Over the next week and a half, Dave Dombrowski has three options. He can turn his team into a seller, admitting defeat for the season, and trade off valuable pieces, like closer Ugueth Urbina, Outfielder Rondell White or starter Jason Johnson. He could become a buyer, searching for middle relief help, or maybe a top-of-the-rotation starter. Or he could simply stay put, and let the team he has play it out.
There is no good answer, each choice has its positives and negatives.
Trading away pieces would definitely help down the road, but would obviously make the team worse off in the short term, not exactly a desired result, especially with the increased interest in the team from the fans as of late.
Acquiring pieces would certainly help now, but the team isn't exactly a powerhouse, and acquiring someone for the short term would only hurt the team in the long run, not to mention the fact the team still is in 4th place in the AL Central, and has little chance of making a run at the wild card.
At this point, unless the Tigers go on a serious streak over the next week and a half, they are best suited to simply stand pat and allow the team to play it out.
Obviously if the Tigers receive an offer they simply cannot refuse (whether it be considered a "sell", a "buy", or even a big leaguer-for-big leaguer swap), they have to make the trade. But on the whole, Dombrowski would be wise to allow the team he currently has to continue to play and gel together.
The makings of a very good team are already on the field – youngsters like Omar Infante and Nate Robertson have made the jump from borderline player to bonafide major league ballplayer, solidifying spots on the roster. Brandon Inge, after a few seasons of struggles, has finally seen his bat come around – there's no reason to take that chance from Carlos Pena, Eric Munson, or Craig Monroe.
For the first time in years, it's mid-summer and Detroiters are interested in Tiger baseball. Training camp for the Detroit Lions is just around the corner, and the Detroit Pistons just won the NBA Championship, but the talk of the town continues to be the Tigers. A couple more solid free agent acquisitions in the offseason coupled with the continued development of a few youngsters, and the Tigers could potentially challenge for the AL Central, legitimately.
But now isn't the time to stray from the plan. No one came into the season with illusions of the playoffs, and this team – while competitive – doesn't appear to have what it takes to get there. A legitimate power hitter in the lineup is still needed, as is a real ace that can be the true stopper for the Tigers, and a few middle relievers that can bridge the gap between the starters and Urbina.
The 2004 Tigers are better, a lot better. Carlos Guillen has been a pleasant surprise, hitting far more than expected, and providing a mentor for the young Infante that he was without in 2003. Ivan Rodriguez has proven all the doubters wrong, leading the league in hitting and being the consummate professional that he's always been regarded as.
But with all the recent success, it's time to step back, and ensure that there is no getting caught up in Tiger fever. The Tigers will be good, they will make the playoffs. But 2004 isn't the year to try and do it.