MLB trade deadline: Detroit Tigers have obvious candidates, but who else could be moved?

Detroit Free Press

The 2023 Major League Baseball trade deadline is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, whose 2.1 fWAR leads the starting rotation, is lined up to start that evening’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, but since first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., he probably won’t take the mound.

By that point, he is expected to be with a different team.

That’s because the Tigers (46-55) are falling further behind in their pursuit of contending in the American League Central. They’re seven games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins with 61 games to play.

Here’s a look at four obvious trade candidates — Rodriguez, Michael Lorenzen, Jose Cisnero and Chasen Shreve — and six potential trade candidates, with reasons for trading them and keeping them:

Eduardo Rodriguez

Age: 30.

Becomes free agent: After 2023 season, or after 2026 season.

Trade him: Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million contract in November 2021, has a 2.95 ERA with 21 walks (6% walk rate) and 91 strikeouts (25.9% strikeout rate) in 88⅓ innings over 15 starts this season. He has an opt-out clause, which he can exercise after this season, and a 10-team no-trade clause in his contract. The opt-out clause hurts Rodriguez’s value because he will be viewed as a three-month rental, but if he suffers a serious injury in those three months, he could decide to play out the final three years of his contract (which might not fit the long-term plan of the team acquiring him) and cash in the remaining $49 million. Still, Rodriguez is the Tigers’ best chance to acquire young position players with a surplus of team control.

Keep him: If the Tigers want to keep Rodriguez, they’ll likely need to restructure his contract and possibly extend his contract. If he doesn’t opt out, he will make $18 million in 2024, $16 million in 2025 and $15 million in 2026. Upping those salaries to roughly $25 million per year, plus tacking on another year or two, could incentivize Rodriguez to stick around. Doing so would keep two of the better American League left-handed pitchers — Rodriguez and Tarik Skubal — in the same starting rotation for years to come.

WHAT E-ROD THINKS: Tigers’ Eduardo Rodriguez on trade chances: ‘If it happens, it happens’

Michael Lorenzen

Age: 31.

Becomes free agent: After 2023 season.

Trade him: Lorenzen, riding a scoreless streak of 21⅔ innings and worth 1.3 fWAR, is one of the hottest three-month rentals on the trade market. Contending teams seeking starting pitchers want him because of his positive energy in the clubhouse, high-spin fastball, swing-and-miss changeup, newfound pitch mix and experience in several roles. This season, Lorenzen owns a 3.49 ERA with 26 walks (6.5% walk rate) and 76 strikeouts (19.1% strikeout rate) over 100⅔ innings in 17 starts. He signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Tigers in December 2022.

Keep him: There’s no reason to keep Lorenzen at the trade deadline, but as a second-time free agent, the Tigers could be interested in re-signing their All-Star representative to a multi-year contract in the offseason. For now, the Tigers need to focus on getting the best possible return in the impending trade.

THE ZEN MASTER: Michael Lorenzen is ‘staying off my phone’ as trade deadline approaches

Jose Cisnero

Age: 34.

Becomes free agent: After 2023 season.

Trade him: Cisnero, the oldest member of the Tigers’ bullpen, has a 3.96 ERA with 14 walks (8.4% walk rate) and 43 strikeouts (25.8% strikeout rate) across 38⅔ innings in 42 appearances. Aside from a few blow-up outings, he has been sharp since tweaking his cutter and changeup in May. Packaging Cisnero with Rodriguez or Lorenzen would boost the value of the return.

Keep him: Like Rodriguez and Lorenzen, the Tigers need to trade Cisnero before he reaches free agency. The longstanding relationship between Cisnero and the Tigers — featuring a 3.40 ERA over 201 relief appearances in parts of five MLB seasons — should come to an end before the trade deadline.

Chasen Shreve

Age: 33.

Becomes free agent: After 2023 season.

Trade him: Most contending teams need another left-handed reliever. Shreve, despite his inconsistent results, fits the profile as an upcoming free agent. He has a 4.82 ERA with 11 walks (6.8% walk rate) and 39 strikeouts (25.4% strikeout rate) across 37⅓ innings in 42 appearances. His walk rate is the best mark of his career and helped him navigate struggles in April and June.

Keep him: The Tigers don’t have any reason to keep Shreve because he becomes a free agent after this season and isn’t a candidate for a contract extension. Shreve signed a minor-league contract with the Tigers in January, so if the organization is able to trade him for anything (which should happen), that’s a big win for the new front office.

Spencer Turnbull

Age: 30.

Becomes free agent: After 2024 season.

Trade him: Spanning five days in early May, the Tigers demoted Turnbull to Triple-A Toledo after seven starts in his return from Tommy John surgery, then rescinded the option and placed him on the 15-day injured list with neck discomfort. The option and injury disputes between Turnbull and the Tigers included late-night phone calls, doctor visits and service time concerns. Turnbull also fired his agent and switched to Scott Boras. The Tigers and Turnbull could part ways through a trade, but it’s not that easy.

