Henning: Look for Tigers to chase one of these starters

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Jeff Samardzija

Detroit -- Dave Dombrowski has a habit he hasn't wished to break since the Tigers became either a regular playoff team or at least a contestant for an October playoff seat.

He often deals for a starting pitcher. And he likely will do it again this month ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

Recall some past deals, all of which came in the waning days of July:

Jarrod Washburn arrived from the Mariners in 2009, although Washburn quickly got hurt and wasn't a factor. Two years later, Dombrowski revisited the Mariners to grab Doug Fister. In 2012, it was Anibal Sanchez who was plucked from the Marlins. Last summer, Dombrowski, the Tigers general manager, snared David Price from Tampa Bay just as the summer shopping doors were closing.

This season is different for the Tigers only in that there is debate about which path the Tigers should pursue. Do they go for broke and add a starter, even if the team is deprived of an injured Miguel Cabrera for the next month or more?

Or, should they resign themselves to 2015 not being their year and, rather than add a pitcher, begin selling off valuable parts for potentially valuable returns, which, in their case, would include advertising the very starter, Price, they spent heavily in snaring last July?

Expect the Tigers to go a single route Dombrowski and his boss, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, will almost certainly favor as long as the divisional math supports it -- shooting for the playoffs, which means a starting pitcher is all but guaranteed for Comerica Park sometime this month.

The Tigers need pitching help for a basic reason applicable to 2015: They are still in the playoff chase, even if Tuesday they were in third place and 5.5 games behind first-place Kansas City.

They are down one starter due to Shane Greene's troubles that last month earned him a ticket to Triple-A Toledo. There is no sign he is ready to return.

The Tigers have also watched Alfredo Simon unravel and look as if he might be ready to repeat his 2014 second-half tailspin with the Reds.

With former ace Justin Verlander working his way back after a nearly three-month layoff, the Tigers not only need rotation help, they need a boost so dramatic fans are right to wonder if such a trade is helpful or even rational.

But, almost surely, Ilitch and Dombrowski won't give up. Nor, really, should they. For these reasons:

* Price is fine. So, probably, is Anibal Sanchez, who has had issues with home-run balls but who remains superbly skilled and who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his last start.

* Verlander, contrary to popular opinion, should be worth 6-7 quality innings as he works his way back from a long layoff due to a strained triceps.

Add one more reliable starter to the mix and the Tigers have enough potential rotation power to wait out Cabrera's injury.

Dombrowski would not say last week how the Tigers might pursue July and their seemingly clear need for a starter. He said he would not tip his hand toward plans that might affect coming or ongoing trade talks.

But every one of big-league baseball's other 29 clubs knows Dombrowski's history, as well as Detroit's obvious needs in July.

Those clubs also know the Tigers are scheduled to lose Price and Simon to free agency in the autumn, which means, in an ideal world, the Tigers will want a starter whom they can rely upon past 2015.

That reduces the July's trade targets, dramatically, given the overwhelming number of starters who, like Price and Simon, are headed for freedom this fall.

Cole Hamels

The Tigers, though, will be listening. They'll likely decide that a solid four-man rotation, counting this month's acquisition, will allow them to yet contend in '15. They likely can scramble at the No. 5 spot (Simon, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer, etc.) in a bid to squeeze out a fifth consecutive playoff spot.

Their targets?

On the list of those who would provide immediate help ahead of October free agency are: Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake of the Reds; Mat Latos and Dan Haren, Marlins; Jeff Samardzija, White Sox; Aaron Harang of the Phillies; and Scott Kazmir, A's, but only if Oakland decides to wave the white flag on 2015.

Players with longer contracts the Tigers might prefer are problematic, to say the least: Cole Hamels, the Phillies ace regarded as July's top prize, is hyper-expensive (trade demands and remaining contract); and John Danks of the White Sox.

Hamels, making $22.5 million this year, will earn the same amount in 2016, 2017 and 2018, with a $20 million club option in 2019. Danks' contract: $14.25 million this year and next.

Or, consider a left-hander who might be the Tigers' most feasible option: Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies, who walks a few too many batters but who is signed through 2016 and who might love trading Coors Field and its thin air for a lovely pitcher's park, Comerica, which, more than likely will be welcoming a new starter in the weeks ahead.