From now until baseball’s July 31st trade deadline, we’ll provide a roundup and analysis of the hottest rumors involving the hometown Detroit Tigers.
In the last several weeks, it’s become clear just what the Detroit Tigers plan to do prior to late July, and it has everything to do with finding reliable arms for the bullpen. The question many experts are attempting to answer is, will their move be for a big ticket closer or a smaller name?
In a column penned today, Jayson Stark of ESPN thinks a bigger name will become the choice—specifically Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies—and he believes the Tigers will be willing to pay the expected astronomical price to get him. In fact, one source that spoke with Stark downplayed the notion that Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t open for business as he’s been famously claiming.
“When Amaro says every 15 minutes that he has no desire to trade Cliff Lee, other clubs seem to believe him. But when the GM makes the same claims about Jonathan Papelbon? Different story. “They’re talking to Boston and Detroit [about Papelbon] right now,” an exec of one team said. “They may not say they are, but I know they are.” Said another: “Don’t be surprised if you see Papelbon end up in Detroit. If the Tigers have a chance to get the closer they need, they won’t let [a big asking price] stand in the way. So if you’re Ruben, how can you not do that if the Tigers step up the way I think they’re about to step up?”
Stark continues, naming the Tigers as his top summer buyer to watch later on in the column. The Tigers, Stark says, are now “all in” for owner Mike Ilitch as it relates to winning a World Series this year, and have all the necessary prospect elements in place to make a run for whomever their top trade target might be.
“They’ve got the pieces to cash in for what they need,” one exec said. “And they’ve got the motivation. They really want to win for [owner Mike Illitch]. And I think they’d just about back up the truck for the right piece.” If that means dealing one of their two most coveted young bats — Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia – other clubs say they’re willing to pay that price. And if they are, it’s hard to imagine the Tigers won’t get what they want.
While those rumblings are certainly delicious morsels, a few days ago, Jason Beck wrote that the Tigers are also scouting the Miami Marlins. Apparently of interest down south are Steve Cishek and Ryan Webb, two relievers without the big name credo and cost of a Papelbon. Cishek, Miami’s closer, has decent numbers, collecting 12 saves thus far this season with a 3.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts. Webb has been much more inconsistent as the Marlins’ setup man, posting a 3.44 ERA while walking 17. Neither of them, of course, should require a major return like Castellanos or Garcia.
No matter which path they end up choosing, the Tigers appear to be committed to solving their late inning problems with the addition of someone. As of right now, the biggest closer name available could be firmly on their radar while others continue to represent solid fallback options.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax