Detroit Tigers: How to Replace Max Scherzer

Changes are coming for the Detroit Tigers. Don’t worry, they won’t be wholesale. The team will still stick to its identity—superb starting pitching and a slugging, star-driven, high-scoring offense. While the bullpen, and to a lesser extent, the bench will likely be bolstered, there is yet another item that will force general manager Dave Dombrowski to make a transaction or two—replacing Max Scherzer.

The writing on the wall may have been the fact that the former Arizona Diamondback turned down a contract extension worth $144 million over six years. Since then, the public opinion thinks Scherzer will be playing for a different team come spring training. That may be public perception in Detroit’s front office as well. Dombrowski, in theory, has already acquired a replacement to take Scherzer’s spot on the front line next to Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. That would be David Price. The fact that the Tigers’ acquired Price mere months after Scherzer turned down the contract could be coincidental, but at the very least served as a backup plan to losing Scherzer.

Here are some options Detroit will have to fill the potentially vacant spot in their rotation.

The Internal Guys

Detroit has a plethora of internal options. A plethora. However, none of the internal options pitched like Cy Young winners, or anywhere close to it. Outside of Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Sanchez, Rick Porcello and the departed Drew Smyly, the Tigers used five other starting pitchers in 2014. That group consisted of Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen. It’s hard to judge them too harshly. Four of the group are only 23 (Lobstein is the resident greybeard at 25) and none of the five pitched in the big leagues prior to the season. As hard as it is to judge the group, it’s equally as hard to find a front runner in terms of claiming a rotation spot. Lobstein appears to be the leader in the clubhouse. He made the postseason roster as a long reliever, and save a disastrous start in Minnesota, pitched well enough to keep the Tigers in games. However, the former Rays’ farmhand only managed to reach the seven innings pitched plateau once in his six starts. If he can last longer in games and stay effective, he should be the frontrunner of the internal options.

Outside of Lobstein, it’s hard to get a read on things. VerHagen and Ryan only started a game apiece while Farmer struggled immensely in two starts. (Ryan threw six shutout innings in his only start. After that he was limited to bullpen work where he pitched well. He may find it easier to make the team as a reliever than as a starter.)

Ray is the wild card of the bunch. The centerpiece of the return received for Doug Fister pitched exceptionally well in his first two starts. Over 11.1 innings he limited the opposition to one run on nine hits. His strikeout to walk ratio was 7-2. If he can pitch close to that mark for an entire season, then Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus should hand him the job outright. Then again, if Ray pitches like he did the rest of the way it will leave the door open for other pitchers. After those two sparkling starts and a brief, two out relief appearance in Boston, Ray’s ERA jumped nearly four runs from 0.75 to 4.70 after surrendering seven runs in 3.1 innings to Texas. It only got worse from their as he posted an 11.12 ERA in three August starts, giving up 14 runs and 20 hits in only 11.1 innings.

If Scherzer’s replacement is an internal option, it remains to be seen who it will be. Lobstein and Ray (should he turn it around) seem like they have the inside track. Still, it’s hard to evaluate a group of young pitchers.

The Free Agents

Outside of Scherzer, the other marquee free agent starting pitchers are Jon Lester and James Shields. Signing either would cost a similar amount of cash to Scherzer, plus the loss of a draft pick, so re-signing Scherzer would seem the most prudent play out of the three.

Still, if the team opts for another free agent to fill the void, or perhaps split time with an internal candidate, there are plenty of options. Options that, on the whole, come with a caveat. That caveat is that most starters available on the open market are either reclamation projects/ buy low candidates or pitchers looking for a big payday.

