Detroit Tigers Newsletter: How the trade deadline makes the Tigers’ August a little cooler

Detroit Free Press

Remember when we said not to look at the Detroit Tigers’ August schedule?

That was a good plan while it lasted, huh?

And while the Tigers didn’t sweep the final week of July — though, hey, undefeated in August! — and climb back to .500, they picked up enough wins (three) to lock in their third straight winning month.

Now comes the tough part: Playing teams that aren’t in last place. (And maybe winning some series from them, too.)

Hello, and welcome to The Playoff Contention Newsletter.

Not to say that the Tigers, at 51-57, are fighting for a postseason spot: They’re still 12 games back of the White Sox in the Central, and nine games back of the Athletics for the AL’s second wild-card spot.

But nearly every team on the schedule for the rest of August — 25 games with an average winning percentage of .499 — has a better record than the Tigers and several are still harboring playoff aspirations. (Except for the Twins, of course, who could easily have 80 losses by the time they come back to Detroit for a makeup game on Aug. 30. Seriously, look at this brutal August.)

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Of course, that strength of schedule for the Tigers’ August may not be indicative of the month’s challenge, especially with trade deadline deals shuffling the rosters. Let’s check in with the eight squads on the docket, shall we?

Red Sox (63-44; Tuesday-Thursday): Boston went from the AL’s best record to the top wild-card spot after a weekend sweep by Tampa Bay, and they loaded up accordingly: righty reliever Hansel Robles, lefty reliever Austin Davis, outfielder Kyle Schwarber (who’ll work out for the Sox on Monday in Detroit to determine a rehab plan), and, uh… that’s it?

Cleveland (51-51; Friday-Sunday, Aug. 13-15): Cleveland, meanwhile, was on the selling side, shipping out outfielder Eddie Rosario — for Pablo Sandoval, which would let us make a 2012 World Series callback, but he’s already released — reliever Phill Maton and outfielder Jordan Luplow, and getting speedy ex-Astros outfielder Myles Straw in return.

Orioles (37-67; Aug. 10-12): Another seller, if you couldn’t tell from the weekend series at Comerica — the O’s shipped out reliever Shawn Armstrong and shortstop Freddy Galvis. Unfortunately, Matt Harvey (yeah, we don’t get it either) and John Means are still on the roster to torment Tiger bats.

Angels (52-53; Aug. 17-19): Mike Trout has been out for 10 weeks and counting, and Shohei Ohtani can only play so many positions, so the Halos dealt starter Andrew Heaney and reliever Tony Watson for prospects, effectively ending their wild-card chase and any further YouTubeTV appearances.

Blue Jays (54-48; Aug. 20-22, 27-29): The Jays are 3½ games out of a wild-card spot, but went all-in with their return to Canadian soil this weekend, picking up <deep breath> starter Jose Berrios, reliever Brad Hand AND former Tigers reliever Joakim Soria. (OK, it seemed more impressive in our heads considering Toronto sent two of its top four prospects to Minnesota for Berrios. Speaking for the 2023 Tigers: Gee thanks, eh?)

Cardinals (53-52; Aug. 24-25): The Cards went out and got <checks notes> J.A. Happ and Jon Lester? The Cards won’t lead the NL in WHIP, but they might be tops in AARP.

Twins (44-62; Aug. 30): The Twins gave up most of the guys going to contenders above, plus Tiger Killer™ Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay (though half the return for him, right-hander Joe Ryan, is pitching for the U.S. in Tokyo right now). It’s gonna be a long summer for T.C. Bear.

Athletics (60-47; Aug. 31): The A’s apparently smelled blood in the AL West surrounding the Astros (who dropped two out of three in San Francisco) and loaded up: outfielder Starling Marte, catcher Yan Gomes, utilityman (and ex-Tiger) Josh Harrison and lefty reliever Andrew Chafin (who leads the majors in MARP — Mustache Above Replacement Player — while Jake Rogers is on the IL).

So there we have it: Eight teams on the schedule for August, but only three are making a push for the playoffs. That’s a good sign for the slowly surging Tigers — going 4-3 seemingly every week is something — who are keeping their goals in view, reports the Freep’s Evan Petzold. Click here to find out why Robbie Grossman said, “I’m looking forward to these last two months of baseball.”

Deadline duds?

