Chicago – It’s fluid, of course. Until the Aug. 1 trade deadline passes, anything can happen.
Or, as is most likely the case for the Tigers, nothing can happen.
General manager Al Avila made it clear before the game Saturday that all signs are pointing to the Tigers standing pat at the deadline.
“I'm not going to be real sexy at the trade deadline,” he said. “Obviously you guys want to write something sexy and something really exciting. You're looking for a big trade. But I am not anticipating that this year.”
He’s been consistent on that point all season. This team was put together in the offseason with a $200 million payroll to compete and get into the playoffs this season. Despite the injuries and inconsistencies, Avila has not wavered in his commitment to this team.
“I don't foresee us adding another starting pitcher or reliever at this point,” he said. “We have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and we put this team together in the wintertime thinking this is the team that's going to compete and get us into the playoffs. And we're going to stay the course.”
That’s not to say there won’t be additions to the roster come August. You already know their names.
“Right now, what we're really focusing on is trying to get the guys who are injured back and playing; those are going to be our major acquisitions,” he said. “There's nobody out there better than Jordan Zimmermann if he comes back healthy. Obviously J.D. Martinez and Daniel Norris – those are three guys we are focusing on getting back healthy and they will be big acquisitions shortly.”
All three could be back by early August. Norris pitched his rehab assignment with Toledo Saturday night in Norfolk. Zimmermann will make what could be the first of two rehab starts on Sunday.
Martinez is taking batting practice and throwing every day. He could start his rehab assignment within the next week to 10 days.
“In addition to that, we don't want to trade away our good young prospects for a two-month rental,” Avila said. “We think right now we have the team that can take us into the playoffs barring any other injuries. We are looking at winning right now, but we are also looking toward the future. We have to make both work.”
Avila said his phone lines were still wide open. If there is a suitable deal to be made, without having to give up top prospects, he will make it.
“I'm not saying we're not going to be open-minded to anything that might make sense,” he said. “Because coming closer to the Aug. 1 deadline, there may be something out there that makes sense. I can't rule it completely out. But I would say right now it's not a probable thing.”
He’s already looked into an upgrade for the back end of the team’s rotation. Nothing happening there.
“I have actually been in contact with several GMs that are in sell mode about their pitching and the asking price is to too high – even for a fifth starter,” he said. “I looked at some teams where we could maybe upgrade and in taking to our scouts and our staff, the quality of pitcher available doesn't really put us over the top, over the edge that much to say it warranted a big payback in a trade.”
As for being sellers at the deadline, Avila nixed that, too. He’s put it on the players to keep that from changing in the next week or so.
“I think this team is going to continue to win,” he said. “Obviously, we've got to keep playing well. We have two tough games left here and we've got Boston in Boston. They are tough over there. They can hit and it's a great team. It's a tough task ahead of us.
“These guys have to step up to the challenge and play well and win some games. If they do, we will continue to move forward and get into the playoffs with this team.”
Avila said teams have inquired about the availability of several of the Tigers’ players, but he’s told them what he’s telling everybody – he’s not in sell mode.
“I’m not going to mention names, but yeah, there’s guys that might be attractive to other teams,” he said. “But, like I said, we’re trying to win.”
He was asked if there was any scenario where he’d be selling.
“I do not see that scenario right now, not today,” he said. “I can’t say it can’t change between now and Aug. 1. But sitting here today, I’m hoping that that doesn’t happen.”
It may not sell newspapers or get ratings on talk radio, but it’s exactly what the players and manager Brad Ausmus have been campaigning for – to stand pat and make a playoff run.
“I would say (standing pat) is the most realistic option sitting here today,” Avila said. “Which is probably what’s best for the team this year and moving forward in the future. It might not be the sexiest thing, but it is what it is.”