If the Tigers aren’t willing to commit anything close to Scherzer money on anyone other than Scherzer they should look for a cheaper option. A cheaper option that is more reliable than a buy low candidate. Signing someone like Jason Hammel or Roberto Hernandez would make sense. Neither will wow you with their numbers, but neither will completely implode either. They’d keep the Tigers in game as well as providing decent rotation depth. If the Tigers want a pitcher with a little more experience and one who could win them more games, Jake Peavy would be ideal. He’s no spring chicken at 33, but has been in plenty of pressure situations and knows the division well thanks to his time in Chicago. He won’t be cheap, but he’ll be cheaper than Scherzer.

James Shields could be an interesting target. First off, he’s cheaper than the other two premium starters on the market—Scherzer and Lester. Secondly, signing him away from Kansas City would be a major blow to Detroit’s biggest division rival.

The Trade Market

Their likely won’t be many pitchers of Scherzer’s caliber on the trade market. Knowing this, Detroit could look for a controllable, young, middle of the rotation type to fill the need. The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson would make sense. Given the fact Tampa may not want to get into a situation with him where they pay him gobs of money and decide to move him instead—a la Scott Kazmir, David Price, James Shields, et al.

San Diego’s Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy would also be pitchers to target. Ross has flourished as a starter in San Diego while Kennedy seems to have rebounded from a rough 2013. Before 2013, the former Yankee farmhand won 36 games between 2011 and 2012. One of Cincinnati’s may starting pitchers could also make sense.

In Conclusion

The simplest may just be to re-sign Scherzer, but should Detroit go another way, Dave Dombrowski will have plenty of options.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: Adept at Acquiring Rival Talent

Acquiring a player to strengthen your team is one thing, but when you weaken a rival in the process it’s a different kind of plus. On the other hand, if a rival team moved on from a player and you bring that player in from a different team, all it does is show your rivals what could have been—all the while making your team better.

Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are exceptionally good at this.

Maybe the team’s brass thinks a player with extensive experience within the division will be a boost in terms of helping the Tigers win. Or maybe it’s just a huge coincidence, but Detroit has become a landing spot for former-division rivals.

An ever-present checklist item during Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit, at least after he acquired Miguel Cabrera, has been to surround the former Marlin with sufficient protection and fire power. Cabrera has generally had an elite hitter placed near him in the middle of the order. Magglio Ordonez (who was acquired from a rival team, Chicago) was the first while the likes of Victor Martinez (another former rival) and Prince Fielder have followed. Because of the middle-of-the-order stability, Dombrowski has combed the market in search of hitters to fill out the rest of the order—or, in other terms, to add more fire power and length. Jhonny Peralta was one of those hitters, Delmon Young was another and Torii Hunter was another still. The underlying theme with all three is that they had experience in the AL Central. And in the case of Peralta and Young, both were directly acquired from rivals.

In Hunter’s case, as in Martinez’, the player was acquired after a stint away from the AL Central. The former Twin, Hunter, was signed via free agency after a stint in Anaheim while Martinez made a stop in Boston before also heading to Motown in free agency.

It isn’t just hitters; the Tigers have picked up relievers with extensive AL Central experience. Three of Brad Ausmus top options out the bullpen, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy and closer Joe Nathan, have been employed by rival teams. Soria and Hardy (although he never made the Major League roster) are former Royals while Joe Nathan made his name as Minnesota’s closer.

It may be coincidental, or purposeful, but the Tigers have a knack for acquiring rival team’s talent. Who needs advanced scouting when you can scout a player by seeing them play against your team 15-20 times a year?

MLB August Trades Part One: Winners

Baseball’s biggest trade deadline is July 31st. Up until that date players can be moved without passing through waivers. After the 31st, players must be subjected to waivers if they are to be dealt. In the waiver process, the team with the worst record in the same league gets first crack at the player. After that it is passed to the next worst team in the league. If no team from the same league claims a player, he is put through the same process in the opposite league starting with the worst team from a record standpoint.

If a player is claimed, the team that put him on waivers can either work out a trade, simply let the claiming team assume is salary, or pull the player off waivers and keep him on the team. The caveat with the last statement is that once a player is pulled back, they can’t be dealt.

