MINNEAPOLIS — It was always unlikely.
But for a moment, Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal appeared to be on the move. The Tigers have entertained trade offers for Skubal leading up to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline, so when the organization’s best pitcher exited Monday’s start after five scoreless innings on 77 pitches, a trade was one of two reasons for his early departure.
Turns out, the Tigers did not trade Skubal. The 25-year-old won’t be traded before the deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, but the Tigers could once again listen to offers for him in the offseason.
Just like that, the other reason — an injury — became the only possible answer. Skubal, whose 21 starts are tied for the most in the American League, left Monday’s start with left arm fatigue.
“Something didn’t feel right,” Skubal said Monday. “My arm felt kind of fatigued, so that’s why I came out of the game when I did. … I don’t want to put myself at risk of something serious happening.”
The good news is the Tigers don’t think Skubal has suffered a serious injury. Any long-term issue would be another massive blow to an organization that needed 15 starting pitchers to get through July.
“By far the best thing he could have done right there is let us know,” manager A.J. Hinch said Monday. “I mean, he’s not asking out of the game as much as he’s being honest with his competitive state. We want guys to communicate openly. This is not a question of his resolve or his toughness. This is one of the toughest kids on our team. He was smart before he had further injury.”
The Tigers have dealt with significant health setbacks to several young pitchers: the 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize (two starts, Tommy John surgery), 2016 No. 9 overall pick Matt Manning (two starts, right shoulder injury) and 2017 No. 18 overall pick Alex Faedo (12 starts, right hip surgery). Spencer Turnbull, a former second-round pick, won’t return from his Tommy John surgery until the 2023 spring training.
Manning, though, is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins in his first MLB appearance since April 16.
“I’ve never had to do a rehab during the middle of a season,” Manning said Monday. “Watching the Tigers games every day, seeing the state of the team and wanting to be there with those guys was the mentally frustrating part about it.”
Before exiting, Skubal turned in another brilliant performance. He allowed just three hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Skubal dominated to the tune of a 2.33 ERA in his first 11 starts, then posted a 9.00 ERA in his next five starts.
Mechanical adjustments helped him bounce back with a 1.86 ERA — six earned runs in 29 innings — across his latest five starts. In total, Skubal owns a 3.52 ERA with 32 walks and 117 strikeouts in 117⅔ innings.
“My plan is to make my next start,” Skubal said. “I’m going to wake up tomorrow, see where I’m at and then obviously go from there. But my plan is to make the next start, assuming that I’m feeling good. I’m pretty optimistic about that.”
After Monday’s walk-off loss in 10 innings, underperforming switch-hitting outfielder Robbie Grossman — a free agent after this season — learned he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for left-handed pitcher Kris Anglin.
The Braves were the only team to make an offer for Grossman, so the Tigers didn’t hesitate to accept. The plan is to give younger outfielders, such as Akil Baddoo, Daz Cameron and Kerry Carpenter, more playing time in the final two months of the season.
“I’m excited to get a new start and do whatever I can to help the team win,” Grossman said. “I had a blast playing for the Tigers. It didn’t end how I wanted it to, but that’s part of this business. I’m onto the next chapter in my baseball career.”
Here are other updates, as of Tuesday morning, with the trade deadline approaching, according to multiple sources:
• Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer is expected to be the next Tiger traded, although he didn’t help his trade value in Monday’s 5-3 loss. The 29-year-old entered in the eighth inning, allowed two runs on four consecutive singles and blew a 2-0 lead while recording one out. The Tigers have received calls from postseason contenders about Fulmer, who is on an expiring contract. He could land with the Toronto Blue Jays.
• Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin is the second-most likely Tiger to be traded before the deadline, but there’s a massive gap between Fulmer’s and Chafin’s chances of joining new teams. The Tigers aren’t receiving offers for Chafin that line up with what the organization is asking, and the entire situation revolves around his 2023 player option. If Chafin stays with the Tigers, he plans to exercise his player option and return next season. Besides Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Detroit is the closest destination to his family (and his farm) near Massillon, Ohio. Postseason contenders, including the New York Mets, are interested in Chafin, but those teams are treating the 32-year-old like a two-month rental, since he could opt-out of his contract and test free agency after this season. The Tigers, meanwhile, view Chafin as a back-end reliever with another year of team control, because that’s what he is to them, but other teams can’t be so certain unless Chafin verbally agrees to exercise his 2023 player option ahead of time. Expect the Tigers — barring better offers — to hold onto Chafin.
• Right-handed reliever Joe Jiménez could be traded, but only if an opposing team gets aggressive. Remember, the 27-year-old has some of the best all-around metrics among relievers on the trading block. But Jiménez can’t become a free agent until after next season and figures to make somewhere around $3 million in 2023 for his final year as an arbitration-eligible player. The Tigers have no problem keeping Jiménez, paying him a well-deserved raise and continuing to use him in high-leverage situations. If the Tigers were to dump Jiménez, they would end up searching for another $3 million reliever to take his spot next year. Contenders haven’t been willing to meet the Tigers’ demands, so Jiménez appears on track to stick around past the deadline.
• Left-handed closer Gregory Soto, under team control through 2025, remains unlikely to be traded. The Tigers, like in Skubal’s situation, wanted MLB players or MLB-ready players in return, but those types of offers haven’t surfaced. Ultimately, the Tigers value Soto more than the trade market values Soto. The Astros were interested, but that probably isn’t the case anymore, as Houston acquired left-handed reliever Will Smith from the Braves on Monday night. Don’t rule out the Tigers shopping Soto in the offseason, and assuming a deal doesn’t happen in the winter months, the 27-year-old could be on the trading block again at next year’s trade deadline if the Tigers repeat as sellers in 2023.
• Catcher Tucker Barnhart is unlikely to be traded unless there’s a Grossman-like agreement at some point before the deadline. Teams have not expressed much, if any, interest in the two-time Gold Glove winner. The 31-year-old is a free agent after this season.