for a starter who’s under control for next year could conceivably help fill the void if Max Scherzer leaves as a free agent at season’s end.
Rajai Davis hasn’t been getting many starts lately, but when he’s starting, he’s getting some better spots in the lineup. He’s batting second tonight against White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, with everyone else pushed down. That means Miguel Cabrera will bat cleanup for the second time in a week.
“That’s due more to how Raj has done against Quintana,” Brad Ausmus said. “More of a matchup issue.”
Nick Castellanos was originally in the starting lineup at third base, but was scratched about an hour before game time with what the Tigers called a right index finger contusion, suffering when he was hit by a ground ball in batting practice. Cabrera moved from first base to third, Victor Martinez from DH to first base, Torii Hunter to DH and J.D. Martinez into the lineup in right field.
TIGERS (career numbers off Quintana)
- Austin Jackson, CF (4-for-19, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
- Rajai Davis, LF (8-for-20, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-11, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera,
1B3B (6-for-17, double, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, D
- Torii Hunter,
RFDH (5-for-17, 5 K’s) Nick Castellanos, 3BJ.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-8, 3 K’s)
- Bryan Holaday, C (1-for-4, K)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
WHITE SOX (career numbers vs. Sanchez)
- Adam Eaton, CF
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (3-for-15, double, walk, K)
- Jose Abreu, 1B (1-for-3, double)
- Adam Dunn, DH (7-for-33, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 16 K’s)
- Dayan Viciedo, RF (2-for-10, double, K)
- Conor Gillaspie, 3B (3-for-14, double, triple, walk, 2 K’s)
- Gordon Beckham, 2B (3-for-6, double)
- Alejandro De Aza, LF (4-for-9, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Tyler Flowers, C
P: Jose Quintana
Earlier in the summer, this was supposed to be the week that the Tigers either had their acquired shortstop in their lineup or were going to swing a deal for a shortstop to finally fill the void left by Jose Iglesias’ stress fractures. Eugenio Suarez’s performance over the past couple months has quieted that.
He hasn’t been a sensation, but for a rookie shortstop, he has been much better than expected, enough so that the Tigers feel comfortable going into the stretch run and the postseason with him. What happens next year is another matter, which leads to Nick Cafardo’s tidbit in Sunday’s Boston Globe:
Scouts hearing the Tigers are really impressed with rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez and may trade Iglesias, who has missed this season with stress fractures in both shins.
It’s an interesting twist, and it says a ton about Suarez’s performance so far. But here are four reasons why it’s not likely to happen, at least not anytime soon:
- Trading Iglesias anytime in the near future would be dealing him at the low point of his value, and that’s not something Dave Dombrowski does with young players. While the return package the Tigers received for Doug Fister is still being scrutinized, much like the motivations for moving him, the value Fister held to teams at that point was about at its high point — two years away from free agency, coming off a very good stretch, injury woes seemingly behind him. Iglesias goes into next season having missed an entire year and likely with questions to answer about his long-term health, given the unusual nature of his injury and the difficulty in discovering it (including in the midst of medical evaluations during the trade). He’s going to have to prove he can not only play every day at a high level, but keep it up to gain value for other clubs. It could come in the big leagues, it could come in the minors, but from a health standpoint, he’s got to show it.
- There isn’t a major financial motivation to trade him yet. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next season. He makes $1.65 million this year because it was the maximum pay cut allowed after the four-year, $8.25 million contract he first signed as a Cuban free agent ended.
- Suarez has had two months to show he can play, enough to earn the Tigers’ trust for the rest of the year. Whether it’s enough to show he’s better than a healthy Iglesias is a different question. He’s two years younger, which is a big advantage, but he also has yet to go through a round of major adjustments, either at Detroit or Toledo. Iglesias’ season last year showed some of the risks of small sample sizes — a .330 average and .785 OPS over 234 plate appearances with Boston, then a .259 average and .654 OPS over 148 plate appearances (granted, injury-hampered ones) in Detroit.
- The Tigers in recent years haven’t shied away from creating some Spring Training competition. Rick Porcello was supposedly a goner a year and a half ago once the Tigers re-signed Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers ended up holding onto Porcello and letting him battle Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation. The rest has worked out fairly well. Considering the Tigers didn’t sell low on Porcello then, it seems unlikely they’d sell even lower on Iglesias now.
Rick Porcello struck out the side in his seventh and final inning Sunday afternoon, including Howie Kendrick swinging and missing at a changeup for his 99th pitch of the game. He had the bottom of the Angels batting order due up in the eighth, and he had retired eight of nine batters since his errant pickoff throw set off chaos that led to a run.
So why did Brad Ausmus turn to Joba Chamberlain for the eighth inning? It wasn’t about where Porcello was at, but where he — and correspondingly, the bullpen — would’ve been had the Angels started a rally.
