Detroit Tigers: Low-Buy Trade Targets to Improve the Bullpen

The Detroit Tigers have whittled their bullpen (in terms of reliability) down to four pitchers setting up closer Joakim SoriaAlex Wilson, Blaine Hardy,  Al Alburquerque and Neftali Feliz.

The rest have been maddeningly inconsistent. Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol seem like long-term pieces, however both have abnormally high ERAs (in albeit small sample sizes). Rondon’s is 9.35 in 8.2 innings while Krol’s is 6.14 in 14.2 innings.

If the Feliz’ arrival has shown the Tigers anything, it’s that quality relief options are available—and they may just need a change of scenery to thrive. Here are some low-buy trade targets the Tigers could look into in order to bolster the team’s bullpen.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Per the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, the Tigers have been watching Steve Cishek. This makes sense.

Cishek struggled mightily to start the year, so much so that he was sent down to Double-A to work things out. The former closer is back with the big league club, and seems to have figured things out. As a setup reliever since June 14th, Cishek has a 0.93 ERA and nine strikeouts in 9.2 innings.

The most unnecessary luxury on a losing team is a good reliever, so if Miami sells off pieces, Cishek may be out the door. He’s even more expandable considering how well A.J. Ramos has fared as a closer (1.55 ERA, 14 saves). This isn’t even to mention the presences of Sam Dyson (3.48 ERA), Bryan Morris (3.31) and Carter Capps (1.55).

It seems that the Tigers like to acquire relievers with closing experience to serve in a non-closer role. This has happened with everyone from Jim Johnson and Joel Hanrahan to Joakim Soria and Feliz. Cishek (94 careers saves) would fit the mold.

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks

Yet another former closer who’s had troubles, former White Sox reliever Addison Reed would be the ultimate low-buy for the Tigers.

Reed has a career 4.39 ERA, including a 5.92 number this year, but when you look at the numbers more closely, he comes off as a much better pitcher. The former closer’s FIP is a much-more-acceptable 3.84 this year. In other words, the Diamondbacks aren’t doing him any favors defensively.

Over the course of a year-and-a-half in the desert, Reed has nine losses and 35 saves (only three this season). His ERA in Arizona is 4.73. Going purely on those numbers alone, the D-Backs may be inclined to move him, especially considering the team’s depth chart.

Arizona is stocked with quality relievers, from closer Brad Ziegler to setup relievers Andrew Chafin (2.90 ERA), to Randall Delgado (2.93 ERA) and the duo of Daniel Hudson and Oliver Perez (3.32 and 3.46 respectively).

Reed isn’t even on the team’s big league roster. They’d probably be more than open to moving him, especially given his salary. Nonetheless, he’d be a good low-buy option for the Tigers, especially with his closing expertise (104 career saves).

Joe Thatcher, (Formerly of the) Houston Astros

Finally! A non-closer. Joe Thatcher was just designated for assignment by the Astros and is available. Not only is Thatcher wildly non-expensive, relative to his value, he’s also been consistent for Houston.

Thatcher has a respectable 3.79 ERA and an even more attractive 3.17 FIP. The former Angel has struggled of late (27.00 ERA in last five appearances, spanning 1.1 innings), but was dynamite before that. In 31 appearances prior to the struggles, Thatcher posted a sparkling 2.04 ERA.

Given his relative inexpensiveness and success, the Tigers should take a flier on Thatcher. His arrival would be another step towards having a strong bullpen.

Jean Machi, (Formerly of the) San Francisco Giants

It seems that the piece has now moved from struggling former closers to relievers that were recently designated for assignment. Joining Thatcher in the DFA category is now former Giants’ reliever Jean Machi.

Machi excelled in 2014 and 2014 for the Giants, posting a spectacular 2.49 ERA and a 2.93 FIP in 119.1 innings. He struck out 102 batters over that span while accumulating 10 wins. The four-year veteran would likely pitch earlier in games, a la Hardy, and would provide yet another dependable reliever in the Tigers’ bullpen.

