Detroit Tigers’ Tarik Skubal navigates trade talks for first time: ‘I love being a Tiger’

Detroit Free Press

TORONTO — Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal, for the first time in his professional career, is dealing with his name coming up in trade talks.

This won’t be the last time.

Skubal — who makes the big-league minimum salary, is the best starting pitcher on the team, isn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2023 season and can’t become a free agent until after 2026 — was shocked when his name appeared in a report earlier this week.

“I love being a Tiger, but it’s out of my control,” Skubal said Thursday when asked about Tuesday’s trade deadline. “I can’t control any of that. My job is to worry about pitching every fifth day, and whatever happens, happens.”

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Three days ago, Skubal sat in his chair in the Tigers’ clubhouse when a report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal dropped online, headlined: “Tigers willing to trade Tarik Skubal and ‘just about everyone,’ sources say.”

Just like that, Skubal became the headliner of the organization’s trade deadline, even with several relievers — Michael Fulmer, Andrew Chafin, Joe Jiménez and Gregory Soto — more likely to be traded to playoff contenders (though Soto is the least likely of the group).

“What I found interesting was the article being posted, but there’s no substance to it, from what I feel personally,” Skubal said. “It’s not much I have to worry about because it’s out of my control. I’m worried about doing my job, and that’s pitching. That’s where I’m at. I just think it was funny. That’s all.”

It’s unclear when Skubal read the piece, but he knew about it by the time he started Wednesday’s game against the San Diego Padres at Comerica Park. The 25-year-old cited “some other motivation” that day for getting through a 39-pitch fourth inning and allowing just two runs — both unearned due to an error — across six innings.

After Wednesday’s outing, Skubal declined to elaborate on the mysterious motivation. At one point, he sounded like he wanted to comment about the report, then changed his mind.

“Yeah, yeah,” Skubal said Wednesday, “you know, I’m not going to comment. I won’t. I’m going to keep those to myself. I’m sorry.”

He also told reporters he wanted to send a message to the fans.

“I would like to give a shoutout to our fans this homestand,” Skubal said. “They were (expletive) phenomenal. Make sure you get that. It was a good environment. … They were just there every game. The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, but they continue to show up.”

By Thursday afternoon, Skubal was ready to share his thoughts about the situation. (The Tigers opened a four-game series Thursday against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto. For Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Tigers will be at Target Field in Minneapolis playing the Twins.)

“My job is to go about my business professionally and continue to play baseball,” Skubal said Thursday. “What am I supposed to do about it? I can’t do anything about it.”

As reported last month by the Free Press, the Tigers will listen to offers on almost any player not named “Riley Greene.” But while they’re listening, a Skubal deal at this year’s deadline is extremely unlikely, if only for the lack of teams willing or able to meet the Tigers’ needs of a player ready to contribute immediately.

If an offer for Skubal comes along that the Tigers can’t pass up, they would be foolish not to accept, so they’re keeping the door open just in case. Still, the Tigers aren’t actively trying to trade the best player they’ve acquired and developed since the rebuild began in 2017.

A ninth-round pick in 2018, Skubal has a 3.67 ERA with 30 walks and 113 strikeouts over 112⅔ innings over an American League-leading 20 starts. He has ace-level characteristics, from his arsenal to his on-field intensity, and looks like a future Cy Young winner.

Skubal shouldn’t be the headliner of the Tigers’ trade deadline because he’s unlikely to be traded ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, unless the organization receives a ridiculous offer that cannot be passed up.

The Tigers, while listening to offers for everyone except Greene, are destined to move a few relievers and finish the rest of their disappointing 2022 season before making significant changes in the winter months.

“The whole trade rumor thing, it’s out of my control,” Skubal said. “That’s the emphasis: It’s out of my control.”

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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