Roundtable: One Position to Upgrade

The trade deadline is just over two weeks away. If the Tigers are buyers at the trade deadline, what one position do they need to upgrade the most?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

For the past three years, I've been beating the drum that the Tigers need relief help, and let's be honest, they probably still do. But relief help should not actually be at the top of the list if the Tigers are going to be buyers at the deadline. That's not to say the bullpen isn't a problem, because it is. But if the Tigers are going to make another run at a World Series, they have to first get into the postseason, and unlike much of the past few years, that's an uphill battle for the club at this point. You've probably seen that when David Price starts, the Tigers are 15-3. That means for a .500 club, when he doesn't start, they're really bad (41% win percentage real bad, which if annualized out over 162 means they'd be a 67 win team, all else being equal, without him). That's a very simplistic example, but I feel it's quite poignant - once a Tigers strength, the club's starting pitching is downright bad - Anibal Sanchez has been inconsistent, Justin Verlander has been injured much of the year, Shane Greene has been awful since April, and Alfredo Simon could well be in the midst of a second half tailspin, just like what he did last year in Cincinnati. That's not a recipe to win many games, and adding a setup man to a weak bullpen doesn't help much when you're trailing by many runs by the fourth inning. If the Tigers are serious about making another run in 2015, they absolutely need at least one bonafide middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

If the Tigers are buyers, which I anticipate they will be, there are several directions they coudl go at the deadline, and each of those directions has merit. It could be argued that they need a nother consistent mid-rotation starter to help slot in behind David Price, Anibal Sanchez, and hopefully Justin Verlander; particularly given the recent struggles of Alfredo Simon and the unknowns that exist around the fifth spot in the rotation. It coudl be argued that the club needs to go out and bolster the bench with a bat-first guy that can help provide additional offense late in games. It can also be argued that the bullpen still needs an upgrade to make sure it can survive a deep post-season run. For me, it is still the bullpen that needs to be the focus of any deadline acquisitions; even in spite of their recent success. Al Alburquerque has a history of injury and wearing down late in the year. Bruce Rondon is in his first year back from injury and it is anybody's guess how many effective innings he will be prepared to offer before tuckering out. Joakim Soria has not logged more than 44 innings since 2011 and he is already nearing the 40 inning mark this season, leaving open the question of how many high-leverage innings the Tigers can steal from him. If you can predict just how well Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, Jeff Ferrell, and any number of other middle relievers may fair over the course of the second half of this season, you are far smarter than this guy. That's a lot of open questions around a bullpen that has long been the Achilles heel of the Tigers, even though their recent performance has been trending positively. I say the Tigers need a high quality seventh or eighth inning reliever that can help distribute the load across the bullpen down the stretch.

James Chipman, Senior Correspondent

Should they even be buyers at the deadline? I struggle with this, and honestly seem to change my mind on a day-to-day basis. I feel like there is no single main priority that makes them a legit contender, wherein lies the main problem. To answer the question though, as I write this today (Thursday), the Tigers offense has been the best in MLB over the past 30 days with 130 wRC+, so I suppose the offense is ok, especially once Cabrera returns. The Tigers rotation is without question the biggest problem though. Aside from David Price there's just too much inconsistency. Justin Verlander's last start was encouraging, but beyond that, he has exchanged mediocre starts with stinkers since his return from the disabled list. Second half Alfredo Simon arrived a month early. I'm not entirely sure that adding one starter really changes anything. Additionally, the bullpen is an absolute dumpster fire, so even if you're adding an arm, or two, the bullpen still needs to be addressed, as it's the perennial post-season Achilles' heel. If the Tigers are serious about being legit contenders, numerous moves must take place. The better move however, might be to deal away some of their soon-to-be free agents to bolster their farm system.

Chris Brown, Staff Writer

I think there's a relatively simple answer to this question, but college taught me to pad my answers, so let's look at a variety of options. By fWAR, the Tigers rank in the top 5 in the AL at every position except 2nd base (7th), 3rd base (13th), center field (8th), and DH (13th). Ian Kinsler has had a disappointing year at the plate, but he's almost certainly not going anywhere. Nick Castellanos has been really bad so far this year, but the Tigers obviously still believe in their young 3rd baseman, and a recent hot streak may indicate better things are coming. With Rajai Davis a free agent at the end of the year, the Tigers could technically upgrade in center with plans for the future, but that doesn't seem terribly necessary. And Victor Martinez has been great since his return, so there should be no need to pick up another DH. Miguel Cabrera's injury creates a possible need at first base, but he should return in just over a month, and the offense appears to have enough firepower to stay afloat. That brings us to the pitching staff, which is, bluntly, terrible. The Tigers have needed relief help since 2008, and adding a bullpen arm or two this year would certainly benefit the squad. We've seen some solid performances from the relief staff at times, but they've been far too inconsistent, and even Joakim Soria has had his share of troubles. The bullpen has been brutal, but somehow the starting pitching has been just as disastrous. David Price is great, but it get really ugly after him. Anibal Sanchez has pitched more like a #4 starter than a #2 starter, Alfredo Simon has turned back into a pumpkin, Justin Verlander's last start was encouraging, but the four starts before were disturbingly bad, Kyle Lobstein is hurt, Kyle Ryan doesn't have the stuff to make it through a big-league batting order more than once, and Buck Farmer was absolutely shelled in two starts. Shane Greene is returning from AAA, but it's hard to place faith in a guy who fell off so rapidly. The Tigers desperately need at least one starter, and possibly two. The good news is that there should be some solid starters available. The bad news is, starters tend to cost a lot, and the Tigers don't have a whole lot to give.

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