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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4 Stats from the #Detroit #Tigers 5-3 Loss to the #Oakland #Athletics

  • Nine

The number of strikeouts tallied by Tigers pitchers. Not a bad number, but it doesn’t look outstanding when you allow five runs. Alfredo Simon started the game and posted six strikeouts while Angel Nesbitt, Al Alburquerque and Joakim Soria all recorded a punch out each.

  • 10

The number of times the Tigers reached base. Again, not a bad number, but not amazing when you lose.

  • Three

The number of players with multiple hits by the Tigers. Nick Castellanos, Yoenis Cespedes and James McCann all had two hits. Castellanos drove in two runs while Cespedes scored another.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Alburquerque. After a rough start, the reliever seems to have hit his stride. He’s only allowed a single run since April 28th, lowering his ERA from 11.37 to 3.80 in the process.

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Three Stats from the Detroit #Tigers 3-2 Win vs the Oakland Athletics

  • Six

The number of pitchers used by the Tigers. Wednesday was a bullpen day with Alex Wilson, Kyle Ryan, AL Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy, Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria all recording at least one out.

  • Three

The number of runs batted in by Tigers left fielder and former Athletic Yoenis Cespedes. The outfielder won the game for Detroit while also scoring a run and drawing a walk to go along with his three RBI and two hits.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Wilson, Alburquerque, Chamberlain and Soria. Wilson lowered his ERA to 1.99 after three hitless innings while Alburquerque dropped his below four. His ERA sits at 3.93. Joba Chamberlain earned run average dropped to 1.29 while Soria’s fell to 1.27.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 6-5 Win vs the Houston Astros

  • One

The number of runs and hits allowed by Tigers closer Joakim Soria, it was his blown first save of the season.

  • 12

The number of strikeouts by Tigers’ ace David Price. Price also allowed five hits, three runs (two earned) and a walk over 6.2 innings pitched.

  • 50

Reliever Alex Wilson’s ERA after the game. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher threw two innings while allowing one hit. He struck out two batters.

  • Four

The number of Tigers batters with multiple hits. Anthony Gose, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and James McCann all had more than one hit. Gose and Cespedes had three each while Cabrera and McCann added two apiece.

  • 11

The number of innings the game lasted. McCann clinched the win with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh.

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Seattle Mariners Acquire Welington Castro: Breaking Down the Trade

The Seattle Mariners made a move bolster their offense and production at the catcher position, bringing in veteran backstop Welington Castro from the Chicago Cubs. The M’s traded reliever Yoervis Medina to Chicago in return.

On the surface the move seems reasonable. The M’s could use reinforcements behind the plate thanks to the offensive struggles of Mike Zunino (.179 batting average) and Jesus Sucre (.067).

For his part, Castro will provide an upgrade over Sucre, and is at worst a time-share option with Zunino.

The now former Cub’s best seasons came in 2012 and 2013 when he hit .271 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI over 165 games. That’s all fine and well until you consider his stat line since: 134 games, 15 home runs, 51 RBI, 114 strikeouts and a .229 batting average (including a .163 mark this season). Castro had a WAR of 4.5 in 2013, but has been worth a -0.1 WAR this year.

Even if Castro doesn’t return to his 2012/2013 form, production somewhere between that and his struggles this season should provide the M’s with an upgrade at catcher. The price paid to bring in that potential upgrade was… interesting.

Yoervis Medina, owner of a sparkling 2.82 ERA over 137 innings pitched, was moved to the Windy City in the transaction. Granted the reliever hasn’t been himself this year with lower strikeout rates, an increasing walk rate and more hits allowed per nine innings. Additionally, his WHIP and FIP are both up from last season. Basically Medina’s numbers have gone up in all the places you’d like them to go down and down in all the places you’d like them to go up.

Still, Medina has a 3.00 ERA this season in the big leagues and a 1.59 number with Triple-A Tacoma. It would be a different story if the M’s bullpen was the well-oiled machine that it was in years past, but this year it simply hasn’t been as stellar.

