Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros would once again make ideal trade partners regarding Michael Fulmer

This is all purely speculative, but the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros would make ideal trade partners if starting pitcher Michael Fulmer is dealt.

The Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros made headlines last August, agreeing to a trade that sent Tigers face of the franchise Justin Verlander, along with minor leaguer Juan Ramirez, to the American League West franchise in a deal for three prospects.

It was a mutually-beneficial deal for all parties.

Verlander allowed just four earned runs in his 34 regular-season innings for the Astros—all four came on solo home runs—before pitching to a 2.21 ERA in 36.2 postseason innings.

He also held opposing batters to a .534 OPS and a .177 batting average against in the playoffs, helping Houston to a World Series crown.

On the flipside, Detroit acquired three key prospects to help hasten the franchise’s rebuild.

Just 20 years old, starting pitcher Franklin Perez looks likely to factor into the rotation sooner rather than later after registering a 3.09 ERA, a 3.69 FIP and 25 strikeouts in 32 innings to end the year at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Meanwhile, outfielder Daz Cameron and catcher Jake Rogers, who finished the year at Single-A and Advanced-A respectively, both look like players capable of making an impact on both sides of the ball.

Moving forward, all three should be in the Majors within the next few seasons.

While it was a prominent haul for Verlander, the trade left the World Champion Astros with plenty of minor league system with plenty of talent to potentially flip for more talent as they search for another title.

There’s high-ceiling outfielders in Kyle Tucker as well as Derek Fisher, not to mention potential frontline arms in Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas.

First baseman and outfielder Yordan Alvarez is another potential impact-player who could emerge from the minors in the future.

Add in the likes of corner infielder Colin Moran, right-handers Francis Martes and David Paulino as well as left-hander Cionel Perez and there isn’t a shortage of trade chips.

Dealing from the aforementioned group wouldn’t hurt Houston’s short-term prospects, while also setting the team up for another deep October run if they can snag additional elite talent.

Keeping up with the Joneses

As it stands, the Astros are still one of baseball’s elite teams despite only adding relievers Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and Anthony Gose in the offseason.

Still, Houston has certainly seen their competition up the ante so far in the Hot Stove League.

The New York Yankees, who came within a game of beating Houston in the most recent iteration of the American League Championship Series, just added Giancarlo Stanton and will benefit from a full season of Sonny Gray in 2018.

Meanwhile, there’s significant competition in the American League West for the Astros, a division Houston won by 21 games last season.

Anaheim’s offseason moves—signing Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and trading for Ian Kinsler—may not be enough to bridge the gap to the ‘Stros.

However, the trio, along with recently re-signed August trade acquisition Justin Upton, should make things significantly closer out West.

What’s more, with a free agent market that still includes J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas an American league team looking to make an impact of their own could shake things up in a hurry.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching

Speaking of potential additions, the Astros have recently been linked with one in the form of Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole.

Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweeted the following in a pair of tweets on Monday morning.

Additionally, MLB.com’s Alyson Footer tweeted the following with a video of Houston owner Jim Crane answering questions.

Michael Fulmer

While the Astros have yet to be linked with Fulmer, the fit is definitely there in terms of a long-term fit in Houston’s rotation.

Per Spotrac, The 24-year-old has five years of controllability left before he reaches free agency. What’s more, those five years include one year of pre-arbitration control.

This is all purely speculative, but the fit is not only there for the Astros, but also for the Tigers.

Outside of the Yankees and perhaps Atlanta, Houston is the best positioned team in terms of young talent and prospects that can make a substantial offer for Fulmer.

The same prospects Passan mentioned in his tweets, Fisher, Tucker and Whitley, would certainly make sense for the Tigers.

That’s also purely speculative, but a player like Tucker or Whitely would represent the elite prospect Detroit would be an excellent starting point for executive vice president of baseball operations Al Avila and company.

At this point, Detroit should only trade Fulmer if a team is willing to pay top dollar, or more.

Building a package around Tucker would certainly make sense.

Position Player Prospects Needed

While the Tigers dealing Michael Fulmer would certainly be a blow to the long-term outlook in the rotation, starting pitching is the one area where the orginization deep in quality prospects.

With Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows all at varying stages of the development process, Detroit has four starters with the potential to pitch near the top of a Major League rotation.

There’s also plenty of other starters with potential in Grayson Long, Kyle Funkhouser, Gregory Soto, Sandy Baez and Tyler Alexander.

While the starting pitching looks promising, as does the future bullpen picture, there isn’t as much depth in terms of position players.

There is plenty of upside with Cameron, Rogers, all-around middle infielder Isaac Paredes, promising outfield slugger Christin Stewart, outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Dawel Lugo.

