The Tigers should be sellers this summer, that much is abundantly clear after an 0-for-Ohio sweep at the hands of the Reds and Indians, if it wasn’t clear before. But that doesn’t exactly mean they should trade every player on the roster.
Rebuilding doesn’t just mean selling. The “building” part of a rebuild should be where a team executive spends his time.
In team building, the currency you have to work with is both money to spend, and the future value of players and prospects. So the first part of a rebuild is naturally the selling part. Either because of age or where their contracts end, some players aren’t going to be around when a team should be expected to compete again. Other players might present a team with so much value that trading them can bring in numerous strong prospects that help speed up the process.
You’re trying to turn the assets of today into the assets of tomorrow. And if you can save money on salary, that’s money that can be spent elsewhere later. That’s something that’s pretty easy to understand.
That’s only part of it, though.
A good rebuild isn’t supposed to be a fire sale. You have to assess where every player is on the curve of their career and their salary, and decide who’ll be valuable providing a bridge to the future. You’ve also got to figure out at what point a player’s value will be highest and how they’ll fit into your future needs. Holding a veteran too long can mean you get less value — either to your own team or in a trade. Trading a player too soon could mean you’re selling at a low point. And trading a player for less than his value just means you’re letting another team take advantage of it instead.
All of that is to say, Tigers general manager Al Avila has his work cut out for him as we approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He’s got quite a few players whose names come up, at least among fans and analysts, in trade talks. The best decision isn’t necessarily just to trade everyone.
With that in mind, here are three players Avila should look to move, three he should build around, and three that could go either way.
Players to trade
Jose Iglesias: You can trade Iglesias because there’s really no reason not to. He’s a free agent after this season. If a team needs a sure-handed shortstop, he’s their man. The real question is whether any of those teams will arise.
Leonys Martin: Martin signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with Detroit to rebuild his value. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career, if not the best. Getting what you can out of him now is a no-brainer for the Tigers.
Shane Greene: Contenders need closers. Rebuilding teams do not. Greene is still early enough in his career that you could see him as part of the bullpen in 2020, when the Tigers’ young pitching staff should make them an upstart contender. But he’ll cost too much to keep during the true competitive window that begins later. While it can’t hurt to hold him another year, bringing in prospects today that will be ready to go around 2020-21 makes the most sense.
Players to keep
Joe Jimenez: Jimenez isn’t eligible for free agency until 2024. He’s the Tigers’ closer of the future. You don’t say he’s untouchable, but … he’s pretty close. This is one of those players you just hope to have in your bullpen. There’s just no reason to trade him now.
Michael Fulmer: In boggles the mind that Fulmer’s name comes up in trade discussion so often. Before this year, his projected future value was so high that it would take not just the top prospect in baseball, but multiple top-five prospects to make this a smart deal for Detroit. True, he’s not having the best year of his professional career. But that’s a pretty good reason not to trade him, too.
Jeimer Candelario: Candelario is in his first full MLB season, and he’s already the best all-around player on the team. He’s keeping up with Castellanos at the plate, and playing about average defense at third base. Put it all together and you’ve got the most valuable player on the team. The 24-year-old is a building block, not a trade chip.
Players to hold, for now
Nick Castellanos: Castellanos is a nice bargain right now, at $6 million owed this season and another year of arbitration before he can declare for free agency. He’s the Tigers’ best batter right now, but keep it in perspective: he’s neither one of the best batters in the game, nor even average as a fielder. He’s probably not a piece to build around, but might be more valuable to hold onto for a while longer.
Matthew Boyd: Boyd would have been on my “sell” list as recently as a week ago. He’s having a breakout season and might never have value as high as it is now. On the other hand, he’s stumbled a bit lately. He’s not even arbitration eligible before 2020 and can’t declare for free agency before 2023, so there’s no reason to make a move if the right offer isn’t there.
Alex Wilson: Wilson has one more year of arbitration eligibility coming up and will be a free agent after 2019. He’s a veteran reliever with a 4.00 ERA, and should certainly be able to provide some value to a team’s bullpen. It seems unlikely the Tigers would get much for him right now, so they’re best off holding him to see if a market develops later on.
Kurt Mensching is a freelance writer.