Keep him: The timeline doesn’t align with the idea of parting ways. Turnbull started Tuesday and pitched two innings for High-A West Michigan to begin his rehab assignment. He will start again Sunday with the Whitecaps before transitioning to Triple-A Toledo to continue his rehab stint. He won’t return to the Tigers until after the trade deadline, and by that point, the Tigers will need a couple of starting pitchers to fill the voids left by Rodriguez and Lorenzen. If Turnbull bounces back, he will be a cheap starter to plug into the back of the rotation next season.

Tyler Holton

Age: 27.

Becomes free agent: After 2028 season.

Trade him: Back in mid-February, Holton walked into the Tigers’ spring training clubhouse as an unknown. He was claimed him off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but didn’t make the Opening Day roster. He joined the Tigers in mid-April and has been lights out as a multi-inning reliever this season: 1.70 ERA, 15 walks (7.4% walk rate) and 46 strikeouts (22.6% strikeout rate) across 53 innings in 34 appearances. Could the Tigers trade Holton at peak value and find a similar pitcher in the offseason to optimize? It’s not a bad idea.

Keep him: The Tigers tweaked Holton’s pitch mix based on the usage of his new slider to help him against left-handed hitters. With that, he can tear apart lineups because of his revered changeup against right-handed hitters. Dominant multi-inning left-handed relievers don’t grow on trees, and if all signs point to Holton maintaining his success, the Tigers could need him moving forward.

Jason Foley

Age: 27.

Becomes free agent: After 2027 season.

Trade him: Foley is developing into an elite high-leverage reliever and would be a great addition to any bullpen. His sinker, which averages 97.2 mph, has a run value of minus-14 and is tied for the third-best sinker in baseball. He keeps the ball on the ground and hasn’t allowed a home run in 44⅓ innings, making up for his below-average 22.4% strikeout rate. Increasing the usage of his changeup has turned him into a weapon against both right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Keep him: There’s closer potential in Foley’s future. He has already taken steps toward moving into that role at some point in his career. His chase rate increased from 28.3% in 2022 to 31.1% in 2023, while his whiff rate increased from 16.7% in 2022 to 18.7% in 2023. He needs to miss more bats to become a closer, but that will happen if he improves his slider in the offseason.

Alex Lange

Age: 27.

Becomes free agent: After 2027 season.

Trade him: Lange is one of the nastiest relievers in baseball, thanks to his curveball and sinker. His curveball, which he throws 59% of the time, generates a whopping 51.6% whiff rate. Here’s the problem that hurts his value: His 15.4% walk rate ranks 163rd among 166 qualified relievers, while his 29.1% strikeout rate ranks 40th among the same group of relievers.

Keep him: Since June 4, Lange has been terrible as the Tigers’ de facto closer with a 7.79 ERA, 17 walks and 19 strikeouts over 17⅓ innings in 18 appearances. Those results include four innings without an earned run in his past four outings. If the Tigers fix his command, Lange can be a trustworthy closer or a more valuable trade candidate in the offseason. He has a 3.89 ERA with 17 saves in 42 games this season.

Kerry Carpenter

Age: 25.

Becomes free agent: After 2028 season.

Trade him: It all depends on what the Tigers think of Carpenter’s upside. He returned from the injured list June 9, and since then, he is hitting .293 with seven home runs, 11 walks and 28 strikeouts in 38 games. His 136 wRC+ ranks 32nd among 142 players with at least 130 plate appearances in that span. If the Tigers don’t think he can maintain elite production on offense, it would be wise to trade him before Aug. 1 or in the offseason.

Keep him: A Carpenter/Justyn-Henry Malloy platoon at the designated hitter spot could work for the Tigers in 2024 and beyond, with Carpenter having the upside of 30-plus home runs. Both Carpenter (left-handed hitter) and Malloy (right-handed hitter) are below-average outfielders at the corner spots, but they’re capable of playing in the outfield when needed.

Jake Rogers

Age: 28.

Becomes free agent: After 2026 season.

Trade him: Rogers is playing the best baseball of his career, both offensively and defensively, so his value hasn’t been this high since his prospect days. He is hitting .283 with seven home runs, 11 walks and 37 strikeouts in 31 games since May 30, and his 144 wRC+ ranks 37th among 251 players with at least 110 plate appearances during that stretch.

Keep him: The Tigers have been waiting for more than a decade to develop a catcher like Rogers, who is worth 2.0 fWAR through 65 games. Top-catching prospect Dillon Dingler continues to struggle in Double-A Erie and isn’t close to making his MLB debut. Rogers has cemented himself as the starting catcher of the future through his game-calling, pitch-framing and isolated power.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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