Tigers GM Al Avila had his end-of-the-season press conference today and addressed his offseason plans. Avila stated that the Tigers “want to get younger, want to get leaner, want to run the organization without having to go over [their] means, want to stay competitive, but at the same time, this organization has been working way above its means for some time”.
Avila addressed that the Tigers will not be players in the free agent market at all this offseason, only going there for the backup catcher, where free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia and former Tiger Alex Avila are options.
This is hardly surprising, but most figured the Tigers would give one more season with this group before guys start hitting free agency in the coming years such as Justin Upton (if he opts out), J.D. Martinez, Anibal Sanchez, Jose Iglesias, and Ian Kinsler. There is a strong argument that could be made that if not were the overwhelming number of injuries during the season, the Tigers could have still been playing (Jordan Zimmermann, J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos, Cameron Maybin, Jose Iglesias, Mike Pelfrey, James McCann were all injured for lengthy periods of time). But that’s no excuse–just look at what the Indians are doing without Salazar, Carrasco, and their best offensive player in Michael Brantley this year. Simply put, the Tigers are going to have to cut some significant payroll.
Avila suggested there are going to be some hard moves to make implying he’ll be very active on the trade market in an effort to get younger. The first two moves the Tigers will have to make are whether they’ll pick up the options on Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez. Maybin has a $9 million option (or a $1 million buyout) and K-Rod has a $6 million option (or a $2 million buyout). Both had exceptional seasons, but in an effort to cut payroll, they may be forced to make them free agents. Even if they do pick up the options, they are strong candidates to be traded.
Internally for center field, the Tigers have some options (though uninspiring). The Tigers have Tyler Collins who originally expected to have a major role in the 2016 outfield before the Tigers signed Upton. Collins is out of options, so he’ll have to remain on the active roster or be potentially lost through waivers. The other option is #9 prospect JaCoby Jones. Jones made his debut this year and is exceptional defensively in center and can also play third base.
If they decide to not go with K-Rod, the top option to close is probably Bruce Rondon. Rondon was thrust into high-leverage situations late in the year and performed remarkably. Shane Greene also flashed some closer potential throughout the season and the Tigers also have their future closer at Triple-A, Joe Jimenez, eagerly waiting the phone call. Justin Wilson who had an up-and-down season is also another option to close. The Tigers have some young, controllable arms in the bullpen such as Kyle Ryan, Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Rondon, and Justin Wilson. Mark Lowe’s 2016 season was abysmal and has just one year left on his contract.
Besides Maybin, in the outfield they have the All-Star duo of Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez. Martinez is slated to cash in after the 2017 season, so he is a prime candidate for a potential trade to get younger. If some team is really willing to bet that Upton will have a monster year in 2017 and will opt-out, they might be willing to trade for Upton as well. The Tigers outfield options include the previously mentioned out-of-options Tyler Collins as well as a couple of other players who are out-of-options in former top prospect Steven Moya and Anthony Gose. Moya still has some great potential at the plate but as Tigers fans saw, his defensive skills are frankly horrendous. The Anthony Gose trade was probably one of the few bad trades former GM Dave Dombrowski made. He traded the Tigers #1 prospect at the time, 2B Devon Travis, for Gose. Travis would have been a huge help for this Tigers team that wants to get younger and cheaper. Gose, meanwhile, struggled at the big-league level, AAA, and AA in 2016.
In the infield, the Tigers have some of that youth they are coveting with Nick Castellanos, James McCann, and Jose Iglesias. Castellanos and McCann are controlled for several more seasons, while Iglesias has a couple more years left. Iglesias could be a potential trade piece as the Tigers could replace him with someone who is nearly as good if not better defensively in Dixon Machado. Machado is also out of options. Miguel Cabrera, along with Justin Verlander, is the face of the franchise and I don’t really see him going anywhere (nor do I want him to). Ian Kinsler was one of their most valuable players this past year and has been a steady force at the top of the lineup for the past 3 years. The Tigers don’t have any clear replacement for Kinsler at this point, but he would be a valuable trade piece.
