Should the Tigers be buyers, sellers, or stand pat at this month's trade deadline?
Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Entering Sunday's games, the Tigers are in 2nd place in the AL Central and three games back of the last wild card spot in the playoff standings. Fans can be frustrated with this team's play at times, but this is not a team that should be throwing in the towel when you've got a veteran core about to get two key pieces back and within striking distance of the postseason. So, with two weeks until the deadline, the real question in my mind is if the Tigers should be looking to buy, or standing pat and seeing how their core can compete. With J.D. Martinez poised to return from the disabled list soon, the club would be hard pressed to try and upgrade any position in the lineup (that's not to say guys like Justin Upton can't play better, but the club also isn't going to add an outfielder to take his place). The Tigers bullpen has largely stabilized, and despite a rough collective ERA (4.47) their FIP is good for 9th in MLB, and they've posted a total fWAR of 3.0, also good for 9th in MLB. But the starting pitching remains a huge problem. Justin Verlander has been mostly very good, Michael Fulmer has been a welcome surprise, and when healthy Jordan Zimmermann had been good as well. The group's 4.63 ERA isn't terrible sitting at 17th, but of it's 6.8 fWAR, 6.3 of that has come from Verlander, Zimmermann and Fulmer. In other words, the other two spots in the Tigers rotation have barely been above replacement level, and you are going to be hard pressed to make it to the postseason when 40% of your games you are relying on your offense to out score the other team. So whether it's a rental like Jeremy Hellickson or Rich Hill, or someone that would mean a bigger return like Sonny Gray or Julio Teheran, the club really needs to add a starting pitcher if they want to compete, and that should be their plan.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
Given the current state of the roster and the potential of the team this season and next, I think the Tigers should clearly be buyers at the deadline. The Tigers do have some assets that could be valuable to teams down the stretch, and that could help the Tigers build some youth for the future, but moving those assets leaves the team in a state of limbo that is not conducive to anything; winning, losing, rebuilding. Instead, they would just be stuck in the middle. Players like JD Martinez, Francisco Rodriguez, and Cameron Maybin all maintain varying degrees of value as the deadline approaches, but then your roster is left with more difficult to move talents that are more valuable to you than to other teams given the current contract status, players like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton. If you enter next season with those players, and sans the likes of JD, K-Rod, and Maybin, you are suddenly forced to augment the roster with more free agents this winter, or remain stuck in mediocrity that accomplishes no end other than checking off that you played the games. Instead, the Tigers can pursue pitching help at the deadline that improves their chances of competing down the stretch with one of the game's better offenses, and then once in the playoffs (if they get there), anything can happen. If things break smoothly, the Tigers can pursue pitching options that are controlled for the next 2-3 years, allowing them to maximize the window they have with the current talent base, and then make a decision on continuing to augment the roster or rebuilding down the line. Critics of this approach will decry the need to keep prospects in the system and build through the farm, but they are so far down the path of attempting to be competitive now that building through the farm is not going to result in utilizing the remaining strong years from their elite players. From the my seat, the Tigers are pot-committed to winning now, and that shouldn't stop until their elite players begin to peel off the roster.
Chris Brown, Staff Writer
The next two weeks are going to determine what the Tigers do at the deadline, but as of right now, with the team 6 1/2 games back in the division, and 3 games back of the 2nd Wild Card spot, I believe they should be buyers. They are a flawed team, with an inconsistent offense that seems to be filled with too many similar parts and a bullpen that still tests the nerves, but I think they have the firepower to make a solid run in the division, IF they can upgrade their starting rotation.
The price for starting pitching is always steep, and the Tigers farm system is still weak, so any deal would likely include at least two of Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Beau Burrows, Derek Hill, Steven Moya, and Joe Jimenez. Fans may not want to part with their young talent, but the Tigers' window to realistically compete is likely to close after 2017, and there's no guarantee they'll be this close next year. So I say go all in, and do what it takes to get Rich Hill, or Chris Archer, or Matt Moore, or Michael Pineda. This is no time for half measures.
Jack Wagner, Associate Scout
I believe the Tigers should be buyers at the trade deadline, but I'm not convinced the Tigers need to sell the farm to obtain help for a run at the postseason. The teams offense is performing well, currently sitting top 10 in the league in OPS, runs scored and total bases. On the other hand, the pitching staff as a whole could use a boost. Outside of Fulmer, Verlander and the injured Zimmermann, the rest of the starting rotation has been sub-par. The bullpen has also struggled, posting a 4.53 ERA up to this point in the year. 6.5 games behind a hot Indians team and 4 games back of a wild card spot are manageable, and adding some help could make the rest of the journey a little easier.