Most August trades generally have minimal impact. Most are salary dumps or simply teams shedding excess players for little-to-no return. Here are the winners (if you can call them that). Check back tomorrow for the losers (again, if you can call them that) and teams who could have done more.

Winners:

Los Angeles Dodgers

When healthy the Dodgers will have a glut of starting pitchers—and then maybe another glut on top of that. But the rub is that most of them aren’t healthy. Chad Billingsley hasn’t pitched yet while Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm are likely out for the year. In addition to those three, the team also has a healthy Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. With no suitable options for the fifth spot in the rotation, LA acquired Phillies’ pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) and Kevin Correia from the Twins. Neither has been Orel Hershiser, but both have filled a need. Both are rental players and likely won’t be in Dodger blue next season, but they’ve helped Los Angeles maintain the lead in the NL West.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs acquired former top prospect Jacob Turner for two Class A pitchers. Chicago is in the midst of hoarding as much young talent as they can. Whether it’s to feature the youngsters on their next contending team, or to flip some of them for an established star to help the team improve, every piece helps. The fact that Theo Epstein acquired a player once regarded as an elite prospect, and still could realize that potential, for two A-ball pitchers is a massive coup.

Oakland A’s

Billy Beane made headlines for trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester. Despite the fact that the team acquired Jonny Gomes in addition to Lester, Oakland’s offense has struggled without the Cuban slugger. Adding Adam Dunn for a relatively low price will greatly improve the Athletics’ suddenly dwindling playoff chances. His tendency to hit for a low batting average isn’t the best trait to have, but the former Cincinnati Reds slugger walks a lot, which will be appreciated greatly in Oakland.  Batting average and walks aside, Dunn’s tremendous power will help the A’s recover from losing Cespedes.

Check back tomorrow for August’s losers and teams who could have done more.  Did I miss any team? Who do you think was a big winner?

Detroit Tigers: Why Detroit Must Trade for a Starting Pitcher

The Robbie Ray/Buck Farmer two headed monster hasn’t worked. After each was utterly annihilated by the Twins (yes those Twins) in consecutive starts, the Tigers need some pitching help. Not only do Ray and Farmer’s struggles hurt the Tigers from a winning and losing standpoint, but it also overtaxes a recently overworked and generally underwhelming bullpen. Each starter lasted on only an inning and a third each against Minnesota.

Maybe the most telling number from the two disastrous games in Minnesota was the lack of established, quality big leaguers Minnesota had in the lineup. The Twins, who are obviously in deep rebuilding mode, had only three legitimate big league starters in the lineup versus Ray—Brian Dozier, Joe  Mauer and Kurt Suzuki. They only fielded two of those players against Farmer (Dozier and Mauer) as Suzuki got the day off.

Detroit hasn’t had to call up too many starting pitchers from the minor leagues in recent memory, but they have had some success with the likes of Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. Ray and Farmer are still young and have room to grow, but for now their numbers are more reminiscent of Andy Oliver and Casey Crosby than Porcello and Smyly.

At this late stage, the best starting pitching options available to the Tigers are those who have cleared, or are in the process of clearing waivers. Should any of those players clear waiver, they will likely have an inflated salary. A factor that might make Detroit shy away.

The Tigers need money to throw at David Price. This is assuming Max Scherzer will leave via free agency in the offseason. If Scherzer does leave, acquiring a quality, moderately priced and not particularly old starting pitcher would seem smart. The team can use that starter to fill the rotation turn of Anibal Sanchez until the former Marlin is healthy. That and a healthy Justin Verlander will push the Ray/Farmer duo back to the minor leagues—something that would be beneficiary for all parties. Once Sanchez is healthy, manager Brad Ausmus can either use the new acquisition out of the bullpen, or use him to occasionally spell one of the other five starters.

