The speculation has become all too familiar among Detroit Tigers as the July 31 trade deadline looms on the horizon.
Who needs a first and/or second baseman? What could the return for Jonathan Schoop look like?
Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto are both proving strong late innings relief options. What team wouldn’t pay up to acquire one of them?
What about Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull? Surely if they return healthy in due time, they could be of use to some team out there looking to give their starting rotation a boost toward playoff contention?
We were already well into trade mode back in April after the Tigers got off to a pitiful 9-24 start. After four straight years of brutal baseball, this team seemed destined to be sellers once again come July, pawning off whatever assets of moderate value they might have for something — anything — that could hold future potential.
But that’s not the case anymore. Since that 9-24 loss, Detroit has gone 30-23 to pull within eight games of the .500 mark. Combine that with the fact that they won’t play a team who’s not in the bottom-two of their respective division until August 3 — after the deadline — and the Tigers suddenly look like a team with a slim chance to push their way into the wild card picture by mid-August.
Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a plea to GM Al Avila to mortgage the future and trade away young assets for win-now players. The Tigers are highly unlikely to be competing for the playoffs in 2021. Their best bet is to sneak into the wild card race, where they currently sit 9.5 games back of the Oakland Athletics, who currently hold the coveted bottom spot. However, there are also five teams to climb over just to get there.
But while the team shouldn’t be buying, it wouldn’t be wise to sell, either.
“But Brady,” I hear you say. “Why wouldn’t we trade a guy like Schoop or Boyd if we aren’t going to the playoffs?”
And it’s a valid question. To me — and to manager A.J. Hinch — the signal that this team wants to be competitive is enough to shoo away any middling offers for 40 FV infielders that would come in for most of these players anyway.
Think of it like this. Winning is fun, right? Sometimes it’s even contagious. The Tigers should hold onto the players that they know will help them win games in 2021 — Schoop, Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Robbie Grossman, etc. — to keep the competitive fires burning in the clubhouse.
These Tigers are having fun. One look at this photo from the team’s 7-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday, which was their third in a row and fifth in six games, confirms that.
Rookies, veterans and coaches alike are beaming. Why mess up this dynamic? The team, as it stands, is working toward what they need — building that culture. Fans expect the team to begin spending some money on big-name free agents soon, and while those players will obviously always follow paydays, they also seek out tight-knit clubhouses and opportunities to win. If free agents whose names rhyme with, say, Barlos Borrea or Crevor Cory, see that the Detroit Tigers are a team on the make, fun-loving, tight-knit, and above all, winners with serious talent percolating in the farm system, that only makes them want to join that squad more.
All of that, at least in my opinion, is more valuable toward building long-term success than shipping off a player we know is good in exchange for a lottery ticket. Unless there’s a major move available that seriously increases their chances in 2020, why bother?
If a highly touted prospect from a would-be contending team like Milwaukee’s Brice Turang or Los Angeles’ Brandon Marsh were to fall into Avila’s lap, then sure, have a listen. If a proven big leaguer with club control Arizona’s Ketel Marte can be had for cheap, then pull the trigger.
Otherwise, let this good thing be good and let them take their shot. The schedule is favorable, several of their most dependable arms are bound to return beyond the All-Star break, and attrition on other clubs could leave them with a better look at a postseason spot down the stretch than we’ve seen in a half decade. Tigers fans deserve a bit of fun.
What should the Tigers do for the trade deadling?
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