Next two weeks should determine what Tigers do

All-Star stuff 032

The photo above is of the DirecTV Blimp leaving Cincinnati from the view out of Eden Park. It took off from Kentucky and headed east Wednesday morning. Most of the Tigers, by contrast, left town last night. David Price went home to Tennessee. Jose Iglesias went home for a little bit. J.D. Martinez was headed back to Detroit for a day to relax, though he was talking about taking some swings on Thursday to get ready.

The full team will be back together on Friday, at which point they’ll begin a two-week stretch that arguably could determine the rest of the season.

A lot has been written already about whether the Tigers should be buyers or sellers at the deadline, but to me it’s premature. It’s not just the fact that two weeks remain before the nonwaiver Trade Deadline July 31; it’s what remains in those two weeks.

“There’s such competitive balance almost across the board, somebody is going to get hot,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Minnesota last week. “It happens every year. But the reality is, between now and July 31, if you win 10 or 11 games or you lose 10 or 11 games, well that can change the way you are a great deal. If you keep playing the way you’ve been playing, I don’t see where it changes. But nobody can foresee the future. But are there things that happen? Sure. Anything can happen. But I think it’s more predicated upon unusual circumstances. So for me, I think we just continue the way we are. We try to get better. We’re going to have to play better at times. We’re just going to have to.”

This isn’t really about the division race. The Tigers are nine games out, and while bigger second-half leads have vanished before (including this one here), the Tigers would need a lot of help from the Royals on that one. They have 12 games left against each other, but none for a few weeks. In fact, other than six games against Kansas City, the Tigers don’t have any division matchups until September.

“There have been many clubs that have been eight games behind, more than that, at this time of year and have made those games up,” Dombrowski said. “We have a club that has some ability. Getting Verlander back gives us a shot to get on more of a roll from a starting pitching perspective. We like what we saw from Feliz for the bullpen. We’ve been scoring runs more. But again, we haven’t gotten on a streak, but there’s no reason to say that we can’t. You’d rather not be this far back.”

The next two weeks are more about the Wild Card race, and whether the Tigers can see that as more than a crapshoot. Of their 14 games before the trade deadline, half are against teams battling them in the standings. They open the second half with three games against the Orioles, tied with them at 44-44, play struggling Seattle and Boston, then visit the Rays (one-half game ahead of them) for three games. Then comes a four-game series against the O’s that wraps into August.

They have more key games in August — beyond the Royals series, the Tigers hit Houston for three games against a fading Astros team — but their direction should be set by then. If they end up as buyers, their key additions will be on board by then. If they’re sellers, the kids should be up. The one safe assumption is that they won’t be caught in between.

The Tigers have an 8.7% chance to win the division, according to Baseball Prospectus, and 9.4% according to Fangraphs. Their Wild Card percentage stands at 19.6% according to BP and 16.5% according to Fangraphs.

Is the Wild Card a risky way to try to get back into the postseason and make one more run at a World Series? Yes, but that doesn’t make it not worth pursuing if the Tigers end July with a decent shot at it. The defending AL champion Royals still haven’t won a division title in 30 years, and were supposed to be crushed by missing out on the division last year, just as the Tigers were supposed to be in 2006. The Giants have more World Series titles this decade (three) than AL West crowns (two).

If the last few years have shown anything about October, it’s that baseball’s postseason has become more like a tournament, and whoever’s playing the best ball at the time stands a better chance than whoever accomplished the most since April. The Tigers, and notably Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch, have to figure out how to get this team playing its best by October, and how much it’ll reasonably take to get them there.

If the Tigers can play better ball in what’s left of July, that notion becomes a lot more feasible. Tigers All-Stars agreed that there’s a sense of urgency to the upcoming couple weeks, though none of them said the motivation would be to keep this team together.