A prime candidate for a trade is Victor Martinez. Of course, there are only about 14 teams that would have a fit for a designated hitter like V-Mart. With 2 years left on his deal, the Tigers might have to eat some money to get something of value in return. Teams like the Red Sox (with the loss of Big Papi), Royals (with Morales hitting free agency), and Blue Jays (with Encarnacion and Bautista entering free agency) are some teams that come to mind that might be interested in V-Mart’s bat. Remember, it was just two years ago that V-Mart had a career year and was the runner-up in the AL MVP voting to Mike Trout.
In the rotation, the Tigers have three young studs that are young and controllable who will be fixtures of the rotation for years to come: Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, and Matt Boyd. The Tigers signed Zimmermann to a five-year deal last offseason, and I doubt the Tigers would trade him at this point. A more interesting (and gut-wrenching at the same time) candidate is (deep breath) Justin Verlander. Verlander is extremely valuable right now, and a team like the Dodgers or Red Sox could privy up some top notch prospects for an arm like Verlander’s. Verlander will always be a Tiger, but in the best interests of both parties, he’s a potential trade piece. I still don’t believe the Tigers would be willing to trade Verlander, however. The Tigers could try to trade Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey who have some bad contracts right now and try to get something in return.
So, there you have it. The Tigers will be cutting payroll and making some major trades this year. For once, they’re not going to be splurging into the free agent market. With a historically weak class, the Tigers could get a major haul for players like J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Iglesias, Upton, Verlander, and Victor Martinez. The Tigers still intend to compete and be a playoff-caliber team, so they clearly won’t be trading everyone, but J.D. Martinez is one player who is the most likeliest to be traded. Avila stated that the Tigers won’t be negotiating about an extension with JD prior to the start of the 2017 season, ensuring that his time in Detroit will end–if not this offseason, at the Trade Deadline in 2017, or free agency in 2017.
1) Tigers will trade J.D. Martinez
J.D Martinez is in the final year of his contract and will be getting paid over $11 million. Al Avila stated during his presser that the Tigers have no intention of negotiating an extension prior to the start of the 2017 season, ensuring that J.D. is a goner. If not this offseason, perhaps during the Trade Deadline in 2017, so that the Tigers don’t lose him for nothing. The outfield market consists of expensive and aged players like Bautista and Cespedes, so J.D. will be an attractive trade chip.
2) Tigers will try and find a suitor for Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey, and/or Mark Lowe
Anibal Sanchez is about a year short of having 10-and-5 rights, so he won’t be able to veto a trade. All these guys are moveable, but the Tigers may have to add in a prospect to get something of value in return. The Tigers will probably keep one of Sanchez and Pelfrey to act as rotation depth this year. Lowe had better success later in the year, so the Tigers may believe that he’s still worth keeping around.
3) Tigers will pick up the options on K-Rod and Maybin but look to trade them both
Al Avila said that Joe Jimenez will contribute to the Tigers’ success in 2017 eventually. He’ll have the opportunity to do that out of Spring Training. What they don’t want to do is rush his ascension like they did with Bruce Rondon. Jimenez will most likely start the year in Triple-A and get a call up in May or June.
Maybin was amazing for the Tigers when he was healthy. He’d be a cheaper option than the players hitting free agency for some teams. Al Avila said that JaCoby Jones probably could use more time in Triple-A, but it’s possible he earns a spot on the team if he puts up great numbers in AFL and Spring Training. He added that it would be best if he’s paired with a lefty, and mentioned that Anthony Gose will try to earn a spot in Spring Training. Tyler Collins is also an option. Jones has done very well in AFL so far and if his success continues to Spring Training, look for a combination of JaCoby Jones and Anthony Gose/Tyler Collins manning center field next year with Maybin on the move.
4) Verlander, Miggy, V-Mart aren’t going anywhere
Avila stated that he doesn’t believe that the window for the era of Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera is closed yet. Those two are franchise players and it’s really hard to see either leave. Verlander is the more likelier option, but even then, he has his 10-and-5 rights and may not want to leave unless its to a winning team like the Dodgers or Red Sox. Victor also has 10-and-5 rights, and although he’s a snail on the basepaths, it seems unlikely the Tigers can get good value from moving him. What seems more likely is that Victor will finish his contract in Detroit and either retire or move on. However, Victor can possibly be traded this offseason, summer 2017, 2017 offseason, or summer 2018. Avila stated that he can’t retool in just one offseason and that it’d take possibly two years for this process.
What do you think the Tigers will do? Who should they trade? Who shouldn’t they trade?