Machi does have a 5.14 ERA this year, but his 4.20 FIP suggests he’s better than his high ERA. Despite those “struggles,” the right-handed pitcher has been filthy against lefties this year. Left-handed hitters have produced a miniscule .120 batting average against Machi. Other nasty numbers? Left-handed batters have posted a .241 OBP and a .160 slugging percentage. That’s good for a .401 OPS against. Those are p-r-e-t-t-y good numbers for someone on the waiver wire.

Since he’s been designated for assignment, the Tigers won’t have to pay much to acquire him. Which is nice when you don’t have a boatload of assets to trade.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs Seattle Mariners

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Ian Kinsler’s Improved Play a Good Sign for the Detroit Tigers

Ian Kinsler may have just provided the Detroit Tigers the spark the team so desperately needed.

The second baseman went yard twice against the Seattle Mariners to give the Tigers a much needed win. The victory leveled Detroit’s record at 46-46 and instilled some hope into a situation that hasn’t been ideal.

Kinsler tends to go cold in the second half after strong starts to seasons. Case in point, his first-half, career batting average and OPS? .284 and .818. His second half numbers? .257 batting average, .714 OPS.

However, just as the Tigers have struggled in the first half, so too has Kinsler. The second baseman hit .283 in April/March before slumping to .262 in May and .242 in June. Again, just like the Tigers’ season, Kinsler’s recent play may be a sign of things to come.

The former Texas Ranger entered Monday’s contest with a scorching .328 batting average in the month of July.

His renewed offensive prowess will only benefit the Tigers.

Manager Brad Ausmus has written a number of different players’ names in the first two spots of the batting order. However, the one constant has been Kinsler. Whether hitting first or second, Kinsler has maintained the role of table setter.

Thanks to his recent hot-streak, he could be setting the table much more often. If Kinsler can consistently reach base with the hitting acumen he’s shown in July, the Tigers offense shouldn’t have problems down the stretch—Miguel Cabrera or no. Kinsler’s ability to reach base will present more RBI opportunities for hitters like Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. Additionally, with bottom-of-the-order hitters Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose reaching at high rates, Kinsler will have a fair share of RBI opportunities himself.

This improved offense will help cover up the starting pitching struggles the Tigers have experienced as of late. More runs won’t mask the issue outright, but it will help.

For the Tigers, and their fans, Ian Kinsler’s tear at the plate is hopefully a sign of things to come. If anything, Monday’s game is the beginning of something special.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers vs Seattle Mariners Lineups

(RELATED: Why the Detroit Tigers Should Sign Edwin Jackson)

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Russell Wilson Hits Home Run at Richard Sherman’s Celebrity Softball Game

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Why The Tigers Should Sign Edwin Jackson

In an attempt to give their bullpen a different look, the Chicago Cubs have designated pitcher Edwin Jackson for assignment to make way for fellow reliever Rafael Soriano.

Jackson, who is a former Tiger, is on the open market after posting a 3.19 ERA (his FIP is an even more impressive 2.84) in 23 appearances. Over those 23 appearances, he’s tallied 31 innings and struck out 23 batters.

The Tigers should actively pursue a reunion.

Jackson, who pitched in his only All-Star Game as a member of the Tigers in 2009, was highly successful as a member of Detroit’s rotation, posting 13 wins.

Given Jackson’s track record as a reliever this season, and the Tigers struggles in both the rotation and the bullpen, he would make a lot of sense back in a Tigers uniform.

Whatever role Jackson takes up in Detroit—should he sign—he’d fill a need. He could slot in as part of the bullpen, suddenly giving the Tigers a shiny-new pair of dependable relievers in himself and Neftali Feliz.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Or, if Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon’s struggles prove too much, Jackson could slot into the rotation. That, in addition to the eventual return of Kyle Lobstein, would give Detroit a full rotation without Greene or Simon. This would allow Simon to move to the bullpen, a place where he found considerable success. Simon worked to a 2.78 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 148.2 innings pitched out of the ‘pen for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013.