For Detroit, the real advantage of having six quality starters comes in the postseason. Most teams wouldn’t be thrilled about using two of their starting pitchers out of the bullpen in October, but this could work for the Tigers. Adding two quality starting pitchers to Detroit’s playoff bullpen would be godsend. Here are some of the many positives-

  • More quality arms: Detroit could use more top-drawer pitchers in the bullpen. Adding two (even if they’re starters by trade) would give Ausmus more options.
  • In-game flexibility: Ausmus can use the two starters to pitch long, effective innings in relief to shield the rest of the bullpen. This could be particularly useful if Detroit is on either side of a blowout.
  • Tense situations: Jim Leyland used Max Scherzer to great effect out of the bullpen against Oakland last year. With six quality starters, Ausmus can repeat this with Scherzer and use one of the two extra starters to take Scherzer’s playoff start. Or he can simply use one of the extra starters, who may be better options than most of the Tigers’ current relievers.

At this point, even if Detroit acquires a starting pitcher in September who isn’t eligible for the playoff roster, but simply helps the Tigers get there, it will be a win. It may not be panic time in the Motor City, but it’s certainly getting close.

 

MLB Trade Rumors: Fixing the Angels

On paper the Angels look like they should make the playoffs if not win a good number of games. You know, at least be respectable.

Alas, last year’s Angels did not live up to their on-paper-expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, the Angels’ offense was good statistically. Only Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit and Boston scored more runs. The rub here is the pitching prowess. Or lack thereof.

The Angels actually gave up four more runs (737) than they scored (733). Only cellar dwellers Houston, Minnesota, Colorado, Toronto, Seattle and Philadelphia gave up more runs.

It all begins with the starters, and the sad truth is that Anaheim’s starters weren’t that bad last year. Garret Richards and Jason Vargas both preformed moderately well. Jered Weaver didn’t win, or start as many games as he usually does, but he still had a good year. CJ Wilson posted a career high 17 wins. The quality is there. LA of Anaheim just needs… well, they could use a fifth starter for one. Jerome Williams was alright in his spot in the rotation, but if you want to contend for division and league titles you can’t have a starter who posts an ERA of 4.57 in your rotation. It simply doesn’t fly.

It’s not as if the Angels haven’t tried. Tommy Hanson hasn’t really stuck in the rotation. Joe Blanton was close to awful.

Accomplishing the goal of acquiring pitching may be easier said than done. The Angels have a ridiculous amount of money on the books (not necessarily Yankee money)in Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar’s respective contracts. This probably means the Halos will look for cheaper options. Cheaper, low-buy, not-a-lot-of-money-involved options generally tend to be hit-and-miss with an onus on the latter.

Which probably means that trading for someone is the likely route. No one wants Josh Hamilton and/or Albert Pujols’ respective contracts. If the Dodgers never traded for Adrian Gonzalez, then maybe you might be able to convince them to take Pujols away, but regardless, it’s not happening now. Aybar could appeal to teams as an option at shortstop, but his contract and the lack of middle infield depth likely rule that out. Both of the Angels’ catchers have been mentioned as targets of the Blue Jays, but I can’t see the Angels looking at any of Toronto’s starters as an upgrade. One of Toronto’s numerous quality relievers could be a fit, but Los Angeles might not want to trade from its only position of depth for a relief arm.

Mark Trumbo may be the only piece the Angels are willing to part with who could bring in an above-average-return.

They should not be doing this.

Sure, Trumbo is being shopped to find better pitching, but he shouldn’t be moved.

In his young career, Trumbo has shown that he can consistently hit for power and be a middle-of-the-order presence — Something that the Angels need because Pujols and Hamilton may be hard to rely on. Saying Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton weren’t reliable three years ago would have probably been as accurate as saying Thabo Sefalosha is/was a better basketball player than LeBron James. Nowadays, Sefalosha is still inferior compared to LeBron, but Pujols and Hamilton aren’t what they once were. It may have just been a year or two of down seasons for the two of them, but their collective three years in Anaheim have been below par considering their previous success.

Pujols hasn’t hit .300 or slug 40 homeruns in his tenure in Southern California, hallmarks of his years in St. Louis.Numbers-wise,  Hamilton fell off a cliff from his last year in Texas. The numbers-

Josh Hamilton 2012 (with Texas)- 148 games played, 160 hits, 103 runs scored, 31 doubles, 43 homeruns, 128 RBI, .930 OPS.

Josh Hamilton 2013 (with Anaheim)- 151 games played, 144 hits, 73 runs scored, 32 doubles, 21 homeruns, 79 RBI, .739 OPS.

Staggering.

A foot injury that caused Pujols to miss almost half of the season further augments the instability in the middle of the lineup.

The last 200-odd words are basically longhand for “the Angels need to keep Mark Trumbo.”

The Angels need to keep what they have (i.e. Trumbo) as well as make additions to the team. They aren’t going to contend by taking two steps backward and three steps forward, in terms of additions. Sadly, the Angels probably need to spend to get where they want to be in terms of contending. Also sadly, they don’t have a whole lot of money thanks to their lavish signings (see Hamilton, Josh and Pujols, Albert among others). The Halos need to get creative to win. Getting creative to win with minor-league signings, low-buy trades, etc. isn’t always the easiest route. It involves a little luck sometimes. The Angels need that luck; otherwise they’re staring at another middling season.

Silencing the Tigers’ Haters

Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.

This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather.  The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.

The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.

So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick. Continue reading

The Tigers Starting Pitching Situation

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball.

After that you have some question marks. I don’t think the pitchers who follow Verlander two-through-five are bad, there are just some concerns.

The first concern is Doug Fister. Like I said, it’s not as big of a concern with him as it might be with some other pitchers. At the very worst Doug Fister is going to be a reliable number three option in the rotation. At the very best however, you’re looking at a shutdown number two option that can cause opposing fans to throw their TV remotes through windows in frustration. You know, due to the fact that Detroit would be up two games to nil in a playoff series, after Verlander and Fister each win.

Last year we saw total brilliance. In the second half of the 2011 season, the best pitcher in baseball, at the time, was a member of the Detroit Tigers. And it wasn’t Verlander. Down the stretch, Fister posted a stellar 8-1 mark with a desirable 1.79 earned run average. Combine that with the fact that through the little-over 70 innings that he threw, he struck out 57 batters to a modest four walks. Holy Smoltz. That, if you didn’t major in some form of math at an Ivy League school, equates to an 11.40 strikeout-to-walk ration. I’m going to say it again, holy Smoltz. I should mention the fact that he gave up the fewest home runs per 9 innings among all qualified pitchers with a 0.5 per game clip. Some of that is probably attributed to the fact that he pitched in two of the bigger parks in the league (Safeco Field and Comerica Park), but most of it is due to fact that he can pitch.

This year however, the numbers and results haven’t been as encouraging. Almost every statistical category’s numbers have ballooned. He gave up 11 homeruns all of last year, eight with the Mariners, in 216.1 innings pitched. This season he’s given up the same number he gave up in a Seattle uniform last year. However this year he’s thrown only 67.2 innings. The concern is there, but so is the potential.

Look at his earlier start against Seattle in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. It was Fister’s first full start of the season after going down with a side injury in his opening week start against the Red Sox. He threw 7.0 innings of four-hit ball, sent three of his former teammates back to the dugouts on third strikes , but was the victim of a botched save attempt by the bullpen and saw his win and two run lead vanish in the ninth as the Mariners scored three runs. I was at that game, and it was a travesty to see him not factor in the decision positively.

But overall, Fister’s so-so numbers are a victim of a couple bad starts and bad run support.

