Former Tiger Joaquin Benoit has appeared in 31 games for the Padres this season. He has a 1.42 ERA over 31.2 innings. (Associated Press / David Zalubowski)
Detroit — Someday, Major League Baseball’s trade deadline probably will be pushed pack a couple weeks, to Aug. 15 or thereabouts, to accommodate for the second wild card in each league.
The reason is simple: With the two additional postseason spots, more ballclubs now see themselves as in the hunt for longer than they used to – meaning many teams no longer are ready to pull the trigger as sellers by the July 31 trade deadline.
This can be problematic for a sure-fire contender looking for reinforcements for the playoff push.
The Tigers are one of those sure-fire contenders, who have their needs. While they are keeping an eye on the trade market at shortstop and for a left-handed bat, the Tigers are increasingly confident Eugenio Suarez and Andy Dirks, respectively, should fill those needs.
That only leaves the bullpen as an obvious place to upgrade for Detroit.
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said it as much during a Wednesday interview on MLB Network Radio. While he said he’s confident with Joe Nathan as the closer, the team could use some sixth- and seventh-inning help.
That said, given what happened in last year’s playoffs — two pitches by relievers essentially cost the Tigers a trip to the World Series — it’s tough to see Dombrowski leaving anything to chance this time. He also has plenty of trade chips at his disposal, particularly in lower-level pitching prospects.
With that in mind, here are some relievers who might be available, given their teams’ struggles – and their contract situations (all are free agents this winter or next):
Sensible: Antonio Bastardo, LH, Phillies; Matt Belisle, RH, Rockies; Jonathan Broxton, RH, Reds; Neal Cotts, RH, Rangers; Jason Frasor, RH, Rangers; LaTroy Hawkins, RH, Nick Masset, RH, Rockies; Matt Lindstrom, RH, White Sox; Juan Carlos Oviedo, RH, Rays; Joel Peralta, RH, Rays; Oliver Perez, LH, Diamondbacks; Tim Stauffer, RH, Padres; Joe Thatcher, LH, Diamondbacks; Brad Ziegler, RH, Diamondbacks
Lots of teams are scouring the market for relief help, and fortunately for them, lots of teams have lots of relief help as trade chips, including the Diamondbacks, Padres, Phillies, Rangers, Rays and Red Sox. These guys vary from young to old, from right-handed to left-handed, from long relief to situational, but all figure to have immense value, particularly Peralta, who’s had four wildly successful years with the Rays — a team many expected to make the World Series, but who know has fallen on such hard times, they’re already said to be ready to talk about trading their ace, David Price. Also keep a close eye on Ziegler, with the Diamondbacks in full tank mode – and always willing to make a trade.
Closers to consider: Jonathan Papelbon, RH, Phillies; Joakim Soria, RH, Rangers; Huston Street, RH, Padres; Koji Uehara, RH, Red Sox
Again, Dombrowski stressed he isn’t looking for a guy to be the Tigers’ closer — but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t consider current closers who might consider a different role with Detroit. There are hangups here, of course. Closers always demand more in a trade, in the case of Street or Uehara (both free agents after this season), or steep financial commitments, in the case of Papelbon. He’s found his groove again, but is owed a ton of money — including more than $7 million for the rest of this year, $13 million for 2015 and potentially $13 million for 2016, should a games-finished option vest. That should be enough to knock from the running the Tigers, who already have committed big cash to Nathan.
Former Tigers: Burke Badenhop, RH, Red Sox; Joaquin Benoit, RH, Padres; Andrew Miller, LH, Red Sox
Badenhop and Miller really have found a home in the Red Sox bullpen, at least for the time being. Both are free agents at season’s end. Benoit isn’t. He’s owed another $8 million next season, and there’s a club option for $8 million for 2016. So good in Detroit for three years, the Tigers balked at bringing him back for 2014 because he wanted closer money, and they signed Nathan. Well, he got closer money, but he doesn’t care much about being the closer, as he continues to set up in San Diego.
Outside the box: Daisuke Matsuzaka, RH, Mets; Tony Sipp, LH, Astros
Talk about two comeback stories. Matsuzaka was left for dead not long ago, but has really taken to a role focusing more on relieving — even though he’s been in the Mets’ rotation this month. Meanwhile, Sipp, the former Indians bullpen mainstay, wasn’t even signed until May, and even then it was for just $700,000 — if he hit all his incentives. All he’s done is strike out 25 in 19 innings, with a 0.632 WHIP.
Not likely: Grant Balfour, RH, Rays; Chad Qualls, RH, Astros
Balfour has completely lost it, “it” being any semblance of command. Qualls, meanwhile, is having a career year as Astros closer. It’s never wise to spend big on out-of-whack numbers, plus he’s under contract for next season, too, for $3 million. That shouldn’t interest the Tigers.