Either way, the Tigers bullpen would benefit from a move while the rotation could also stand to benefit as well.

Jackson has been here before as well, in terms of being a midseason boost to a new team. As a starting pitcher, he provided both Chicago and St. Louis with a shot in the arm in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

During his first half-season in Chicago, Jackson went 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 75 innings. The next year, after moving to St. Louis at the deadline, Jackson went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in helping the Cardinals claim the World Series title.

In addition, Jackson would also be cheap. Provided the Tigers don’t claim him on waivers, he’ll only cost the veteran’s minimum.

Regardless of what role he would fill, Edwin Jackson would be a shot in the arm to a Tigers’ pitching staff desperately in need of one.

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: Series Against Mariners is a Golden Opportunity

Things aren’t going according to plain in Detroit. Not a single soul thought the team would be below .500 this far into the season. Sure, the starting pitching would be taking a slight step back, but the defense would be much better, as would the bullpen. And oh yeah, the offense would still be dynamite.

But the Tigers started to miss breaks, for lack of a better term (you know, the opposite of catching breaks). Victor Martinez struggled out of the gate before missing a chunk of time on the disabled list. Justin Verlander was on the DL for the first two months of the season and has been up-and-down upon returning. Both Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene scuffled mightily after encouraging starts. Anibal Sanchez struggled initially (before settling down) and Miguel Cabrera is on a long, injury induced break.

Yeah, things aren’t great in Motown.

Throw in the potential free agent departures of David Price and Yoenis Cespedes as well as the fact that the Tigers will enter the week 10.5 games behind Kansas City in the Central and you have even more uncertainty.

But hey, the Mariners are coming to town!

The Seattle Mariners, owners of the American League’s worst record, come to Comerica for four games. Detroit went into cavernous Safeco Field just a few weeks ago and turned the pitcher’s park into a launch pad for home runs.

Detroit will face the same team that served up all those bombs, without Felix Hernandez. King Felix started at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, meaning he’ll miss the series. Instead, the Tigers will face Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery and J.A. Happ.

During the series in Seattle, the Tigers scored 14 times combined against Iwakuma, Walker and Happ. They plated five against both Iwakuma and Walker, while they put four across against Happ. Happ’s home ERA is 2.66. His road ERA is 5.59.

Throw in a suspect Seattle bullpen and an offense that is Nelson-Cruz-and-no-one-else, Detroit has a major chance to get back into the thick of things. While Detroit is 10.5 games back in the division, they are a much more manageable 4.5 games back in the wild card.

This could be there chance to get on a roll and reenter the playoff race, if not the division race. Crazier things have happened.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Twitter Images from Baltimore Series, All-Star Game

Here’s Jose Iglesias flashing the leather at the All-Star Game.

Not to be outdone, J.D. Martinez made a highlight-reel defensive play against the O’s.

And then Iglesias did his best Martinez impression.

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Players the Detroit Tigers Could Move at the Trade Deadline

Even with all the evidence pointing towards selling, the Detroit Tigers will more than likely be a buyer at the upcoming trade deadline. Most of the reasoning behind selling has to do not only with the team’s .500 record, but also the lack of a supposed farm system.

Look, Detroit’s system isn’t the best in the league, but it may get a bad rap. Two former Tigers prospects are ranked in Baseball America’s top 50 mid-season prospects, while the system has produced other talent in recent years such as Devon Travis, Drew Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos, James McCann, Eugenio Suarez and Bruce Rondon. Detroit also has two exciting outfield prospects in prolific slugger Steven Moya (prolific is probably an understatement. Dude’s got power like you wouldn’t believe) and speed demon Derek Hill.

Detroit’s system may not be the greatest, but don’t underestimate it. Dave Dombrowski has pulled off some stellar trades for the team before, dealing prospects from a supposed “awful system” for impact players.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the players Dombrowski and the Tigers could deal in order to improve the team at the trade deadline.

