I’m not ready to spew out the 2016 Detroit Tigers the way Bill the Butcher was to ready to spew out Boss Tweed in Gangs of New York, but ‘lukewarm’ is the word I would describe their performance thus far. Their schizophrenic season hurts my brain trying to figure out if they can contend or are doomed like the Dead Rabbits. Are they the team that has won five in a row, sweeping the Red Sox in Boston or the one that lost a series at home to the pathetic Twins last week? Should they be sellers before Monday’s trade deadline or should they be buyers?
Some of the maddening inconsistency can be chalked up to injuries to key players like J.D. Martinez and Jordan Zimmerman who are on schedule to return soon. But some of it can be attributed to the underperformance of aging star players Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (who might be in the first stages of inevitable decline) and the disappointing addition of Justin Upton.
On the eve of the trade deadline, the Tigers find themselves 4.5 games behind Cleveland and in a strange kind of limbo — they don’t have the kind of tradable assets to be big sellers at the deadline, but they also don’t have the kind of desirable prospects to be big buyers either. With the Indians making giant headlines over the last 24 hours, reportedly acquiring Jonathan Lucroy and Andrew Miller, GM Al Avila might be feeling the pressure to do something drastic to keep pace in the AL Central.
I hope he doesn’t.
Many would argue the Tigers are only one game out of the Wild Card and should go for it. But the misnamed Wild Card is fool’s gold. I don’t consider making the Wild Card the same as making the playoffs. It really should be called the ‘Play-In Game’ but that just doesn’t have the right marketing punch to it that MLB is looking for. A potential one-and-done scenario doss not pass the risk vs. reward test for me (just ask the Pirates how that’s worked out for them).
The aforementioned imminent returns of both Zimmerman and Martinez will have as much impact as adding any good arm or power bat that might be available via trade in the next 30 hours. Those additions coupled with the emergence of star-in-the-making Michael Fulmer and a resurgent Justin Verlander (1.71 ERA over his last 6 starts) will be enough to stay in the race without doing anything drastic.
Sometimes the best move is to stand pat and let the chips fall where they may. I’m hearing that Lucroy just exercised his no-trade clause to nix the deal to Cleveland as I’m typing this, so the Indians may not be the insurmountable foe they thought they were.