My ideal trade: Go get Benoit and Street from the Padres
One has played for the Tigers, and played well (Benoit), while the other (Street) has reportedly been in the Tigers crosshairs before. Adding them both to the mix is definitely a stretch, but would be quite the coup — and such a move might actually give the Tigers one of the top-five bullpens in the game, when you consider adding them to Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Al Alburquerque, Joel Hanrahan and a lefty, whether it be Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol or Phil Coke. Remember, the Tigers would likely be able to add an extra left-hander to the bullpen, in Drew Smyly. Question here is how able are the Padres to make trades right now? They just fired GM Josh Byrnes, replacing him in the interim with three men.
What a steal
There are bargains. Then there are Brad Mills.
The 29-year-old left-hander was traded from the Brewers to the A’s last week for “cash considerations” — which ended up being the whopping sum of one dollar. Yes, one dollar.
Since then, he’s pitched like a man worth, well, at least a few times that.
His first start, June 20 against the Red Sox, he was solid, though only went four innings. His latest start, Wednesday against the Mets, he turned in a quality start as the A’s won 8-5.
“I’m trying not to take it as a value judgment on my worth,” Mills quipped, to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mills had really good numbers this year at Triple-A Nashville in the Brewers organization, allowing just 51 hits in 75 innings. But an opt-out clause in his contract basically forced the Brewers hands in trading him for a price that even the A’s could afford.
Doesn't add up
There have been rumblings this week that Al Avila would be a nice fit as Padres GM. I’m not buying it.
Avila, the long-time right-hand man to Dombrowski, is paid handsomely in Detroit, he has more of a say than most assistant GMs, and he’s believed to be next in line once Dombrowski walks away — perhaps to the commissioner’s office.
And heading to San Diego without any assurances of a five- or even 10-year commitment probably would make no sense for Avila, who has spectacular job security in Detroit – thanks, in part, to superb talent-evaluation skills (J.D. Martinez was his find, for starters). Meanwhile, the Padres’ major-league roster is in bad shape, the minor-league system isn’t in much better shape, and they’re about to hire their third general manager since 2009.
A better situation, and perhaps Avila walks. But this one doesn’t add up.
Some no-hitter notes, in the wake of Tim Lincecum’s gem Wednesday afternoon:
■ Of the last seven no-hitters, Lincecum of the Giants and Homer Bailey of the Reds have accounted for four of them.
■ Lincecum, Bailey, Mark Buehrle and Justin Verlander are the active pitchers who have two no-hitters.
■ The San Francisco Giants had just four no-hitters through 2008, but have had four since 2009 – Jonathan Sanchez, Lincecum’s two, and Matt Cain’s perfect game.
■ This is the ninth time the Padres have been no-hit, yet they have yet to throw a no-hitter.
Three up …
1. Hard to imagine, but Clayton Kershaw might be getting better and better. This month, the Dodgers ace is 5-0 with a no-hitter — plus a 0.97 ERA and 0.621 WHIP.
2. It’s tough to consider the Rays a winner this week, given their record. But fact is, they’re about to strike gold when they trade their ace David Price in the coming weeks.
3. It’s official. There will be a “Beverly Hills Cop” remake, after all these years. This has nothing to do with baseball, but I don’t care. It’s the best news I’ve heard all week.
… and three down
1. A 1984 Tigers reunion always is a good time, but Monday’s 30th-anniversary celebration will be missing too many stars, including Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish.
2. Don Kelly has been a valuable member of the Tigers, as the 25th man, for years. But his time might be running short, with J.D. Martinez’s surge and Andy Dirks’ pending return.
3. The White Sox have more than enough hitting to contend in the AL Central, but the weak rotation has caught up to them. They’re looking more and more like sellers.
4 — Four times this year the Tigers’ Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez have homered in the same game.
25 — Career-best in home runs for Tigers DH Victor Martinez (2007), who has 20 in 74 games this year.
6/27/99 — The Kingdome hosts its last game in Seattle, with Mariners slugger Ken Griffey Jr. hitting the final home run, according to BaseballReference.com.
He said it
“He is still a kid to me. … I want to thank him for my trip to Cooperstown, no question.”
Joe Torre, legendary Yankees manager, talking to ESPN about Derek Jeter’s 40th birthday Thursday. Torre, who skippered four world champions in New York, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July.
Tune in to Detroit Sports 105.1 from noon-1 p.m. Saturday for a special edition of “Hardcore Baseball,” as Tony Paul hosts a tribute to the 1984 Tigers, featuring special guests, giveaways and more.