After the Seattle disappointment he took the mound in Oakland and gave up one run and five hits over 6 innings while fanning 8… and was charged with the loss. After that he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings against Minnesota, charged with the loss. He again put up a solid start in his next outing, but let the wheels fall off at the end as the Indians scored twice in his last inning to spoil the game. Overall, he gave up a mere six runs in his first 29.1 innings but was knocked around for that same number against a potent Boston offense during the next outing. The point here is that the ERA is where it’s at because of three bad starts against Texas, Boston and the Twins. A rough go around is explainable against the first two clubs, but not the third. Then again, everybody has a bad day right?

Moving on after that long analysis.

At number three in the rotation is Max Scherzer. He really hasn’t pitched all that bad despite spotting a 4.84 ERA. A lot of that is probably attributed to the beating he took in the opening series against Boston. He was the victim of 7 earned runs in a mere 2.2 innings pitched. And, as stated, it seems his ERA is gradually, with the exception of one start, coming down from that.

Rick Porcello is another kettle of fish entirely. He’s probably the one pitcher that I’m more than a little worried about. Let me come off that ledge a bit. I’m not saying he needs to pack his bags for Toledo, he just needs to throw with some consistency. His only terrible-ish starts were against LA of Anaheim, Seattle and an ugly one inning affair against the Rangers where they crossed the plate 9 times (8 of those runs earned) in the one inning. Again, LA and Texas are explainable, but he had a bad game against the Mariners.

Which for some odd reason happens a lot — the Tigers struggle against Seattle. That’s awesome, because I live in the greater Seattle area, more or less.

Again, moving on.

We’ve seen Drew Smyly be outstanding holding down the fort as the fifth starter at times. We have also seen a slightly more sporadic Smyly throw the ball. We’ve seen good things from Casey Crosby as well as flashes of brilliance from Jacob Turner. We’ve also seen Adam Wilk and the occasional Duane Below. The underlying theme here is that we could probably use another starting pitcher.

Here’s a sample size of the market for starters as it is-

  • Cole Hamels, Phillies
  • Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Brewers
  • Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Cubs
  • Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Mariners
  • Bartolo Colon, Athletics
  • Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Take the list in, go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you done thinking of trade scenarios? Good. Ok, these guys obviously aren’t the only pitchers that will be available. Jeremy Guthrie and Francisco Liriano could be options as well, but these are the main guys, probably. That is unless some contender who wouldn’t normally be in it, but is thanks to this new wild card mumbo jumbo, goes 0-10 in the next two weeks and falls miserably out of it. Then they might sell.

Moving on, Guthrie and Liriano are probably too wild to warrant either serious interest or investment. The selling-the-farm tactic is probably a no-go for Dave Dombrowski and friends as they develop their system. So that’s two more “NOs” on missers Hamles and Greinke. Garza and Marcum would be worth a look, but might cost a top pitcher like a Smyly or Crosby. So again. No. Wandy Rodriguez is probably a little expensive for the Tigers’ taste, so for the umpteenth time… No.

That leaves Dempster, Vargas, Millwood and Colon.

I’d say no to Colon mainly because the A’s will need him if they’re still in it come whenever. If I were Dombrowski, I’d probably only invest a PTBNL or an A-ball pitcher two on Millwood, or frankly Colon for that matter. That whittles it down to Vargas and Dempster. You’ve seen the Seattle-to-Detroit pitcher pipeline work out brilliantly. See my above paragraphs on one Doug Fister, and horribly, see Jarrod Washburn.

I would think that each could be had for a price, and I would think that that price wouldn’t be too obnoxious. I’d say a B-level prospect or two would probably get it done either way. Let’s also not forget that if we get Dempster, he’s bringing a 33-scoreless-innings-pitched streak to Comerica. Can I get a “Winning”?

As I write this, Doug Fister now has won his third start in a row. So maybe they don’t need to give up the farm for a Cole Hamels-like pitcher. But regardless, pitching help is needed, and in that case Dempster’s the guy.