“You send him back out and a couple runners get on, he’s at 110 pitches and now you have to bring in somebody in the middle of an inning with [runners at] first and third or first and second,” Ausmus said. “I’d much rather just start [Chamberlain] with a fresh inning, knowing that the chance of Ricky getting through it — the way he pitched, he could have — you just don’t want to take that risk. …
“He was fine in the seventh, but he gets into that no-mans land in terms of pitch count.”
This might seem like a little shift in thinking from Ausmus, who has tended to give his starters the benefit of the doubt but has in turn given his relievers the tight situations to inherit when things don’t work out. With Chamberlain, however, it’s pretty standard. Nine of his 10 outings in July have begun at the start of an inning, last Wednesday’s game at Arizona being the exception. He has entered with a runner on base just three times since May 7. By contrast, Al Alburquerque has entered with runners on base in his last five outings.
When there’s an eighth-inning lead to hold, Chamberlain usually gets the entire inning. There’s a reason for that.
“Joba’s been rock solid in the eighth inning,” Ausmus said.
While Porcello was rolling, meanwhile, there were minor signs of risk heading into the eighth. Left-handed hitting Efren Navarro was due to lead off the inning, with switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger up third. And before Porcello struck out the side, four of his previous five outs had come on fly balls or line drives, the one exception a strikeout of Albert Pujols.
Would those signs have led Ausmus to call it a day for his other starting pitchers? That might depend on the pitcher. He let Porcello go the distance in Texas last month despite an esclating pitch count, but he had a six-run lead to play with there. He let Porcello finish out a 3-0 shutout five days later, but his pitch count was so low there wasn’t much risk involved. As it is, though, Porcello hasn’t seen 100 pitches in an outing since the shutout in Texas, a streak of five consecutive starts.
“I felt good,” Porcello said Sunday, “but Brad wanted to take me out, so that’s understood.”
In most seasons, a 3-4 West Coast trip is about average for the Tigers. As well as the Tigers have played on the road this year, it stands out.
When the Tigers score two runs over the final three games of the trip against an Angels rotation that didn’t include Jered Weaver for the series, it definitely stands out.
Miguel Cabrera drove in one of the two runs with an opposite-field homer that resembled his classic swing. It was part of 9-for-21 stretch over the first five games of the trip. He went 0-for-9 to end the series, including 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Sunday — one of them on a 73 mph changeup from lefty Hector Santiago — to end the trip at 9-for-29 with two home runs, six RBIs and six strikeouts.
His average is back at .309, which is where it stood when the trip began. It’s more the look on the swings that is being scrutinized right now than the numbers.
“He’s scuffling a little bit right now,” manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss. “Hopefully DHing today, not standing out in the field helps and he gets his legs back with a day off tomorrow. I think he’s kind of been a little frustrated all year because of the post-surgery. Everything isn’t in sync for him. He’s having trouble syncing right now. I think the surgery probably is the root cause of it, maybe going all the way to the end of last year when he wasn’t swinging like he normally was to protect the injury.
“It can take time. I think it’s some of the side effects of all that.”
Cabrera isn’t getting into the surgery recovery, and hasn’t since his quotes from USA Today’s Jorge Ortiz at the All-Star festivities. His disagrees with the notion that he’s frustrated at the plate, and he understandably feels like the results are pretty good.
There are certainly additional reasons for the Tigers’ offensive funk the last few days, including the Martinezes cooling off. Still, the spotlight in this offense is on Cabrera, and largely has been since the comments over the break.
Is he hitting like normal? No.
Is he in a freefall? No.
He’s somewhere in between. And as the Tigers schedule gets busy (20 games in 20 days coming up, including a three-city road trip in early August), it’ll be up to Ausmus to decide whether to rest him a day or two over the course of the upcoming stretch.
Alex Avila gets the day off with lefty Hector Santiago on the mound. Torii Hunter gets the day off with the day game after a night game. Rajai Davis gets the start in left, with J.D. Martinez shifting over to right.
The Angels load up on left-handed hitters for Rick Porcello. Surprisingly, the batter vs. pitcher numbers aren’t as hitter-friendly as you would expect given the Angels’ history off Porcello.
TIGERS (career numbers off Santiago)
- Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-16, HR, 3 walks, 6 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-8, double, 3 walks, K)
- Miguel Cabrera,
1BDH (1-for-7, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez,
DH1B (2-for-11, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-1)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-2, K)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-6, HR, 3 K’s)
P: Rick Porcello
ANGELS (career numbers off Porcello)
- Kole Calhoun, RF
- Mike Trout, CF (4-for-12, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Albert Pujols, DH (4-for-10, 2 doubles)
- Josh Hamilton, LF (6-for-17, 2 HR, 3 walks, K)
- Erick Aybar, SS (4-for-21, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Howie Kendrick, 2B (7-for-25, 3 doubles, 8 K’s)
- Efren Navarro, 1B
- David Freese, 3B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Hank Conger, C (1-for-5)
P: Hector Santiago