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Detroit Tigers: Youth Will Be Key to Improving Offense and Winning in 2015

The Detroit Tigers are one of the most star-studded teams in baseball, specifically on offense. From Miguel Cabrera to Victor Martinez to Ian Kinsler to Yoenis Cespedes, there are plenty of high-profile names in the Detroit clubhouse.

However, while all four players will be important factors to the Tigers achieving the ultimate success next season, young players will ultimately play the most important collective role—improving the bench and the bottom of the lineup.

Detroit has won four American League Central titles, made it to three straight American League Championship Series and went to the 2012 World Series mainly on star power.

Sure, their batting lineup was phenomenal, but the players at the back end of the team’s roster weren’t exactly world beaters.

The perfect example of this occurred during Game 3 of the Tigers’ ALDS matchup with the Orioles.

Down by two runs entering the bottom of the ninth and needing a rally to extend their postseason hopes, the Tigers sent Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Bryan Holaday (who was subbing for an injured Alex Avila) to the plate.

Victor Martinez doubled to start the inning, while J.D. followed with a double of his own to bring the Tigers within one run.

The next batter, Holaday, promptly struck out. Nick Castellanos was intentionally walked, which brought the lineup around to the shortstop’s place in the batting order. The lighter-hitting Andrew Romine was removed for Hernan Perez. Perez grounded into a double play that ended the game and the Tigers’ season.

Perez is a player with solid potential who could be a consistent offensive contributor down the line but wasn’t the right player to hit in that spot. He’s played all of 44 games in the majors in the past three seasons.

Sadly, Perez was the best option. Eugenio Suarez was the only other player available off the bench at that moment, and he only managed a .570 OPS in the second half of the season.

Suarez was the last man on the bench due to the loss of Austin Jackson and some substitutions earlier in the game.

After losing Jackson in the David Price trade, the team was forced to play Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez and Torii Hunter as the preferred outfield trio. This replaced the predicament of having four quality outfielders rotating between three spots.

Post-Price trade, the Tigers bench generally consisted of some combination of Don Kelly, Ezequiel Carrera, Holaday and Suarez or Romine (depending on who wasn’t starting).

With the exception of Kelly, who has a penchant for timely postseason hits and can play almost anywhere on the diamond as well as Romine—who brings defense and speed—there isn’t much there that will win Detroit a game.


Improving the Bench

Enter the Tigers young players, who should give the team more quality depth—depth that could push the team over the hump and allow them to claim the World Series trophy that has evaded them in years past.

Detroit’s pinch hitters produced a measly .182 batting average and an awful .297 slugging percentage.

The Tigers have inadvertently made strides to improve this. Newly acquired center fielder Anthony Gose will at the very least push Davis into a platoon role in center field. This means that Davis will be on the bench for many games.

Should Gose improve on his .226 batting average in 2014 and continue to play stellar defense, he may win the job outright.

This would not be a bad thing.

While Davis didn’t exactly light it up as a substitute (.250 batting average when coming off the bench in 2014), he does possess qualities that teams look for in a bench player—pop (37 extra-base-hits) and speed (36 steals in 2014, meaning he won’t have to be removed for a pinch runner).

The former Pittsburgh Pirate also hit .356 against right-handed pitching, posted a .302 clip with runners in scoring position and had a collective .315 average in the seventh through ninth innings.  

Along with Davis, manager Brad Ausmus will have his pick of players. Highly regarded prospect Steven Moya plays like a more athletic Adam Dunn with the same, if not more, raw power and an ability to hit for average (.276 batting average at Double-A).

Fellow outfielder Tyler Collins provides a solid blend of speed and pop, while catching prospect James McCann shows the ability to succeed on both sides of the ball thanks to a .295 batting average in Triple-A and a strong, defense-first reputation.

All of these players should vastly improve Detroit’s bench in 2015.  


Solidifying the Bottom of the Lineup

Even if the young players aren’t reserve players, like Jose Iglesias (24) and Castellanos (22), they can still improve the team’s overall depth.