Detroit Tigers Fans: Go Away “Panic Mode”

I’m not panicking yet. And I’ll tell you why. The Tigers not only feature a plethora of All-Stars, but they also play in the pick-your-expletive -est division in the game. Have you noticed how bad the AL Central is? Yeah Chicago is “hot” right now, but come on; third base is a general black hole, and I’m sure as heck not buying their bullpen (and that’s without swearing). Their numbers may be high right now, and you can argue those numbers till the cows come home, but come on, Chicago? Just wait, you can bet there is a colossal ice-age-like cold streak coming. Tell me I’m wrong.

Cleveland is another matter entirely. While I acknowledge that the Sox have some actual talent and it isn’t too surprising that they are doing well, the Indians puzzle me. Asdrubal Cabrera is nice and Carlos Santana has tons of potential, but this team confuses me. Their outfield is decent if Johnny Damon can actually swing a bat. But here’s the thing, the pitching isn’t all that great. I wouldn’t trust the back end of the… let me rephrase that:  I wouldn’t trust any of their starters other than Derek Lowe.

I’m not even going to go into detail on KC and Minnesota because, well they’re rebuilding and that’s about as nice as you can be about those teams at this stage of the game (pun intended… yadda yadda yadda…).

If you’ve forgotten what the aim of this lovely piece is, well then you are in the same boat as I am. No, I’m only kidding, but the point of the whole ranting that you can conveniently view above is that it’s definitely not panic time for the Tigers. Call me an exceedingly loyal fan or someone who has his head screwed on straight, but it’s true.

I’m not going to blame injuries to the team’s recent shortcomings, but I am going to tab injuries as the reason for a second-half (or sooner) surge. By tabbing injuries, I mean guys getting healthy. Alex Avila has taken more hits than an armored truck in a crossfire and is the best catcher in the AL when fully healthy; Doug Fister is one of the better number two options in the rotation when he can actually get run support. But perhaps the two biggest injuries of all were to Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson. Jackson is having an All-Star season (yes, let out your groans of annoyance, I said it again) and is really starting to show his worth offensively. Jackson and Dirks are the table setters for Death Row. And let me tell you, they were doing a pretty damn good job of it before they got injured. Granted had they never been injured we would have never experienced the revelation that is Quintin Berry.

With Berry’s success there have been speculations by fans that he would take over in left for Dirks or in right for Brennan Boesch. I like Berry as a speed/energy guy, but I’d much rather have that weapon off the bench to pinch run. Where, if you haven’t noticed yet, our fastest option after Don Kelly is Ramon Santiago. Let me rephrase that, our only non-catching option besides Don Kelly is Ramon Santiago. Those two guys have good speed, but not necessarily game-changing speed. The kind of speed where everyone including the foul pole knows you’re going to run, and you steal second anyways. As it is, Jackson and Berry are the only guys with that speed on the roster. I’ve just realized that I probably said “speed” and “steal” more times than a healthy human being should. I’m sorry readers.

So after all that, healthy lineup and pitching staff, plus playing in a terrible division, the Tigers should be fine. Not to mention the possibility of a scrap-heap/deadline addition at second base, not because the Tigers’ current situation isn’t satisfactory, just because we could use another option to platoon with Worth and Santiago, for all it’s worth. (Again, sorry, had to do it. Too corny to pass up.)

The point is… (Reshuffles fake paper notes, adjusts glasses and starts speaking in a British professor’s voice) just kidding, scratch the British accent. No, but the point here, and one that I have strayed from, is that the Tigers aren’t out of it, and I am not panicking yet.

The Problem With Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn is having a fine bounce-back year. The Chicago White Sox, however, aren’t. Yes, they are technically in second place in the division, but there isn’t a lot of staying power to be had on the South Side. Which brings us to our next point. Do they trade off some pieces to continue their “rebuilding”? (cough cute attempt at “reloading” cough)

Dunn already has 14 bombs after tallying a mere 11 last campaign. This all fine and dandy, but what real value does Dunn have?

