It’s never too early for trade talk. But this time, it’s with a little twist. It’s no secret that the Detroit Tigers will be big-time sellers this July barring a turnaround.
The Tigers are currently sitting third in the AL Central at 25-28. They are 3.5 games out of the first place Cleveland Indians. While a Detroit comeback is not impossible, it is unlikely against the defending AL Pennant victors.
The Tigers are not the worst team in the MLB. But they are slowly falling downhill due to breaking the bank and farm system, searching for that slippery World Series they could never quite grasp. The result is the formation of a team with too many washed up veterans and massive pay roll.
Guessing which players will be traded this July has become the new favorite pastime in Detroit. However, almost every veteran on the Tigers’ roster is up for speculation. So instead, let’s look at three players the Tigers wish they already traded—but may not be able to anymore.
In 2013, signing the man with the AL leading 2.57 ERA to a five-year deal seemed like a great idea. Now, not so much.
Nobody in a Tigers’ uniform has struggled more as of late than Sanchez. With an ERA of 4.99 in 2015, 5.87 in 2016 and a soul-crushing 9.00 in 2017, Sanchez is the classic example of a player who continually gets chances to succeed, but flops every time.
However, the Sanchez saga was not always this way. Most of his career was quite successful. From 2009 to 2014, Sanchez’s ERA was 3.47 with an average of 150 strikeouts per year.
The 2014-2015 offseason was the perfect time to trade Sanchez. However, this was before the Tigers’ front office was in total sellout mode. By waiting, Sanchez’s play earned him nothing more than a trip to AAA Toledo.
Tigers GM Al Avila will have no chance of trading Sanchez, and will likely be forced to buy out his contract for $5 million to make him a free agent after this year.
Nobody wants to see this Detroit legend retire with a different team, but it may be in the Tigers’ best interest. However, this trade is much more difficult to pull off now than ever before.
In 2011, Verlander won the Cy Young and MVP with an AL leading 2.40 ERA, 24 wins, 250 strikeouts and 251 innings pitched. Most of JV’s career has been sheer dynamite, up to his 2016 campaign where he finished second in the Cy Young race with a 3.04 ERA.
There was even a stretch where Verlander was on the no-hitter watch for any given game he started. But those days are gone.
Verlander’s 2017 stats put him at a 4-4 record with a 4.50 ERA. Verlander still shows flashes of his old self, but the days of him throwing 100 mph pitches complemented by killer curveballs are behind him.
No team will want to pay Verlander $28 million per year through 2019 unless he can make an immediate impact. But at age 34, Verlander’s statistics suggest that he just isn’t worth it. The Tigers may be able to trade Verlander if they agree to pay off a portion of his contract, but there is yet another hoop to jump through.
According to the 10-and-5 rights rule, any player that has played in the majors for ten years and for the same club five years has the right to veto any trade that is proposed.
A couple years ago, or even over the offseason, there may have been lots of teams interested in Verlander, giving the righty plenty of options. But now there are very few, and even if Avila does get a call, there is no guarantee that Verlander will pull the trigger.
When it comes to closing pitchers, every team is in one of two categories: the have’s or the have not’s. The latter is the larger category. Yet last year, the Tigers were in the former.
In 2016, Francisco Rodriguez owned the ninth inning with a 3.24 ERA and 44 saves. K-Rod is aging at 35, but Detroit likely would have received plenty of offers from teams in need of a closer over the offseason, so long as they were willing to pay $6 million for the final year of his contract.
But 2017 has been nothing short of a nightmare for Rodriguez, whose ERA has skyrocketed to 7.79 with multiple blown saves. He was even evicted from the closer role by Justin Wilson.
Rodriguez may have been trade bait had Avila dealt him over the offseason. But now, he might as well forget about it.