All could become anywhere from quality to impact players in the Majors, but as it stands, the Tigers don’t have a position player prospect to spearhead the rebuild like the White Sox have with Yoan Moncada or the Cubs had with Anthony Rizzo.

Adding Tucker could accomplish that.

Close to the Majors

It also wouldn’t hurt that the outfielder is already at Double-A after turning in a 129 wRC+, a .368 wOBA, a .247 ISO and an .837 OPS in 317 plate appearances against competition that was on average four years older than him.

Outside of Stewart, Gerber and Lugo, Detroit’s best position player are scattered across the lower minors.

Of the three, only Gerber has graduated to Triple-A, and he logged just 18 plate appearances with Triple-A Toledo at the tail-end of last season.

Outside of Tucker in this hypothetical swap, the Tigers should also target first baseman and outfielder Yordan Alvarez.

Alvarez just finished the 2017 season at Advanced-A Buies Creek, but he’d give the Tigers a definite long-term successor for Miguel Cabrera at first base.

Throw in a starting prospect like Hector Perez, or perhaps a player like Bukauskas, and you’ve got the making of a win-win trade.

Market/Value

If anything, if a Cole/Astros trade does occur, it would set some sort of bar for Fulmer in terms of a trade return, considering both are frontline-type starters.

In fact, you could probably make the case that Fulmer has more value.

He’s not as established as the Pirates’ ace, but he’s younger, comes with more years of team control and has been more valuable since the 2016 season (when Fulmer entered the league).

Gerrit Cole vs Michael Fulmer

Gerrit Cole

Age: 27
Years of team control remaining, per Spotrac: Two
Career fWAR: 15.9
Lifetime Swinging Strike Percentage: 9.5
Lifetime WHIP: 1.22
Innings pitched since 2016: 319
fWAR since 2016: 5.6

Michael Fulmer

Age: 24
Years of team control remaining, per Spotrac: Five
Career fWAR: 6.6
Lifetime Swinging Strike Percentage: 9.9
Lifetime WHIP: 1.14
Innings pitched since 2016: 323.2
fWAR since 2016: 6.6

If the Pirates end up dealing Cole for a premium return, it would set up the Tigers to potentially receive much more in swap should the team move their resident ace.

Next Column:

The Angels could have conceivably headed for a rebuild. Now with Shohei Ohtaniand reportedly Kevin Maitanthe future is bright in Anaheim.

Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees make for ideal trade partners regarding Michael Fulmer, Ian Kinsler

The Detroit Tigers should demand full value, if not more, for Michael Fulmer. If he’s dealt this winter, the New York Yankees are an ideal fit.

Detroit Tigers ace Michael Fulmer would make for one of the most interesting trade cases of the offseason.

Whether the hurler is actually dealt remains to be seen.

The Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech tweeted the following on Monday regarding Fulmer:

Detroit obviously doesn’t have to move the All-Star and former Rookie of the Year.

The 24-year-old has five years of team control left, per Spotrac, and has accumulated a 6.6 fWAR in his first two seasons.

Those are compelling reasons to keep hold of the former first-round pick, given that he could be a part of the next great Tigers team.

However, the team control and standout performances are equally compelling reasons to move the right-hander.

Either way, Fulmer’s name will be a fascinating one to watch this winter.

One team with reported, per a tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, interest in the pitcher is the New York Yankees.

Nightengale tweeted the following on Tuesday morning:

Yes, the same Yankees who were a win away from the World Series. Yes, the same Yankees who just acquired Giancarlo Stanton.

Adding Fulmer to New York’s stacked roster would undoubtedly make the Bronx Bombers World Series front runners—sorry Astros and Dodgers.

The Yankees are also one of the few teams who have the prospect and young player capital to make at least a reasonable offer for Fulmer.

WFAN’s Sweeny Murti tweeted about Fulmer and some of the Yankees’ prospects on Tuesday, commenting on an earlier tweet from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

While Murti notes that Torres and Florial are “close to untouchable”, one of them should be the starting point in working out a deal between the Tigers and Yankees.

Of course, this is all speculative and it remains to be seen if the Tigers will in fact move Fulmer, but a player like Torres would provide an excellent starting point.

Torres, an infielder, had Tommy John surgery last season.

However, he could very well play a role in the Majors in 2018. He’s widely regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, often mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Victor Robles and Eloy Jimenez.

With the Tigers, he’d give the team a long-term solution at shortstop next to Jeimer Candelario at third base.

This would move Dixon Machado off shortstop, but Torres’ high upside would give Detroit a potential impact position player to build around.

In addition to Torres, the Tigers should demand more high-prospects.

Perhaps not Florial, but the Yankees do have a deep system from which to deal from.

