Detroit — When they were acting like baseball bandits for a couple of relatively merry months, stealing games, impressing fans with their derring-do, it was easy to forget why a Tigers team was expected by so many of us to lose 100 games.
They were going to get hurt when neither their pitching nor their hitters looked sturdy enough to beat all but baseball's worst teams, of which there are plenty in 2018.
Now the Tigers have lost six in a row. They might not boot 100, but they're going to get socked plenty during the season's final three months, as they did again Monday at Comerica Park, losing a crusher, 5-4, to the A's.
The Tigers are 36-43 a month from July's trade deadline. A rebuilding project big enough to rival Michigan's road refurbishing is in place at Comerica Park. Trades are needed to make a host of improvements to an organization still starved for big-league, All-Star-grade prospects.
His hang-up, as it appears here anyway, is that Tigers general manager Al Avila is cruising into July with too many warm — not hot — trade goods.
He has potentially less chance to make solid deals than he had a year ago when the market was uncommonly soft. The Tigers were able nonetheless, with some 11th-hour luck, to make swaps that a year later look as if they could be winners for a Detroit team working on a makeover.
Next month? It's a murky market, again, and it could shut out the Tigers when teams aren't — yet anyway — lining up to try and pry from Avila's hands Nick Castellanos, or Michael Fulmer, or Shane Greene, or Francisco Liriano, or anyone else the Tigers would agree to move for retail price.
Avila has been getting phone calls, as all GMs have been getting. But it's early. Not all of the buyers and sellers have figured out, with any surety, exactly what they want and at what price they might want it.
One exception came last week. The Nationals needed a high-horsepower bullpen closer and got him, at a modest price, from the Royals.
The Tigers have no players at the moment with Kelvin Herrera's sizzle.
The landscape can change in 30 days because of injuries and sudden areas of need or perceived need. But with a big, and perhaps eventful, month to go, here's what the Tigers and Avila are confronting with respect to players they would deal for a defensible price.
■ Castellanos: He's an outfielder who doesn't yet own the dynamite bat Detroit had a year ago in J.D. Martinez. Martinez was chased seriously by all of one team — the Diamondbacks — who finally dealt for a guy who put them into the playoffs. But that's how soft the 2017 trade mart was. At the moment, there's no great appetite for Castellanos, a .300-hitting outfielder who in 16 months becomes a free agent.
Would the Tigers consider offering a contract extension rather than allowing him to head into the free-agency sunset at the end of 2019? Sure. But there's no sign that what Castellanos and his agent will want is what the Tigers believe is worthwhile in locking him up for a longer stretch. The trade winds, or at least the trade breezes, will continue to swirl around Castellanos.
■ Fulmer: He's still young and still proving himself with neither the firepower nor the friendly contract that Chris Sale held when the White Sox spun Sale for a load of gold two summers ago.
Percentages say Fulmer will stick in Detroit at least for this season and perhaps for a good deal longer. The Tigers aren't giving him away at a discount. And shoppers to date have been sparse with respect to a right-hander who is better off, for now it appears, in Detroit.
■ Greene: Unlike the calls Avila was getting a year ago on Justin Wilson, Greene isn't being hunted with any particular passion by opposing GMs, who weren't any more zealous to bring aboard Greene after he got socked Monday for Jed Lowrie's game-winning homer.
Jose Iglesias? James McCann? The Tigers will move them, of course. But one can imagine the intrigue in a shortstop who is a free agent in autumn, and in a catcher who simply has not developed into the hitter, or defender, that would endear him to teams aiming for the playoffs.
Liriano? Mike Fiers? Matthew Boyd?
Now you're talking. But only if they pitch in July in ways that magnetize scouts who will be putting the telescope, and microscope, on every possible player or player who can make a difference over the season's final eight or 10 weeks.
Pitchers are the better bets there. They might be the Tigers' only hopes as Avila tries to add younger flesh that can help a team on a six-game skid ponder better years ahead.