“I think everybody on this team knows that we’re not a .500 ballclub and we haven’t played our baseball,” David Price said. “We need to be on to start the second half the way that we’re capable of playing. We all know that. Everybody’s going to have to do their part to make that happens. We definitely have enough talent in that locker room to be successful, to be where we want to be at the end of the year. We just have to hold it down. Everybody has to do their jobs a little bit better for the next couple weeks or a month or so. We definitely have enough talent in the locker room to do that. I think mentally we’re fine. We just have to go out there and compete.”

Asked if the buy/sell debate is a motivation, Price said, “I don’t think so. We don’t have MLB Network or ESPN on in the locker room. This team is pretty strong mentally. We don’t let the outside stuff really affect us. That’s what you have to do. We haven’t played the type of baseball that we’re capable of playing since the first probably two weeks of the season. We plan on getting back to that point. If we can do that the first couple weeks out of the break, that would be ideal.”

Said J.D. Martinez: “It feels like the last month, month and a half, it’s hard to get it going. It feels almost like a wheel. You’re going, going, but you’re always hitting that bump and you can’t roll. We’ll play a good series and then we’ll go another series and we can’t figure it out. This second half, we definitely have to pick it up, I feel like. It’s going to be interesting because there’s a lot of good teams in our division. Our division is very tough. Minnesota and Kansas City have been playing really well, and they’re starting to create a lot of distance, so it’s going to be tough.”

Jim Leyland, who has been in on the Tigers meetings trying to determine their Trade Deadline direction, seemed to hint at the same thing when he went on MLB Network Radio Wednesday morning.

What the Tigers do is going to be closely watched, and no team seems to have a firm grasp so far. Even as contending teams ask what Detroit is going to do, noncontenders — including the Padres and Reds — have continued to scout the Tigers and their farm system.

Three things to remember as July unfolds:

  1. Much like with Max Scherzer, the Tigers will get a compensation pick in the back of the first round if they hold onto David Price for the rest of the season and he ends up signing elsewhere as a free agent. Any debate regarding keeping or trading Price over the next two weeks starts with that, because any potential return would have be judged in comparison. The Tigers have a first-round pick that they can recoup, but as was important in this year, they have spending flexbility against the draft cap. If the Tigers trade him, by rule, whoever gets him can’t get any draft compensation if he leaves in the offseason.
  2. By contrast, the Tigers won’t get a compensation pick for Yoenis Cespedes, whether they keep him or deal him. His contract that he signed in 2012 stipulates that his team can’t make him a qualifying offer.
  3. If the Tigers decide it’s worth buying in, payroll is still expected to be a factor.

40 Comments

Wish they would, but don’t see it getting on track. No bullpen and big holes in the starters usually means .500 ball at best.

They need another starting pitcher. Period.

Good point on YC. Better trade him while the gettins good

Wilson and Speier were the compensation pick for Cespedes

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Yet he still has value. there is no point signing him to a large contract next year when we have Moya and Collins needing to play.
JD, Miggy, Victor and Casty ae enough RHB in the lineup to provide some power

I agree with Jason it is too early to tell. Maybe the Tigers can pull everything together and start winning . Sure hope so .

We need to rebuild the farm. I think winning it all this year is a long shot, to say the least. It’s all or nothing – lets start building for next years championship run, now. See if anyone wants Vmart – unload YC and Alex (seattle, maybe?) and probably Simon…..keep Price and Soria (try to extend the latter).

The Giants have 0 AL West crowns.

When Detroit traded their starting centerfielder and a starter from their rotation in exchange for David Price, was that buying or selling?

long term selling, short term buying

hoping for some clarity…a winning streak or losing streak that gives more definition to their chances. continued mediocrity not helpful at all for establishing team’s near and distant future plans.

VMart will be a Tiger until 2018. Without him, Cabrera wont see a pitch to hit.
Seattle is an unlikely destiny for Avila/(why a non contending team will traded for a rental?) Same for Cespedes. And the Tigers probably see Cespedes as a long term solution
Price is the one to extend. If he is traded , he wont resign with the Tigers as FA
Budget? put Kinsler on waivers and if a team claims him give them the contract.
The Giants were the WC twice before the second WC. A sure thing became a coin flip

pfft, JD will be out performing Victor by 2017 and batting behind Miggy.