Outfielder Clint Frazier, a former high-end prospect his own right, is only 23 and recently turned in a .825 OPS in 320 plate appearances for New York’s Triple-A squad.

The former Cleveland farmhand also appeared in 39 games (142 plate appearances) for the big league team in 2017, notching a .216 ISO and a .715 OPS.

With Stanton now joining Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield mix in the mix in the Bronx, Frazier could conceivably be expendable.

In the event of a trade, Frazier would immediately slot in as a starter in Detroit.

A Torres/Frazier pairing could help the Tigers immediately reap the benefits of a Fulmer trade to the Yankees, but the team shouldn’t stop there.

Michael Fulmer vs Chris Sale

Detroit should be demanding full value for Fulmer, just as the White Sox did in last summer’s Chris Sale deal.

Sale and Fulmer are obviously significantly different pitchers, but they should hold similar trade value.

Yes, Sale misses more bats, but he was three years older than Fulmer at the time of the trade last year.

The former White Sox ace also came with two seasons less of team control, and was considerably more expensive. 

According to Spotrac, the southpaw made $12 million in 2017. Per the same publication, he’s slated to make $12.5 million next year with a $15 million club option for 2019.

Meanwhile, per Spotrac, Fulmer will spend another season under team control before he’s eligible for arbitration. He’ll then have four years of controllability left via arbitration.

In return for Sale, the White Sox netted second baseman Yoan Moncada, right-handed starter Michael Kopech, right-handed reliever Victor Diaz and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe.

In 2016, MLB.com’s MLB Pipeline ranked Moncada as the best overall prospect, with Kopech checking in at 30th.

Both Diaz and Basabe have upside as well, with the latter checking at 17th on MLB.com’s MLB Pipeline list of the top White Sox prospects in 2017.

The Yankees’ Other Prospects

Another New York farmhand who could a fit is right-hander Chance Adams.

A 23-year-old pitcher, the right-hander has a promising four-pitch mix and recently turned in a 2.89 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 115.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

If included in any hypothetical deal, he could slot in as Fulmer’s direct replacement in the rotation.

Hard-throwing right-handers Domingo German and Dillon Tate would also be intriguing fits for down the road, as would outfielder Billy McKinney and Everson Pereira.

Ian Kinsler

Once again, this is all purely speculative, but one of the reasons the Yankees are ideal trade partners for the Tigers is not just because of the prospects available in a Fulmer, but because of the potential of adding Ian Kinsler to the hypothetical trade.

The Giancarlo Stanton trade cost the Yankees starting second baseman Starlin Castro, immediately making second base a position of need for Brian Cashman and company.

Castro posted a 110 wRC+ and a .338 wOBA last season, finishing with a 1.9 fWAR.

Kinsler, even in a down year at the plate, registered a 2.4 fWAR last season thanks to some strong defense.

His offensive production should rebound in the future after logging a .244 BABIP in 2017 that was .044 below his career norm.

In that regard, the veteran would be a significant upgrade over Castro for the Yankees, after logging fWARs of 5.2, 4.1 and 5.7 in a Tigers uniform from 2014 to 2016.

Adding Kinsler to the deal would hypothetically help the Tigers slightly up the overall value received from New York in the form of a better prospect, or an extra prospect all together.

It may also be prudent to package Kinsler with Fulmer in a deal if the ace is dealt considering the lack of teams with second base needs.

The Yankees may be the best fit for Kinsler in that regard.

Moving the second baseman would also help Detroit save money, which will be key for the organization moving forward.

Money Potentially Saved

According to Spotrac, Kinsler will make $11 million in 2018 before hitting the free agent market.

Moving his contract will immediately help the Tigers shed payroll, as will trading Fulmer in this hypothetical scenario.

The right-hander still has one year left before arbitration, and likely won’t be cheap given his career to date.

Of course, if Detroit is intent on keeping Fulmer, paying for his arbitration years won’t be a problem given his talent.

Still, trading him now would save cash down the line.

In Conclusion

It obviously remains to be seen what will happen this offseason.

However, the fact remains that the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers are ideal trade partners where both Michael Fulmer and Ian Kinsler are concerned.

That being said, Detroit should obviously demand full value—if not more—for a pitcher like Fulmer, but the fit is there nonetheless.

Next Column:

The Angels could have conceivably headed for a rebuild. Now with Shohei Ohtani and reportedly Kevin Maitan, the future is bright in Anaheim.

Detroit Tigers: The Value of a Protected First-Round Draft Pick

The Detroit Tigers season is in shambles. Stop me if you’ve hear that before. Due to injuries and inconsistency, the team has struggled. There’s truth to the statement that the Tigers never really got a chance to see what a fully healthy version of their roster could do.