The Tigers, meanwhile, were mostly quiet at the deadline, as we kinda expected from a team that appears to be heading up the “win curve.” Their only move: Sending left-handed reliever Daniel Norris, a Tiger since 2015’s trade deadline, to the Brewers for minor-league right-hander Reese Olson. (The Freep’s Tyler J. Davis took a look at Olson’s potential here.) Norris’s arrival heralded the first stage of the Tigers’ rebuild —the first time the team acknowledged a limit to its pocketbook — and his departure seemingly comes just as the team appears willing to spend again and be active at next year’s deadline. (We THINK.) As such, it was a little dusty for Norris on the field Friday as he talked to Our Man Petzold here about what the trade meant for him.

Were there other moves the Tigers could have made? Our Man Petzold was there as GM Al Avila discussed the Tigers’ options. Click here to find out why the Tigers mostly stood pat. (And click here to find out why shortstop Jonathan Schoop doesn’t mind sticking around for another couple months.)

Even-keeled Akil

Meanwhile, Akil Baddoo just kept hitting, with three doubles and a homer against the Twins and Orioles. The weekend series against Baltimore was particularly sweet, as Baddoo was face-to-face again with All-Star mentor Cedric Mullens. The two are tied together through an Atlanta travel baseball team, as Our Man Petzold notes. Click here to find out why manager AJ Hinch thinks Baddoo could have a trajectory similar to Mullens.

Of course, that wasn’t all Baddoo was up to over the weekend. The 22-year-old took part in the Tigers’ Negro Leagues Weekend, including a Friday luncheon. The Freep’s Jeff Seidel was there, too, and was impressed by Baddoo’s appreciation of his surroundings, whether he was chatting with Willie Horton or a member of Cass Tech’s baseball team. Click here to find out which Hall of Famer Horton compared Baddoo to.

Mark your calendar!

After today’s day off, it’s six straight games, with three against the Red Sox at Comerica Park followed by three against the Guardians-to-be-named-later in Cleveland from Friday-Sunday. The good news for the Tigers: Casey Mize takes the mound again on Wednesday with his pitch limit lifted. Our Man Petzold has the story here on why Mize is ready to go deep into games again.

Rookie monsters

Baddoo and Mize also came up last week when AJ Hinch talked about the Tigers’ AL Rookie of the Year candidates, though the manager went out of his way to praise a third Tiger candidate: Eric Haase. The Dearborn Divine Child alum has zoomed into fifth place in WAR among rookies (according to baseball-reference.com), with 2.0 WAR. He trails only Boston reliever Garrett Whitlock (2.1), Texas outfielder Adolis Garcia (2.4), Tampa Bay outfielder Randy Arozarena (2.4) and, of course, Mize at 2.9 WAR. As our Man Petzold reports here, the next two months could go a long way toward whether the Tigers bring home an (individual) trophy in November.

3 to watch

How about the (mostly) non-rookies? Here are three players to watch this week:

MICHAEL FULMER: He’s taking it down a notch to prevent another IL stint.

MIGUEL CABRERA: Milestone watch – 58 hits from No. 3,000, three (!!!) home runs from No. 500.

CADE CUNNINGHAM: OK, we know he’s a Piston, but the city’s OTHER No. 1 overall pick was on the mound Friday at Comerica Park, and he should make his Pistons Summer League debut next Sunday in Las Vegas.

Happy birthday, Hondo!

Speaking of tall dudes wearing Tigers gear, Frank Howard — the 6-foot-7 Ohio State alum who played for the Dodgers, Senators and Rangers before coming to Detroit in 1972-73 — turns 85 on Sunday. He played in 14 games after the Tigers acquired him from Texas on Aug. 31, 1972 (with 85 more games for the Tigers in 1973) and only hit one homer that first season. But it was a big one: A three-run blast against the Orioles on Sept. 13 in a 6-5 victory at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers went on to win the AL East by half a game (thanks to a schedule disrupted by the first-ever MLB players strike).

Other Tigers birthdays this week: Matt Joyce (37 on Tuesday), Harry Heilmann (would have been 127 Tuesday; died in 1951), Dave Rozema (65 on Thursday), Edgar Renteria (45 on Saturday), Steve Kemp (67 on Saturday).

TL;DR

Cade Cunningham, at 6 feet 8, presented an imposing figure on the mound Friday night. The tallest pitcher to actually suit up for the Tigers? That would be Doug Fister, from 2011-13, who also stood 6-8. (The shortest is 5-5 Frank Browning, who threw 49 innings in 1910.)

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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