The way an entire outlook of a season can change in just a few days is baffling, and the Detroit Tigers are right in the middle of an unforeseen development — winning five consecutive games and six of seven.
The Tigers (16-16) started the season 9-5 but dropped off the AL Central map with a nine-game losing streak. Still, they regrouped with a team meeting in Chicago on Aug. 19 and returned to their winning ways displayed earlier in the shortened 60-game season.
And just like that, Detroit is in the hunt with 28 games remaining, trailing the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL’s final playoff spot by two games. That makes Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline even tougher to gauge, as general manager Al Avila won’t consider his squad buyers or sellers because of the uncertain market.
“We’re not really looking to add a big piece and trade away any of our young prospects,” Avila said Thursday. “At the same time, if we add a player that we can better ourselves for next year or this year or in the near future, then, obviously, we have to be open-minded to listen to that. But if that trade is not there, frankly, we like our team, and we’ll keep our team together. We’ll keep trying to win.”
The Tigers need to honestly answer one question: Can we make the playoffs? If not, the organization should be more than willing to trade its players on one-year contracts — second baseman Jonathan Schoop, catcher Austin Romine, outfielder Cameron Maybin and right-hander Ivan Nova — even if there isn’t a massive return.
But if Avila believes the Tigers can make the postseason, he might be more inclined to stay put, possibly making no trades at all or giving up an unneeded player on a short-term contract (probably Maybin or Nova).
“I put that in their hands,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday about his front office staff. “They know exactly the needs of his ballclub, and if they come and ask me questions, I’ll get them my answer, a frank answer.
“Normally, if it’s a player that’s going to come and fit in our lineup or a pitcher that’s going to go in the rotation, we’ll talk about it, you know, how are you going to use this guy if we do this? That type of stuff, but it’s small talk. There’s a lot of very intelligent people up there in that room talking about these things.”
Don’t expect these players from the Tigers’ 28-man roster to be dealt: right-hander Casey Mize, left-hander Tarik Skubal, lefty reliever Gregory Soto, righty reliever Bryan Garcia, third baseman Isaac Paredes and infielder Willi Castro (who is training in the outfield to become a utility player).
Only members from teams’ 60-man player pool this season are officially allowed to be traded, but several teams have used “player to be named later” language as a loophole.
There are a handful of Tigers, including those who won’t be free agents until following seasons, that the franchise could consider trading for a prospect or two — if they don’t think they can make the playoffs. A few options to watch are pitchers Daniel Norris, Matthew Boyd, Buck Farmer, and Jose Cisnero, outfielder JaCoby Jones and third baseman Jeimer Candelario.
While the Tigers could seek a trade, there are substantial complications. The biggest one: Teams that might otherwise be sellers are still in contention, thanks to the expanded 16-team postseason. That has chilled the market, leaving the general price of short-term upgrades in flux.
Still, the weekend saw some of the AL’s worst teams shipping out talent, and the San Diego Padres were buyers in the NL West. Boston turned first baseman Mitch Moreland into prospects from the Padres, who also picked up reliever (and ex-Tiger) Trevor Rosenthal from the Royals and catcher Jason Castro from the Angels. Earlier in the week, the Seattle Mariners bolstered the Blue Jays’ playoff push with a pair of trades, sending righty Taijuan Walker (for a PTNBL) and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach (for cash) to Toronto.
“There are some teams that are looking for pitching, as always,” Avila said. “But in saying that, it’s really hard to gauge how much a team really is going to go out and try to add, and how much they’re willing to give to add in this short period of time.”
That leaves the Tigers in wait-and-see mode as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila makes MLB trade deadline promise