The Tigers’ depth was exposed by the Orioles not just on the bench, but also at the bottom of the lineup. Detroit has multiple batters hitting sixth hit a cumulative .226. A massive drop off from the .299 clip number five hole hitters posted. The seventh spot in the order produced a collective .249 batting average. The eighth spot turned in a .241 number, while the nine hole came in with a .248 batting average.

These trends should be helped by the arrival of Cespedes. He or J.D. Martinez will hit sixth for Ausmus, providing an immediate upgrade.

Similarly, if Iglesias hits anywhere near the .259 mark he posted in Detroit after coming over from Boston, he will also provide a definite upgrade at shortstop and at the bottom of the lineup. An improvement on that .259 number isn’t out of the question either. Should that occur, it would be icing on the cake.  

Castellanos is another young player who stands a strong chance to improve in 2015. Long touted as the best hitting prospect in the Tigers’ system, Castellanos produced 31 doubles and drove in 66 runs as a rookie. His .259 batting average (coincidentally identical to Iglesias’) should improve as well with more experience. Should that happen, his statistics should improve across the board.

Should Iglesias, Castellanos and Gose all improve on their 2014 numbers, the Tigers will no longer have a bottom-of-the-order that is perceived as a handful of easy outs. Should the bench improve, the team may finally have an offense equipped to succeed in the postseason and ultimately win a World Series.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: If Rick Porcello Is Dealt, Tigers Need Max Return, Viable Trades

Last offseason, the Detroit Tigers traded away Doug Fister. This time around, Rick Porcello could be the one to go.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Porcello is drawing trade interest from around the league.

After all, we have heard that Porcello has been linked to the Marlins—per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports—while Jayson Stark of points out that Boston would be a fit.  

So, why deal a pitcher in Porcello who just won 15 games and posted a 3.43 ERA in what was widely regarded as a breakout season?

Answer: for salary purposes.

Even before re-signing Victor Martinez, Detroit had a lot—and I mean a lot—of salary tied up going forward. has a fantastic chart that shows future salary obligations. Even before Martinez’s new contract, Detroit had more long-term money tied up than the Yankees. Yes, the same Yankees that seemingly don’t understand the word “overpay.”

Silly, absurd, exorbitant (maybe even necessary)—any of these terms would be acceptable in describing the salary situation.  

But back to Porcello. The only way Detroit will deal him is to save cash.

The former first-round pick will hit free agency after the coming season, and should he continue to pitch like he did in 2014, he could command upward of $100 million on his next contract. Throw in an arbitration raise this season, and you’re talking about a supersized wad of cash.

Should the Tigers’ general manager Dave Dombrowski decide to trade Porcello before his price tag becomes too expensive, he’ll need to receive the maximum in return.

Dombrowski has played this game before—in 2009 he dealt Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson to New York and Arizona, respectively, to avoid giving either a massive payday.

Granderson and Jackson would later be paid in full, but Dombrowski was able to turn the pair into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke.

Dombrowski attempted the same feat last offseason by dealing Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Robbie Ray, Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi.

The team saved some cash on Fister, but it is left with only Krol after Ray and Lombardozzi were dealt in separate trades. Ray brought back starter Shane Greene, while Lombardozzi was traded for the since-departed Alex Gonzalez.

Ideally, trading Porcello would bring Detroit a return similar to the one received for Granderson and Jackson, but Dombrowski must be cautious and not repeat the Fister fiasco.

Fister has developed into one of the top 20 pitchers in the league, while the Tigers were left with scratch-off lottery tickets.

If Porcello continues on that trajectory (which is perfectly plausible given his performances last season), Dombrowski would need to receive the best possible return. Detroit is in win-now mode and can’t afford another setback similar to Fister.  

In would-be trade talks, Porcello should be marketed as a potential ace, or at the very least a high-end No. 2. The better the perceived value, the better the return. After all, Dombrowski did acquire a Cy Young winner for Edwin Jackson.

