Scott Harris’ mission is bat acquistion

Bless You Boys

We all wanted to believe.

After getting staggered by a nine-game losing streak to open the month of June, the Detroit Tigers did an admirable job stabilizing the situation considering the personnel on the injured list. Well into July they were in good enough position that a winning streak could have changed the equation at the trade deadline. But despite the return of Riley Greene, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Manning, Kerry Carpenter, and Tarik Skubal, they haven’t been able to put together an extended run convincing enough to change course.

It’s time to sell again.

The truth is that the Tigers are still in a fairly treacherous situation. For years now, since Al Avila began the teardown in 2017, we’ve said over and over that the easy part of a turnaround is getting back to respectability. The Tigers are finally well on their way to accomplishing that much this season, but the whole system is set up to get you out of the basement and back into 75-80 win territory. Taking the next steps and turning this roster into a consistent winner with a strong and steadily productive farm system behind it is where things get really difficult. The club is pretty far from a point where they can go all in and start dealing prospects for major league talent in a major way.

Currently, the Tigers have exactly one good position player prospect in their farm system if we leave aside the new draft class, which does look promising. They have a fair amount of guys who are a modest breakout away from reaching that status, think Justyn-Henry Malloy or Parker Meadows, but on the whole the farm system remains very thin on the position player side of things. Colt Keith is the only one who really looks like a future above average player right now.

On the other hand, I have total confidence that they’re going to consistently produce quality major league starters and relievers. The Tigers have a lot of young pitching in the majors already, and there should be more on the way.

So the equation remains pretty simple, but the task difficult. The Tigers need more good position players before they can really become a threat. And they’re going to have to trade pitching to get them, while using free agent dollars this offseason to reset the pitching staff.

The club is going to clear $60M from their projected payroll at season’s end, minimum. Trading Eduardo Rodriguez will mean they clear even more. Whatever you think about Chris Ilitch as an owner, and we have many, many thoughts, Scott Harris is going to be able to spend quite a bit of money.

The problem? There are very few good hitters available in free agency this offseason. The only high end talent available is perhaps the most elite of them all, Shohei Ohtani. We won’t even dare to dream about that one.

Harris and the Tigers have no business failing to compete for the division next year. Maybe it’ll be a little early for things to fully come together, and the Central probably won’t be quite this bad next year, but it’s already hard not to wonder where they’d be if they’d had a little more offense this season.

So, it’s time to stop screwing around. Things don’t have to happen all at once, but by Opening Day 2024 this lineup has to be a lot better. To do that, they’re going to have to find a good hitter to add to the lineup, and hope that with Colt Keith and possible help from Justyn-Henry Malloy and Parker Meadows, they’re in the mix in 2024. But without an obvious group of free agents to pursue, that bat is going to have to come from trades, and is probably going to cost the Tigers main asset, pitching.

So, the trade chips at the deadline are pretty obvious. Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Lorenzen are both getting dealt. Jose Cisnero will be traded if someone makes any kind of real offer for him. If a team wants to make a little offer for backup catching, Eric Haase is freely available. Want to add Akil Baddoo for some speed and a solid fourth outfielder if you protect him from left-handed pitching? That can be arranged. And perhaps the Tigers will listen on a bolder deal along the way.

Would they be willing to trade a Tarik Skubal or Matt Manning instead, knowing that their youth and team control makes them more valuable? Probably not right now, but like the draft, we’ve never seen Harris and his staff do this before. So there’s no point thinking we can predict all of it.

Trade partners that seem most viable include the Dodgers, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Rays, and Rangers, among others.

For Eduardo Rodriguez, as arguably the best starting pitcher available and on course for a 4 WAR season despite missing six weeks, you’d certainly like to do better than a 45 future value type. A mid tier top 100 infielder or outfielder, or something close to it, seems like the move, with perhaps a Tigers’ reliever packaged together to help get the player they want. An elite prospect just isn’t in the cards, but all the teams mentioned have quality farm systems with the players to make this happen. Harris will have to evaluate the proposals and pick the right one for the Tigers.

For Michael Lorenzen, who doesn’t have Rodriguez’s track record as a starter, nor the same top shelf K-BB percentages, you can expect less. The Tigers got infielder turned outfield prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy for a year of Joe Jimeñez. A similar caliber return should be the baseline expectation for a solid starter rental. It’s also possible that if the Tigers find that there’s more value in accepting pitching prospects, they’ll consider that. Despite the obvious need to improve the offense, you have to maximize the return on a deal like this in whatever way you can.

Jose Cisnero is probably the one where if a team wants to bolster their bullpen a little with the veteran right-hander, you’d take an interesting project arm or two from the buyer’s farm system and call it good.

Those three are going to be traded. What will be interesting to watch is whether Harris dips deeper into his pitching pool to make something happen. Would he trade Skubal, who has three more years of team control and a fairly extensive injury history? Doing so could get you a top ten prospect and more. Or would he follow the path he laid out last offseason, dealing from his relief corps and trusting Chris Fetter and Gabe Ribas, the Tigers’ Director of Pitching, to keep turning out good relievers? If so, Jason Foley is sitting there as probably the most valuable reliever on the market at this point, and with four more years of team control? He could draw a pretty good prospect on his own right now.

So the question is just how aggressive Scott Harris is going to be, and how aggressive the contenders are out there in trying to improve their teams for the stretch drive. Coming out of this with something like a top 100, 50 FV position prospect and a few more interesting young prospects not yet on that level would be good. We’d love to see some kind of prime Dave Dombrowski style heist for an elite prospect, but there are a lot less marks at the table these days, and the ones that remain aren’t in contention.

However, should Harris expand their horizons by offering his younger pitchers with plenty of team control, either Skubal, Manning, or Reese Olson for that matter as a multi-inning weapon for a contender, expectations will be higher, as will the stakes at hazard from either side of a potential deal. Likewise should Harris be willing to package Jason Foley with Eduardo Rodriguez to really pull a top prospect as a combo deal.

So the rub in all this is that Harris may add the bat the Tigers’ need over the next week, but if so it isn’t going to be obvious at first. They’re going to have to dig deep and find a solid prospect who still has the potential to break out and turn into a really good major leaguer. Hoping to nab a top ten prospect in the game just isn’t reasonable here unless they really take some risks. Harris talked a lot about taking calculated risks when hired, but so far the impression he’s left is much more of a conservative approach, never risking much.

The incremental approach could certainly work, even as soon as next year, but at some point Harris is probably going to have to land another very good position player in trade if the Tigers are really going to level up into serious contendership. It shouldn’t be too long before we have some trade action, and we’ll see what the Tigers’ new leadership can do in their first crack at the trade deadline.

Articles You May Like

GameThread: Tigers vs. Astros, 4:10 p.m.
The Big Greene: Tigers 13, Astros 5
Torkelson Talks in Toledo
Nationals 7, Tigers 5: Reese Olson knocked around again
Series Preview: Detroit Tigers host Washington Nationals for 3-game weekday set

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *