Henning: Tigers' chances of making a deal slip in sour market

By Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Nick Castellanos

This must have been fun for a certain general manager on the last weekend of July.

Al Avila of the Tigers was in Cooperstown for the Alan Trammell-Jack Morris shindig. The Tigers had a big house rented and that was good because everyone this side of Ty Cobb’s ghost was there.

In the meantime, Avila, who otherwise runs a big-league baseball team when he’s not serving drinks to Tigers alums, was supposed to stay tight with his iPhone as a trade deadline hovered over the Hall of Fame drama.

The trade cutoff, as of Monday morning, was fewer than 30 hours away and the Tigers hadn’t yet made a deal. Nor was a single swap anticipated.

That’s how fluffy-soft is the 2018 mid-season market. A dinkier-than-normal group is looking for help and each and every one of them insists on paying wholesale. Little was expected to change, at least for the Tigers, by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. close, which, as everyone is quick to qualify, applies to non-waiver deals.

More: Henning: Trammell, Morris bring playing-days personalities to speeches

In other words, if you can push players through waivers in August, or allow a team to claim a waiver-available player and then work out a deal, you can still make swaps, as the Tigers confirmed last summer when they dealt their two prized Justins – Verlander and Upton – in August’s waning hours.

The Tigers remain deep in a customer-service line and, if internal forecasts hold, likely won’t connect on anything until late Tuesday afternoon, if at all.

Here’s how the handicapping stands:

Mike Fiers

Six quality starts in his last six turns confirms why Fiers should reign as Most Likely To Be Moved among all of Detroit’s deadline contestants. He can be a free agent next autumn and is eligible for arbitration after he wraps up his $6-million deal for 2018. With a 3.54 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and a 2.9 WAR, he can help any playoff-bound team.

And how many teams are rushing to a checkout lane toting Fiers in their shopping cart?

From all the best intelligence, not many, if there's even one.

Chance of being dealt: 20 percent

Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano

He has a left pitching arm and a light salary. That’s a handsome combination at deadline time. Or, rather, most years it would be. True, he puts a few too many people on base. He also has a slider a left-handed hitter would prefer not to see and a fastball that, when it’s popping, can make him a nifty choice to start or to relieve.

So why aren't contenders nibbling? Because the aisles are so full of inventory it looks like a grand opening at Meijer. If any team is chasing Liriano, they've been incredibly quiet.

Chance of being dealt: 10 percent

Leonys Martin

Decent left-handed bat with some thunder. Plays center field. Can torpedo advancing baserunners with his relays. The A’s, among a handful of clubs, need a left-handed hitter like Martin.

Of course, Martin hasn't been linked to a single club. That's 2018 for you.

Chance of being dealt: 10 percent

Jose Iglesias

Those who remember from yesteryear Chet Lemon’s second-half salary drives will have caught glimpses of the same phenomenon at work with Iglesias. He hit .304 in June and since the All-Star Game has a .930 OPS. He is three months from free agency.

As the sage Jim Leyland once said about impending free agents: “I love guys who are playing for groceries.”

The reality is Iglesias could have hit .600 this month and been equally ignored. The Tigers have made him a nightly menu special for the past two years. No one's interested.

Chance of being dealt: 2.5 percent

Shane Greene

He had a short disabled-list trip earlier this month but is healthy and is throwing relatively well. But notice this month that in seven games and in seven innings he has been socked for eight hits while striking out all of four batters. Most teams shopping late long ago decided they have better options.

Chance of being dealt: 0 percent

Nick Castellanos

Could turn interesting. Notice that Adam Jones of the Orioles will not waive his no-trade contract lingo. The Phillies are hunting for an outfielder with a bat. Believe there is one in Detroit that can be had for a proper price. That “proper” qualifier is where things tend to hang up.

Chance of being dealt: 15 percent

Blaine Hardy

Blaine Hardy

Not many mention Hardy in trade talk. But for a team looking at a left-handed starter/bullpen savior, why are they not beating on Avila in a bid to steal Hardy?

He has in 20 games this season with a 3.61 ERA, exactly his career ERA. He has this year a 1.23 WHIP. He is available, as is pretty much anyone on this team.

Chance of being dealt: 5 percent

Hardy ranks as the roster’s wildcard heading into Tuesday, which means he has a trade probability that's at least in plus figures.

And why, again, is this team so keen on distributing big-league flesh to other clubs?

It’s because the Tigers need gobs more flesh, in the form of multiple young prospects, who perhaps within our lifetime will coalesce with other young stallions to build a credibly rebuilt roster in Detroit.

That isn’t the case today, and it’s anything but a sure thing it happens in the next few years. This team needs excess help as it plans for a future resurrection.

Trades and some overdue good luck are about the only way that’s going to happen.


Twitter @Lynn_Henning