After a myriad of player absences and bad breaks, the Tigers begin the week at 69-79. Only the Athletics own a worst record in the American League, while Detroit sits above six different National League teams in terms of owning the worst record in baseball.

The season isn’t what anyone (pundit, player, fan or coach) would have expected, but here we sit.

Despite the struggles, there are a few positives to be had. The Tigers now have the opportunity to let players like Steven Moya, Dixon Machado, Jefry Marte, Matt Boyd, Drew VerHagen and Bruce Rondon get their respective feet wet in the Majors, so all of them are more prepared for 2016 when Detroit will once again push for a World Series title.

What is likely more valuable is the Tigers ability to secure protected, first-round draft pick. This would allow Detroit shop freely in the free agent market without the fear of losing the team’s highest draft pick.

Al Avila’s squad needs to improve as quickly as possible, and the quickest way to do that is through free agency. A number of big-name, potential free agents could be fits in Detroit, like Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Jordan Zimmerman or Alex Gordon. Any would greatly improve the Tigers and better position them to chase a title in 2016.

While the Tigers need to win now, they also need to build for the future at the same time so another season like this one doesn’t happen. It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s completely doable—just look at the Cardinals.

Outside of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, there isn’t much in terms of potentially elite starting pitching—something the Tigers are, quite frankly, used to. Boyd and Luis Cessa show promise as back-end of the rotation starters, but neither are closed being finished products.  Joe Jimenez has the look of a potentially elite reliever, but he may be a few years away. Outside of those players, there isn’t too much at this point. Buck Farmer ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but he’s yet to post a Major League win and owns an 8.49 ERA and a 6.79 FIP in 46.2 innings pitched.

Position player-wise, Moya is the crème of the crop. He may turn into the next Adam Dunn (albeit a somewhat faster one), or he could turn into the next Mark Reynolds, but in the outfield. Fellow outfielders Christian Stewart and Derek Hill show promise, but are both years away. JaCoby Jones is a high-risk, high-reward prospect, but even if he does live up to his excellent potential, he is a season (at best) from reaching the big leagues. The point here is that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty in the terms of what young talent Tigers have coming over the next few years.

By securing a protected first round pick (that comes in the top ten), Detroit can not only spend in free agency, but also secure a future star/impact player to carry the team into the future. Simply put, it’s a win-win.

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

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Why the Tigers Should Sign Doug Fister in the Offseason

The 2015 Detroit Tigers starting pitching experiment has not gone to plan. Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene came out of the gates firing strikes and generally pitching extremely effectively. The results since have been awful.

Even with his one-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, Simon’s ERA over his last 13 starts is 7.83. 7.83!

Greene’s ERA over his last 15 appearances isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse. The former Yankee’s ERA is 9.35 over that span.

Going on those nuggets of information, it makes sense that the Tigers will target starting pitching this offseason.

One starting pitcher the team should target is former Tiger Doug Fister.

Fister has had a rough go of things in the capital this season, posting a 4.45 ERA in 21 appearances. The Nationals have shuttled him to the bullpen, where he’s made six appearances and allowed eight runs in 11 innings.

It’s safe to say he probably won’t be back in with the Nats com next year.

The Tigers should sign him.

Not only is Fister a known commodity to the Tigers, but he also won’t be too expensive. The former Mariner would likely be out of the Tigers’ price range if he put up his usual excellent numbers this year, but he’s struggled, so here we sit.

Justin Verlander and Daniel Norris are the only real locks for the Tigers to be in the rotation next season. Matt Boyd has showed flashes of potential so far in his rookie season, and could start again next season. Another incumbent who could return (should he decide to stave off retirement) is the ageless-wonder Randy Wolf. The other two members of the Tigers’ current staff (Alfredo Simon and Anibal Sanchez) could move on. Like Fister, Simon is a free agent at season’s end and will likely depart. Sanchez’ salary could be flipped for another big contract if Detroit needs to vacate a spot in the rotation for a new arrival.

(RELATED: Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures).

Fister makes all the sense in the world for Detroit, especially given his success at Comerica Park. The right-hander has posted a 3.18 ERA in 232 innings at the Tigers’ home stadium. Over those 232 innings he’s made 35 starts, striking out 180 batters and allowing opponents to hit only .255 against him.

The potential situation makes even more sense when you consider that the Tigers don’t want to rush any of their prospects making their way through the minors. Adding Fister on a short-term contract to act as a place-holder for young arms such as Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. The move would also allow Fister to rebuild his value in search of a bigger contract.

Detroit needs starters and, barring a change of events, Doug Fister will likely be available on the free agent market this coming offseason. Given the likely high cost of other starters, the Tigers should jump at the chance to bring the comparatively-cheaper Fister back into the fold. It would benefit all parties.

Not only would it benefit all parties, but it would allow new Tigers general manager Al Avila to (in a way) make up for one of his predecessor’s biggest mistakes.

For more Tigers, click here. For more baseball, click here.

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

Ben is on Twitter. He promises that he doesn’t always refer to himself in the third person.

Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

After Monday’s bullpen implosion, the Detroit Tigers pitching issues were once again brought to light. Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Neftali Feliz and Guido Knudson’s collective time on the mound saw a Tigers win turn into a blowout loss.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Maybe not allowing 10 runs in an inning, but certainly allowing enough runs to lose the game. Only three teams have allowed more runs than the Tigers, while Detroit is tied for the league in number of home runs allowed with 144.

This year’s staff has been predominantly ineffective. That means changes in the offseason—lots of changes. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pitchers are locks to stay, which pitchers are uncertainties  and which pitchers are likely departures.

Locks

Justin Verlander

Verlander isn’t going anywhere, not with his contract. This makes him the biggest lock (pitcher-wise) on the team. It doesn’t hurt that he’s regained his old form. The ace owns a 1.67 ERA and a 40/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 43 innings. He’s back ladies and gentleman—and barring a massive addition, will open 2016 as the Tigers’ ace.

Daniel Norris

Verlander may be the team’s ace of the present, but Norris looks like a candidate to be the staff’s leader in the future. The centerpiece of the David Price trade, Norris has the look of a future front-line starter. He could start realizing that potential sooner rather than later.

Michael Fulmer

While still in Double-A, Fulmer may make his debut this season as a September call up. If he does, look for him to stick in the rotation in 2016. Acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer has been dominant in the minors. In 20 starts in the minors the pitcher has struck out 113 batters in 115.2 innings while only walking 28. He’s 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA as well as touting a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider and an improving changeup.

Matt Boyd

Another pitcher acquired in the Price deal, Boyd looks the part of a dependable rotation arm moving forward. He’ll constantly live up in the zone, but that’s ok given he’ll start half of his ballgames in Comerica Park.

The Washington-native owned an ugly 14.85 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has posted a much better 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) with the Tigers.

Bruce Rondon

Bruce Rondon had a tough start to the season, which is much of the reason why his ERA is 5.66. However, recent form suggests a promising future. The flamethrower has struck out 19 batters over his last 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. His ERA over that span is 2.77. Rondon’s FIP is a sparkling 2.98, suggesting that he’s been much better than advertised. Unless he implodes down the stretch (we’re talking volcanic implosion folks) and implodes again during Spring Training, Rondon will be on the Tigers Opening Day roster in 2016.

Alex Wilson

In a season devoid of too many positives, Alex Wilson may be the Tigers’ MVP—at least on the mound. Wilson has done just about everything imaginable for Detroit.

Save a game(s)—check.

Start a game—check.

Pitch situationally—check.

Pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen—check.

In case you need any more convincing on Wilson, here are his numbers: 60.1 innings pitched, 47 appearances, two saves, one game started, 1.79 ERA.

Where the Tigers would be without Wilson, no one is sure. Barring the unforeseen, he’s playing an integral part on the team next year.

Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy has officially proven that last season was no fluke. The former Royals farmhand is the proud owner of a 2.68 ERA (his FIP is only 2.73) over 53.2 innings. He’s struck out 47 batters over that span and is just about as much of a lock as Wilson is.

Al Alburquerque

For as much as the Tigers’ bullpen has struggled/been lambasted, Al Alburquerque has developed into some of an “old-reliable” type. The reliever has posted a career ERA of 2.99 and his FIP has never eclipsed four. He’ll be back.

Uncertainties 

Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez may be having a down year—or he may be regressing, it’s hard to tell. If anything, he’s certainly not the pitcher he was in 2013 when he led the American League in ERA, FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4 to be exact). Sanchez ERA this year is an unsightly 4.99 while he’s allowed a Majors-leading 29 home runs. His FIP? 4.72.

With a contract that calls for $48 million over the next three seasons, Detroit could trade him for another bad contract to fill a different need. The Tigers obviously are thin in the starting pitching department, but if Sanchez continues to allow home runs at the rate he’s at, the team may as well let someone like Fulmer loose than continue trot out Sanchez every fifth day.

Neftali Feliz

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a world of potential, but has been inexplicably awful for the Tigers. In 16 innings he’s allowed 19 earned runs while posting an ugly 11.93 ERA. Whether he makes the team next year will depend on how much bullpen help is added in the offseason and if the team thinks he can turn it around.

Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan

If either of these pitchers are in the Tigers’ rotation in 2016 on a consistent basis, it will either be because the team isn’t contending, or because one of the two has turned a corner in their development.

Neither has shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the bigs, with Farmer the owner of a 7.80 ERA and Ryan sporting a 5.94 earned run average. Given the number of young arms near or at the major league level (Norris, Fulmer, Boyd and Luis Cessa), Detroit may be hard-pressed to find a role for either Farmer or Ryan. A year of seasoning in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.

Randy Wolf

Wolf will only be on the Tigers’ roster next season if he doesn’t retire after the season, can be effective down the stretch, and if Detroit wants him back. Given the team’s young arms and the likelihood that they’ll add a starter (or two) in the offseason, Wolf could find his way back to the team as a swingman.

Ian Krol

One-time Nationals pitcher Ian Krol is running out of opportunities to stick in Detroit. He’s only 24-years-old, but owns a 5.67 ERA in a Tigers’ uniform. His FIP isn’t much better at 5.30.

Things have only become worse for Krol, whose earned run average this year is 6.75. He’s also walked nearly as many batters as runs allowed. Not a pretty stat when your ERA is close to seven. Like Feliz, he’s not a goner purely based on potential and age.

Shane Greene

The Tigers seem to believe in Greene long-term, ergo his place in the “maybes” section. If anything, he may spend the year refining his craft at Triple-A.

His numbers have been all kinds of ugly this year—6.88 (!) ERA, 103 hits allowed in only 83.2 innings, 13 home runs allowed, 5.13 FIP… the list goes on. In fact, if you take out Greene’s phenomenal start, during which he put up an ERA of 0.39, his ERA jumps to 9.35 in 60.2 innings. Opponents hit .351 off him during those games.  Here’s hoping he can turn it around.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein’s injury absence may be one of the least talked about aspects of the Tigers season.

The man who Brad Ausmus once called “Lobber” had a respectable 4.34 ERA to go along with a 3-45 record in eight starts before hitting the disabled list. If Lobstein had absorbed some of Greene/Farmer/Ryan/Alfredo Simon’s rough starts, Detroit would be in a much better place right now. Lobstein may be relegated to a swing-man role next season. He’s in a good spot to make the team next season, but isn’t a lock given the fact that Al Avila will likely sign/trade for two new starters.

Guido Knudson and Drew VerHagen

If the above-mentioned duo make the team next year it will be because they showed well down the stretch and in Spring Training. The rest of the season is their audition.

Likely Departures

Alfredo Simon

Despite Simon’s stellar start against the Rangers, he’s struggled too much to be asked back next season. Racking up 11 wins is a positive, but not when your ERA is 5.85 since the start of June. His contract is up, and unless he wants to become a reliever again, he’ll be leaving Detroit.

Tom Gorzelanny

Another player on an expiring contract, Gorzelanny has also struggled in Motown.

Pick whatever synonym of ugly that you like and that word describes Gorzelanny’s run prevention on the mound this season. His ERA is an atrocious (you win a prize if that was your ugly synonym) 6.21 while he’s walked 19 batters and allowed 21 runs in just 29 innings. The former Pirate simply hasn’t had his best stuff this season.

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

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Detroit Tigers: Steven Moya and/or Mike Hessman Should Be Called Up in September

With September right around the corner, the Detroit Tigers will soon be joining the rest of Major League Baseball in the process of calling up players when rosters expand. There are a number of players who seem locks to be called up (Bryan Holaday, Ian Krol and Dixon Machado) while others’ chances aren’t guaranteed (Marc Krauss, Jeff Ferrell and Wynton Bernard).

Regardless of the other players packing their bags and heading to Detroit, there is one type of player the Tigers will almost surely call up– a slugging, bench bat.

As of now, the two obvious (and really only) candidates are Steven Moya and Mike Hessman. Expect at least one of the players to get the call come September—if not both.

The Case for Moya

At 24-years-old, Steven Moya ranks as the Tigers’ prospect—even after the trade deadline acquisitions of top prospects like Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa, JaCoby Jones and Jairo Labourt.

Moya has (insert adjective here, somewhere between outstanding and exceptional) power as well as a strong arm and the ability to run well. The only knack on him is that he doesn’t really hit for average, and strikes out a lot (129 in 103 games at Triple-A this season). The lack of hitting for average (as well as a low walk rate), could hurt Moya. However, if he can hit even .250, he’ll enjoy at least a 10-year career. He’s got that kind of power.

Adding him to the roster in September would give the team a powerful—if raw—bench option. He can also provide dependable defense while also brining some speed. If called up, the Tigers will be hoping that Moya’s experience in September will help pave the way to bigger things next season, similar to James McCann’s situation last year.

The Case for Hessman

While the 37-year-old Hessman doesn’t possess the same potential as Moya due to his age, he does bring power.