Carson Smith and Charlie Furbush have both put up numbers reminiscent of past year’s bullpens, but after that there are question marks. Fernando Rodney remains the team’s closer, but is sporting an ugly 5.65 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched. He has nine saves. Danny Farquhar isn’t far behind with a 4.74 ERA. Other ERA eyesores include Tyler Olson and Dominic Leone (5.40 ERA each). Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel and Mark Lowe all have ERAs under three, but have collectively thrown 14 innings.

Despite Medina’s dip in certain statistical areas, he would still provide a better option than some of the M’s recent options, including four pitchers with ERAs over 4.70.

The addition of Castro is a solid one, one that will pay dividends for the Mariners, but you can’t deal a promising reliever, minor struggles and all, when the rest of the bullpen is performing… well, how they’re performing.

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

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Detroit Tigers: 5 Stats from the 2-1 Loss to the Kansas City Royals

  • Zero

The number of Tigers with more than one hit. No Detroit hitter had multiple hits, but three (J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler) all reached base twice thanks to a hit and a walk each.

  • Five

The number of at-bats without a hit for Tigers leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The outfielder lowered his average to .274 after the game. With J.D. Martinez struggling, Cespedes has been hitting fifth in the lineup.

  • Six

The number of walks by the Tigers in the game. Detroit had five hits, so drawing all the walks gave them a needed boost to their offense. However, the team wasn’t able to capitalize on the baserunners. Anthony Gose, Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez all had walks.

  • One

The number of runs allowed by starter Shane Greene in eight innings pitched. Greene has struggled as of late, but turned in a solid start on Monday. He threw eight innings of four-hit ball while allowing the one run. He didn’t walk any batters and struck out three. He lowered his ERA from 5.56 to 4.71.

  • 20

Joakim Soria’s ERA after the game. The Tigers closer threw a scoreless ninth to preserve the tie. He walked one batter.

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5 Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers’ 4-1 Win over the Chicago White Sox

  • Three

The number of hits by Tigers’ designated hitter Victor Martinez. After going yard against Chris Sale, this three-hit effort seems to have V-Mart trending in the right direction.

  • 1

The number of outs recorded by Tigers’ closer Joakim Soria in his eleventh save of the season. Soria struck out all four batters that he faced.

  • 116

The number of pitches seen by both teams. Fun fact.

  • 00

Kyle Lobstein’s ERA on the season. Justin Verlander’s rotation replacement has pitched well so far this season. This is good news for the Tigers given Shane Greene’s struggles and Verlander’s (soon-ish) return from the DL.

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by outfielder J.D. Martinez. The slugger’s averaged dropped to .220 after the game.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 3-2 Loss to the Minnesota Twins

  • Three

The number of hits the Tigers accumulated. Anthony Gose, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes were the only Detroit players to notch a hit. The Tigers only added two walks, both coming from Alex Avila. Twins leadoff hitter Danny Santana had the same number of hits as the entire Detroit lineup.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque in an inning of work. Both lowered their ERAs which sat at 7.36 and 11.37 respectively entering the game.

(RELATED: Should the Tigers Sign Rafael Soriano?)

  • .355

Miguel Cabrera’s ridiculous average after the game despite going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Best hitter in the league. Period.

  • Two

The aforementioned number of walks by Avila. The fact that the catcher can draw walks is a positive sign going forward if Avila can’t significantly raise his average above .171.

  • Seven

The number of strikeouts by Tigers hitters. In a close game with a dearth of offense, a 7/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t great, or even close to being called “good”.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-6 Win over the Cleveland Indians

  • Three

The number of runs driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who has continued his torrid start. Miggy went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored to raise his average to .377. Cabrera also went deep. Additionally, Rajai Davis scored three runs on three hits.

  • Two

The number of hits driven in by Ian Kinsler. The second baseman had two hits in four plate appearances. He had an RBI, scored two runs, stole a base and drew a walk.