He can hit, we know that. We also know he isn’t the best defender by any stretch. Which is why he’s listed as the starting DH for the Sox.

Because of the defensive, ah… inconsistency, Dunn is going to scare off some NL teams looking for a first baseman. So for all intents and purposes let’s cross off all NL teams from Dunn’s “Trade Possibility List”.

The number of teams shrink again when you look at the AL. In the East, Toronto doesn’t need him, though they might take a flier if Adam Lind struggles. Tampa probably doesn’t want to shell out the cash to get him (Dunn). New York and Boston are set. Baltimore though is the one possibility in the division, and maybe the league. The Orioles are currently employing Wilson Betemit and Nick Johnson at DH. Not exactly a World Series winner’s platoon there, but funnier things have happened. The point is that the Orioles make sense for Dunn when not many teams do.

Other teams that don’t make a lick of sense (not necessarily in this order, well maybe… You know what, forget I even said the order thing…)

Detroit:  Though if Delmon Young continues to struggle… Nah.

Kansas City:  No room whatsoever. Unless it’s a straight-up swap for Billy Butler.

Minnesota:  Sellers-R-US.

Texas:  Wouldn’t put it past them to get another bat. But probably not.

Oakland:  Billy Beane isn’t moving his prospects for Dunn. No way.

Los Angeles Angels of Wherever:  Nope.

And last, but probably least, of teams that make no sense, Seattle:  Least only because I don’t think Dunn wants to join the ranks of Richie Sexson, Milton Bradley and Brad Wilkerson. (Which, if you haven’t guessed, is the line of tombstones for their careers. Safeco Field is death row for hitters.)

Cleveland makes some sense on the list of potential suitors, but there isn’t a chance in a blue moon that Kenny Williams moves him in division. Unless the Indians are boneheads again and give up almost every good prospect they have to get a decent player. (cough Ubaldo Jimenez cough)

Sorry about my constant cough throughout this piece. It seems to come up when talking about mediocre teams (cough Cleveland cough White Sox cough)

Wrap-up point here, Dunn’s bounce-back season is nice, but Chicago can’t really capitalize on it and move him due to the lack of buyers.

Going About Replacing Lance Berkman

So Albert Pujols is gone. Just thought I’d point that out, and truthfully, the Cardinals seem like they are better off without him. That’s partly because they pinch themselves every day for not spending north of 200 million on him. But also because they have a solid, if not very good, 3-6 spots in the batting order. Those spots are filled by Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Postseason Hero David Freese and the last one used to be Lance Berkman’s.

Now, Berkman might have torn his ACL. He might not have. He’s getting another opinion. The point here is that he’s probably going to be out for a very long time.

So who do the Cardinals turn to until the Big Puma comes back?

Kevin Youkilis seems like a really good fit. He can start at first while Berkman is out and also occasionally shift to third to give Freese the day off. He also gives St. Louis another high quality bat to pair with the other three hitters previously mentioned. Plus, given Boston’s apparent desire to move him, it would make sense.

Justin Morneau is another guy who I think could, and should, be moved. Minnesota needs all the pieces it can get to solve their puzzle. Which I might add is still sealed in the box. They need pieces, and Morneau is one of the few guys on the roster who can get those kinds of pieces.

Bryan LaHair is a huge long shot. The Cubs aren’t going to deal him in division. Though I do think the Cubs should sell high on him at some point to make room for Anthony Rizzo.

Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales are dark horse candidates should the Angels choose to move forward without one of the two.

Recently demoted Gaby Sanchez is a low buy option if he struggles whenever Miami calls him up. Hence he’d be out of their long term plans, yadda yadda yadda.

The point is there are options for the Cardinals. I haven’t even mentioned the in-house guys, but they are there. Look for this thing to be resolved in one way or another.