The veteran is the minors’ all-time home run leader, with a whopping 433 minor league bombs. He has 16 in 103 Triple-A games to go along with 52 RBI, 21 doubles and four (!) triples. Like Moya, Hessman has never been much of a contact hitter. He’s hitting .241 this season and is a career .233 hitter in the minors.

For all his power, one would think the minor league home run king would have received an extended look in the big leagues. However, Hessman has never logged more than 32 games in a season and has only played in 109 big-league games.

While his career batting average in the majors (.188) isn’t pretty, Hessman has actually performed solidly while wearing a Tigers uniform. In 29 career games with Detroit the slugger has mashed nine home runs to go along with 19 RBI, a double and 13 runs scored. He hit .256 with a .945 OPS over that span. Here’s hoping, should he be called up, that he repeat those numbers.

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

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Recently DFA’d Players the Detroit Tigers Should Take Fliers On

With the Tigers opening up a number of roster spots thanks to the trades of David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes, the team will be auditioning players for next year to see who fits on the team moving forward. Granted all three roster spots have been filled, but other roster spots aren’t set in stone.

Their rare a number of bullpen pieces struggling that could be demoted if not cut out-right, while Buck Farmer could be optioned if Detroit feels another one of its young arms is better suited for the current rotation.

If anything, the second half of this season is a chance for Detroit to examine players with an eye towards next year. The new additions could also propel the Tigers towards the playoffs. The American League wild card is wide open, and Miguel Cabrera returns from the disabled list in only a few short weeks.

  • Vance Worley

2015 Stats: 4-5, 3.78 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 20 games (8 starts)

Worley was solid/effective during his time in Pittsburgh. He posted a 3.21 ERA and a 3.56 FIP as Pirate, working in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Worley’s ERA as a starter was 4.81, but he posted a much more acceptable 2.08 ERA when entering games as a reliever. Never a big strikeout pitcher, the former Minnesota Twin has had a fairly successful career and is only 27.

If the Tigers acquire him, he can be a controllable and reliable swing-man. Worley could also serve as a rotation place-holder for some of the young arms acquired at the deadline. At the same time, he would also provide the Tigers opportunity to win some games down the stretch.

  • Danny Valencia

2015 Stats: .296 batting average, 7 home runs, 29 RBI, 20 XBH (extra-base hits), .838 OPS

A surprising DFA victim by the Blue Jays after Toronto’s trade deadline-dealing bonanza, Valencia hits the waiver system with plenty of upside. At 29, the versatile player can fill in at first base, third base and left field while providing an above-average bat. Valencia is hitting .316 against left-handed pitching this season while posting a .279 clip against righties. Not only would the former Twin provide another option in left field, he would also give Brad Ausmus another option at first base while the Tigers wait for Cabrera to return.

  • Brandon Beachy

2015 Stats: 0-1, 7.88 ERA, 10 hits and seven runs allowed, 2 starts, 10 innings pitched.

Brandon Beachy’s numbers this year are bad, real bad. But if you consider he’s just returned from an injury and that he hasn’t pitched in two years, the numbers aren’t so awful. While the right-hander’s showing this year isn’t that appealing, his track record is. The 28-year-old posted a 3.23 ERA and a 3.34 FIP in 267.2 innings for the Braves. Beachy is still young and could still regain the effectiveness he displayed in Atlanta. Like Worley, he could be a place-holder or long-term piece at the back end of the Tigers rotation. Once he works things out, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him post 10-12 wins on a contending team with strong run support.

  • Roberto Hernandez

2015 Stats: 20 appearances, 11 starts, 4.36 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 4.5 strikeouts-per-nine-innings

Roberto Hernandez is not a long-term piece, not even close. His ERA is passable (not to mention the definition of a back-of-the-rotation arm) and his strikeouts-per-nine numbers aren’t pretty. However, as low-risk a placeholder this year for a Tigers team looking to win some games? Well, in that case he just might work. Hernandez isn’t the world-beater that he was as a member of the Indians, but he could give the Tigers some innings down the stretch. Think of the Tigers signing him similar to the team’s signing of Freddy Garcia. It would be in no way anything long-term, but it would be a mutually beneficial move. Hernandez would serve as a placeholder for pitchers like Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer.

  • Bud Norris

2015 Stats: 2-9, 7.06 ERA, 5.58 FIP, 18 games, 11 starts

Somewhere in between Worley/Beachy and Hernandez is Bud Norris. Norris won 15 (!) games for the Orioles last season, posting a 3.65 ERA in 165.1 innings pitched. At 30, he doesn’t have the youth of Worley or Beachy, but he’s proven that he can win games. Like Worley and Beachy, he’s a solid bet for double-digit wins and a solid-but-not spectacular ERA on a winning team that comes with good run support. If the Tigers think they can get 2014-like stats from Norris, then the team should sign him. At worst he’s a meh signing that can be discarded at any time (or in the offseason). In other words, he’s worth a shot.