Angel Nesbitt

The Tigers don’t have a ton of relievers who are close to major-league ready, so dealing one of the few away could be problematic. Still, if the right trade comes along, Dombrowski and company shouldn’t think twice.

The young reliever’s best pitch is his heater, and that will likely be his calling card in the big leagues. Teams with more pitcher-friendly parks could find him especially useful given that he isn’t a finished product and would have more room for error as he develops.

If Neftali Feliz’ signing has taught us anything it’s that quality relievers go on the market all the time, and if the Tigers feel they need depth in Triple-A, there’s always the waiver wire.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Javier Betancourt

Who is Javier Betancourt you ask? Betancourt is (according to MLB.com) the Tigers’ eighth best prospect and plays both middle infield positions. He’s estimated to arrive in the big-leagues in 2017. He has two-way potential, and may be Ian Kinsler’s long-term replacement, but the Tigers have already dealt one second baseman (Travis), so the team may not have found Kinsler’s heir-apparent yet.

Plus-plus defender/ middle infielder Dixon Machado is only three years older and was an All-Star in Triple-A this year thanks to a .272 batting average, 19 extra-base hits, 12 steals and 36 RBI. He was recently called up to the Tigers’ roster and may be better suited in Andrew Romine’s super-utility role until Detroit is ready to move on from Kinsler.

MLB.com calls Betancourt “an above average defender” at second base and is “an advanced offensive player for his age”. If you remember, the “advanced for his age” tag was one given to Betancourt’s former double-play partner (and centerpiece of the David Price trade) Willy Adames. If Betancourt is comparable to Adames (a top 50 prospect), Detroit should sell high in search of starting pitching help.

Grayson Greiner

Catching prospect Grayson Greiner is another prospect at a position of surplus who the Tigers could move. While he’s struggled in the minors, he remains the top catching prospect in the Tigers system. MLB.com ranks him ahead of minor leaguers standouts like Betancourt and Machado and Tigers’ Futures Game representative Joe Jimenez.

Detroit already has James McCann and Alex Avila behind the dish, as well as Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. Catcher is one position (like middle infield) where the Tigers have depth to play with. Given Greiner’s upside and age, he could entice a rebuilding team in a swap, or be packaged along with someone like Betancourt in a larger deal.

Marc Krauss

The Tigers just acquired him, and while he did well to homer in his first game for Detroit, he’ only has one hit since. Hitting .111 in Motown. Platoon mate Jefry Marte has shown better (albeit in limited playing time) and strikes out less often than the swing happy Krauss. Marte also provides manager Brad Ausmus with more defensive flexibility as the rookie can play both first and third base

Krauss won’t bring much in return, but he’d be one of the first hitters jettisoned if a different alternative to Miguel Cabrera is found.

Alex Avila

This one will be tough to swallow. Not only is Avila one of the longest tenured Tigers, but his dad works in the front office. However, McCann is the Tigers’ future behind the dish and is outperforming Avila on a number of levels this season. McCann rates out much better defensively and has trumped Avila offensively. McCann’s batting average and OPS are both nearly 100 points higher than Avila’s number. Additionally, McCann has scored the same number of runs as Avila has hits. Dealing an impending free agent like Avila to a team in search of help behind the plate (like Seattle) for pitching would make sense.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Juventus Have Five Players Up for #UEFABestPlayer

Of the 10 finalists for the award for the best player in Europe, five are from Juventus. Gianluigi Buffon, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and the now-departed Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez join Barcelona trio Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in the top ten along with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Here are some notable facts to consider.

Only Argentina (with Messi and Tevez) matches Italy in terms of the country with the most players.

There are more Juve players than Real and Barca players combined.

There are five players from the Italian league and only one from “The world’s best league” (The Premier League).

Only one goalkeeper made the top ten– Buffon.