With just over a week remaining until the 2012 trade deadline, the rumor mill is beginning to churn wildly for the Detroit Tigers. This week, Buster Olney reported the team is one of the most active clubs this summer trying to improve, which is good news for fans regardless. How will they fill their unique needs this year?
The best way, in my mind, is a deal involving Matt Garza and Darwin Barney, both of the Chicago Cubs. Each is at the biggest position of need the Tigers have, and could be acquired in the same deal. However, chatter has linked Detroit with nearly every top player available. How do the options rate? Here’s my list:
1. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: The absolute best choice for the Tigers is Barney, a solid defender and hitter who is young at 26. His .266 batting average won’t jump out of the box scores, but it’s more solid than any of the Tigers’ current infield options. Barney could be the solution to steady second base for the near future, as he’s not arbitration eligible until 2014, and not a free agent until 2017. What would Chicago want for such a player? Jim Bowden reported this week the Tigers would hope to get Barney for a midlevel prospect. That would be the best possible infield move for the club if they could pull it off.
2. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks: Though Drew, 29, is starting to age just a bit by baseball standards and hasn’t had a fantastic 2012 season due to injury, a change of scenery could work wonders. Drew is a consistent hitter with a career .268 average. The only question is his position. Would Drew switch to second base from shortstop to play in Detroit? Would the Tigers have to deal Jhonny Peralta? Would Drew re-sign in free agency? Too many question marks
3. Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks: Roberts, Arizona’s second baseman, doesn’t seem like an upgrade over anything the Tigers currently have. He hit .249 last season with 19 home runs, and is hitting .248 thus far through 2012. His bat has some definite pop, but Roberts’ major disadvantage is his contract situation. He’s not scheduled to be a free agent until 2016. The Tigers shouldn’t get locked in with another sub-par, aging infield option for that long.
4. Omar Infante, Miami Marlins: There are few things in sports I despise more than organizations retaining old players who they have given up on. The Tigers cut ties with Infante after the 2007 season. He’s not a horrible opiton with a solid batting average, some pop and a good glove, but it would seem like a backwards move for the Tigers to strike a deal to retain Infante after giving him away just a handful of seasons ago. Maybe, Dave Dombrowski should have thought about this potential predicament before cutting him loose. Infante’s getting older and should be avoided. This ship has sailed in Detroit.
1. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: The best scenario for Detroit remains prying Barney and Garza from the Cubs in a major deal. He’s not a free agent until 2014, and could boost Detroit’s rotation considerably. Plus, the Cubs have Barney available as well, so this could be an excellent case of “one stop shopping” for the Tigers. Though Garza’s numbers are not incredible this season, he’s buried on a bad team. Give him a lineup like Detroit’s and a stadium like Comerica Park and he could flourish like he did for Tampa Bay just two seasons ago.
2. Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners: A sneaky, attractive, second best option for Detroit is Vargas, a crafty left handed pitcher who’s talent gets lost in Seattle. Doug Fister was in Vargas’s mold a year ago, came to Detroit and was arguably the best deadline move made. This season, Vargas is actually winning with Seattle, different from Fister. He’d be under team control until 2014, and would provide the Tigers with an excellent left handed option in the rotation. This would be an underrated, excellent move.
3. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies: Obviously a great option, the Tigers should try and work their magic to get Hamels into the rotation. He’d add another powerful arm. With seven playoff wins, he’s already proven himself in the postseason as well. The major issue is cost, and it seems the Tigers do not want to trade Nick Castellanos. It might take such a return for Hamels, which makes the odds of a deal tough. Still, the Tigers should get in the mix for the lefty with exceptional talent.
4. Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres: Another interesting option with Central Division experience is Richard, a young hurler from San Diego. He’s got seven wins and 72 strikeouts, and could provide the Tigers with a young left handed boost in the bottom of the rotation. He wouldn’t cost a ton, and would be under team control until 2015. Would be an excellent fall back option if the Tigers miss out on their top choices.
5. Zach Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers: What Greinke will teams be getting? Will they be getting the head case who will wilt under pressure, or the dominant pitcher who won the Cy Young award recently? I don’t love him as much as Drew Sharp from the Free Press does. The cost might be prohibitive in terms of prospects, and there’s no guarantee Greinke will be in the fold for the next few seasons, being that he’s a free agent. There seems to be far too much risk heading down the stretch here, despite the fact Greinke knows the Central Division well.
6. Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros: Rodriguez was rumored to be on Detroit’s radar last summer, but the interest never materialized. He’s been a solid pitcher, but his contract is very prohibitive. Also, there are questions about Rodriguez’s durability and game translating to the American League. It seems too risky to add Rodriguez for the second straight summer. He’s a year older and not much has changed about his game. There are better, cheaper options out there the Tigers should explore first.
7. Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs: Possibly the least attractive option for Detroit. Dempster would cost a decent amount in prospects, would likely be purely a one year rental and would have to transition to the American League on the fly. It sounds as if he’d be the next Jarrod Washburn. Avoid.
1. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks: The biggest chip on the market this year is the supremely talented and young Upton, who’s been slumping in 2012. Another player in the Cole Hamels mold, the Tigers may have to turn a blockbuster with either Drew and Roberts or Upton, and include plenty of young talent. The prospects of this are intriguing to consider, but remain very unlikely.
2. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies: The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is aging a bit, but if the Tigers decided to trade for an outfielder, he’d be the best choice. Victorino might spark the top of Detroit’s order, giving them a nice boost. Don’t count on the Tigers to get involved much here, considering there’s a bit of a logjam in the outfield right now and Victorino is an aging disappointment lately.