  • Caleb Thielbar

2015 Stats: 5.40 ERA, 6 appearances, 5 Strikeouts, 1.08 FIP

Finally, a potential long-term piece. Thielbar has struggled in a small sample-size this season, but has a strong track record over the past two seasons. The former Brewers farmhand entered 2015 with a career 2.59 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched accumulated over two seasons. His FIP over that span spits out to a slightly-less favorable 3.48, but when a player like Thielbar hits the open market, they generally tend not to last long. Thielbar is only 27-years-old, is controllable/cheap and has shown that he can be a productive reliever. Detroit should take a flier on him to see if he’s a potential piece for next year. The team’s tried just about everything, and Thielbar might be a solution.

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

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Ben is on Twitter. He promises that he doesn’t always refer to himself in the third person.

Detroit Tigers: Grading the Tigers’ Trade Deadline Trades

As the MLB Trade Deadline passed, the Detroit Tigers firmly planted their flag on the “rebooting” side of things (as they like to call it). For a team that was so used to buying at the deadline, the Tigers replenished their farm system (the most overused term of the day) and generally did well for themselves.

General manager Dave Dombrowski turned rental players David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes into prospects Daniel Norris (Van Man!), Jairo Labourt, Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa and JaCoby Jones.

All seven players are now top-fifteen prospects in the Detroit system, per MLB.com.

While the Tigers system was heavy on position players, Dombrowski and company clearly focused on adding pitching. Norris is already in the Tigers’ rotation while Boyd, Cessa and Fulmer have the potential to join him next season. This won’t happen obviously, but it gives the team more options moving forward than Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan.

Now onto the grades.

The Trade: Price to Toronto for Norris, Labourt and Boyd

Grade: A

The Tigers probably weren’t going to re-sign David Price thanks to his likely out-of-this-world price tag, and did well to cash in on him when they had the chance. Norris is a future front-line starter and already owns a 3.86 ERA this season in five starts for the Jays. He’ll likely fill Price’s shoes in the coming years and gives the Tigers a legitimate piece to build around—pitching wise.

Labourt is a potential starter, but control issues may force him to the bullpen. At worst, he’s a reliever at the big-league. The former Jays’ farmhand is the “lottery ticket” of the deal and the hardest to project. Norris and Boyd are more surefire bets to make The Show, but Labourt has a chance talent-wise.

Last but not least, Boyd has big league potential. He’s displayed good control and feel for his pitches. This has clearly been on display this season with the left-hander posting a 9-2 record with a 1.68 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 112.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting a measly .178 off him. The former sixth-round pick has been effective at both Double-A and Triple-A, so a Major League call up may not be far away. Worst-case-scenario (in terms of his future) he’ll compete for a job with the Tigers next Spring Training.

The Trade: Soria to Pittsburgh for Minor League Shortstop JaCoby Jones

Grade: B+

While not the biggest haul for Soria, Jones is an intriguing prospect. Well, maybe “intriguing” is underselling the point. Tigers’ fans probably thought Soria would bring more of a return, but Jones has the chance to be special.

Granted he’s still a work-in-progress, but the Double-A shortstop has raw power to go along with plus speed. He’s big for a shortstop (6’2”) and has the athleticism to play other positions. The outfield is also a possibility for a player who has drawn comparisons to Adam Jones.

Jones comes with a great deal of risk, but his combination of raw power, plus speed and elite athleticism (not to mention his ability as a plus-plus defender at a number of positions) make him a player with difference-maker/star potential. He’s certainly worth the gamble for a half season of Soria.

The Trade: Cespedes to the Mets for Fulmer and Cessa

Grade: A

If Labourt (acquired in the Price trade), pans out as a big-league starter, the Tigers will have acquired an entire starting rotation for Price and Cespedes. Judging on a number of reports, tweets and what-have-you, the Mets seemed to like Fulmer a lot.

And rightfully so, Fulmer has a mid-90’s fastball and some nasty off-speed offerings. In terms of the future, it’s not hard to imagine Norris and Fulmer headlining the Tigers’ rotation for a decade. The former first-round pick was blocked in New York thanks to the presence all the Mets’ young starters (i.e. Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom), so a move to Detroit is clearly beneficial for his future prospects.

Cessa is another starting pitcher who profiles as a back-end starter more than anything. He’s a converted infielder with a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90’s with two off-speed offerings that could play in the Majors. He’s struggled at Triple-A this season, but nonetheless shows promise.

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

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