The Detroit Tigers plan to be sellers at next Friday's MLB trade deadline, according to a report from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, who spoke with several people inside the organization. Among those the Tigers will be shopping are ace pitcher David Price and slugging right fielder Yoenis Cespedes, both of whom will be free agents at the end of this season.
Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says that that things could change if the team gains a lot of ground on its competition this week, and there's always the chance than billionaire pizza mogul owner Mike Ilitch will veto the plan.
The Tigers are currently 46-46, 9.5 games behind Kansas City and 4 games for the AL Central lead. They are only 4 games behind Minnesota and Houston, who are currently tied for the two Wild Card spots. That's hardly an insurmountable deficit, but looking closer at the situation in Detroit, one understands why intelligent people might favor giving up on this season in favor of acquiring young talent that will help in the future:
- The Tigers were 26-17 at the end of play on May 22nd. During the two months since then though, they have the absolute worst record in the American League.
- Miguel Cabrera is out with a calf strain and expected to miss at least another month.
- The team's farm system has been picked bare by "win now" trades in recent years, leaving the team with few impact prospects.
Along with all that, it is expected to be a seller's market next week, because with so many teams that might still reasonably consider themselves contenders (20 team are currently within 6 games of a postseason spot), few teams are expected to be moving top talent, while many teams are expecting to be shopping for such talent. Price would join Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto as one of the top pitching prizes available, with teams including the deep-pocketed Dodgers and Yankees prepared to bid. Cespedes would be one of the most sought-after position players. Even as 60-game rentals, each player could be expected to bring back multiple prospects of note.
One could argue that if Detroit sees the writing on the wall, than the Indians (1.5 games behind Detroit) ought to see it too. Things are somewhat different though, in that the Indians have played winning baseball over the last two months, aren't missing their top player, have some talent in the minors already, and don't have any impact players about to reach free agency.
Price and Cespedes would each provide a boost to the postseason chances of the teams that acquire them, and if those are AL teams, it could be bad for the Tribe's chances. On the other hand, if they go to NL teams, or to the Angels or Yankees (current favorites to win the AL West and East), the Indians could benefit*.
*The idea of the Tigers holding onto everyone and becoming the AL's Phillies over the next couple years has been pretty exciting though, and I'm not crazy about the idea of them wising up.