  • Seven

The number of innings thrown by Kyle Lobstein in a winning effort. Justin Verlander’s rotation replacement allowed six hits and three runs (all earned) in his seven innings. He only walked two and struck out four. His ERA on the season is 3.50.

  • 86

The number of pitches required by Lobstein to pitch seven innings. It was an incredibly efficient day for Lobstein, who picked up his second win of the season.

  • One

The number of runs, hits and walks allowed by Joakim Soria. This broke a stretch of six straight games in which Soria had thrown perfect innings—a stretch that lasted two weeks.

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Detroit Tigers: Impact of Joe Nathan’s Injury

The Detroit Tigers are off to one of the best starts in Major League Baseball, but were hit with some bad news as it was announced that closer Joe Nathan will miss the rest of the season due to a UCL tear and a flexor pronator tear.

How it Impacts…

Joakim Soria

Soria is possibly the biggest benefactor in all of this. The two-time All-Star gets to remain in the closer role. He leads the majors in appearances, games finished and saves. Nathan’s injury also bodes well for Soria’s long-term future and his future in Detroit. Regardless of if he had success this season (pre injury), Joe Nathan wasn’t the long-term answer. At only 30-years-old, if Soria continues to pitch well (1.35 ERA, 0 walks, 2 total hits allowed) he could find himself in Detroit as the team’s closer of now and the future.

Bruce Rondon

When he returns healthy, it will be a golden opportunity for Rondon. The young flamethrower will likely assume Soria’s old role of set-up man/closer in waiting. This isn’t only an opportunity for Rondon to establish himself at the big league level, but also an opportunity to pick up some saves. Last season Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Al Albuquerque, Ian Krol and Soria picked up saves despite Nathan being on the roster. Rondon could do the same. Additionally, in the off-chance that Soria struggles, Rondon would be in line for even more save opportunities.

The Tigers’ Plans at the Trade Deadline

It’s a little early to determine which teams will be buyers and which will be sellers, but Detroit may look to add another reliever. With Soria and (a hopefully healthy) Rondon in tow, the Tigers won’t be looking for a closer-type, but a buy-low or depth addition might provide helpful, especially if expendable players in the bullpen continue to struggle. An acquisition would probably be more along the lines of the Tigers re-signing Luke Putkonen then acquiring someone like Jason Grilli.

The Tigers’ Other Relievers

Thanks to Nathan not returning and occupying a spot in the bullpen it would seem that everyone will keep their spots—for now. This is good news for relievers like Ian Krol and Al Alburquerque, who have seen their ERAs rise thanks to poor outings. It’s also a spot of good news for Blaine Hardy, who was promoted when Nathan went on the disabled list. Hardy allowed a run, two walks and two hits in his last outing, actually lowering his ERA from 12.46 to 8.10.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein has only one career relief appearance, and the Tigers may opt to keep him stretched out as a starter in the minors once Justin Verlander returns. However, in the off-chance that the Tigers want to keep Lobstein around because he’s pitching well, this potentially opens up another opportunity for him.

The Tigers’ Non-25 Man Roster Relievers

This is good news in terms of more opportunities for pretty much all of the following—Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid, Melvin Mercedes, Putkonen, Kyle Ryan, Jose Valdez, etc.

Wilson, one of the relievers acquired in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap, has an ERA of 0.00 and three saves on the season. Another offseason acquisition, reliever Zeid, has a save to go along with a 1.42 ERA.

Thanks to the severity of the injury, Nathan will move to the 60-day disabled list. This will open up a 40-man roster opportunity for a minor-league pitcher like Melvin Mercedes. Other Triple-A pitchers with major league experience like Rafael Dolis, Alberto Cabrera, Thad Weber and Mike Belfiore could also be in play if they can pitch successfully.

Ryan and Valdez, two pitchers already on the 40-man roster, are long shots, but could be in play. Ryan had success in relief last season, but the team may opt to keep him as a starter to provide depth in that area. Valdez wouldn’t require a roster move to call up, but the reliever’s ERA in 2015 is 6.75.

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