This from the guy I had to convince three months ago that JD was legit…….

The Seattle catcher rumor flared and burnt out as often happens. They still want a veteran catcher. I suppose they’d take Avila if he became more than a two-month rental, otherwise the return would be lessened. Until it becomes more than a Morosi generated rumor, it’s just background noise.

lord almighty what kind of a return can we expect for a oft injured defensive catcher making about 6MM a year?

The best caller and framer in MLB. He is pure gold but a rental. He is owed 3MM, more or less

I kind of thought Cespedes would receive a contract to stay in Detroit. They need to maintain some continuity. Collins could replace Rajai (I know, lefty/rightie) but I’m not so sure about Moya. With one of the very best starters in baseball, they should just pay Price. He has more long term value than Scherzer did.
Rather than react to current circumstances, I prefer to see this as a good team that’s having one of those years. There’s a reason most clubs don’t make the postseason every year and we’ve seen most of them this season.

Just the different mechanics(delivery, command and control, etc.) gives Price the edge over Max for a long term deal. Understanding that Max has already robbed the bank. Very talented but I see more durability and steadiness in David.

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Thanks as always for the wonderful writing, Jason.

Looks like the Os are throwing 3 RHP against us. Boring. That means we will have to endure Avila and Kraus ad nauseum.
I don’t expect much from Ausmus in terms of changing things up.
Why do we have Marte here anyway?
The guy has been hitting RHP all his life.

After sitting on the bench this long, Marte probably won’t hit either. Anyway the Green kid got called up to Toledo. I wonder how his defense is? It’s all that’s required to play over Krauss.

Romine just has to sit and wait, too. He was good at 1st base.

My guess is that his defense is wanting. Robbins played first at Erie and Green was primarily the Dh with only a handful of games on D

I hope they hang on to to Moya and I guess Machado too. I realize Moya has failed to solve some of the hitting issues that have persistently plagued him but this team really does need LHB power something terrible, and not just this year.
Perhaps Machado can play 2nd and Kinsler can find employment elsewhere. That would be about 30 Million dollars for 2 years and option year. That is a lot of money for a streaky hitter with diminishing power and careless base-running.
My guess is that Ian is considered a mainstay and Machado will be dealt.
Price will be galvanic indicator of where the team thinks it is heading. If they let him go then a complete overhaul will ensue IMO.
Cespedes is good ball player but will he be worth the money he commands in free agency? I highly doubt it. to me, he is expendable actually needs to be traded in order to get a missing piece. He will have some value and way more than guys like Avila and Rajai.
I can’t wait to see Simon gone. Greene at least has some upside.

Is anyone worth the money they command in free agency?

Krauss needs to be Keith Hernández to play first with his bat

Marte is a 3B not a 1b:
Scout:”While he showed some good defense, on more than one occasion he had trouble on balls he had to charge in for. He has a good arm, and can throw the ball on a hard line to the bag when he needs to”

Ben Zobrist any value to Tigers as 2B/OF and LHB. Can we send Kinsler and Cespedes for Pitchers (SP & BP)?

From what I have seen from Kraus he borders on being bad as a 1st sacker. I recall two foul pop flys that he was nowhere close to. Completely lost.
Did see him make a nice play on a force at 2nd.
But obviously he is simply a bargain basement acquisition.

I couldn’t figure out those pop fouls either. Never seen anyone miss that badly twice. I had hoped he was just a quick fix. At any rate, he’s going on paternity leave and being replaced by Machado. It will be interesting to see who Brad chooses for 1st base tomorrow. My money says Avila.

If the Cubs are that desperate for Price and want to start a package with Kyle Schwarber, my interest would be piqued.

Machado called up. Krauss, paternity leave

We gave away too many good players for nothng in return- I think we may be heading back to pre-2006 records.

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