Detroit’s general manager should look to emulate his counterpart in Boston. At the 2014 trade deadline, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington flipped John Lackey and a minor leaguer to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.

There are two things of note with the Lackey trade. The first is that Craig and Kelly were established big leaguers with successful track records. Craig made the All-Star team in 2013, while Kelly was an integral part of a deep St. Louis rotation. The second is that Lackey was 35 at the time of the trade.

Sure, Craig and Kelly were in the midst of down years, but Boston acquired a middle-of-the-order bat and a potential No. 2 or 3 starter for a 35-year-old.

Yes, you read that correctly: a 35-year-old.

Did I mention Craig can play right field as well as first base?

You may be thinking to yourself, why do I care how old Lackey is? Well, his age matters because he’s considerably older than Porcello.

Not only is the former Angel a decade older than Porcello, but the argument can be made that Porcello is the better pitcher at this point in time.

It poses this question: If a 35-year-old and declining John Lackey can net two players who were part of St. Louis’ nucleus and are now part of Boston’s, how much can Rick Porcello bring in return?


Miami Marlins

With Miami reportedly interested and Boston a trade fit, the Tigers brass should be asking this terribly long (and unlikely to be similarly worded) question.

Both teams certainly have enviable assets that would tempt Detroit.

Miami is in win-now mode. The Fish gave Giancarlo Stanton enough money to fix a small country’s economy and shipped two prospects to Kansas City for former All-Star reliever Aaron Crow. Ergo, they may be willing to part with some of their talented youngsters if it means winning sooner and avoiding the wait game.

One appealing trade target for Detroit would be center fielder Marcell Ozuna.

Ozuna swatted 23 home runs in 2014 and drove in 85 runs—both exceptional numbers for a center fielder. The Marlins would be without a center field, but given their seemingly aggressive nature on the market, they could find a replacement elsewhere.

Detroit could use Ozuna in a three-man rotation with Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis to cover center and right field. The Marlins center fielder mashed right-handed hitters last season with a .275 batting average. In addition, 45 of his 54 extra-base hits came against righties.

Given Crow’s acquisition and Detroit’s chronic bullpen woes, one of Miami’s many excellent relievers could be part of the return. However, a starting pitcher would be the likely target. Nathan Eovaldi or Jarred Cosart could thrive with the Tigers.

Both are young, relatively affordable for the foreseeable future and happen to possess power fastballs—something that’s more often than not part of the job requirement in Detroit.

Anibal Sanchez flourished in Detroit after coming over from Miami in 2012. Maybe one of these two is the next Marlin to flourish in Motown.

Acquiring Ozuna and Eovaldi/Cosart certainly would be a worthy trade for Detroit, helping the squad win now and later. Losing two of those players would be tough for Miami, but the other side of the coin is that the Fish would be able to pair Porcello with Jose Fernandez and form one of the top one-two combinations in the league.


Boston Red Sox

While Miami has assets across the board, so to speak, Boston’s best trade chips all play the same position—the outfield.

One of the Internet’s finest writers published a wonderful slideshow looking at which Red Sox outfielder is the best trade fit for the Tigers. (It’s not me…really, I swear it’s not my writing…OK fine, it’s me.)

While Yoenis Cespedes has been widely tabbed as a player who’ll be traded this offseason, he wouldn’t be the best fit in Detroit.

Cespedes is essentially a two-trick pony. He has a cannon of an arm and can hit a baseball 500 feet. Other than those two strengths, his game is lacking. Cannon arm or not, he isn’t spectacular defensively. In addition, his on-base percentage during the last two years is below .300 (.298), which is concerning at best.

Instead of Cespedes, Detroit would be better off with Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts. Both possess better all-around games than Cespedes and are considerably younger—Castillo is 27 and Betts is 22.

Corner outfielder, righty-masher and platoon expert extraordinaire Daniel Nava wouldn’t be a bad throw-in, either.

In addition to a bevy of talented young hitters, Miami has the young pitchers to match with hurlers like Cosart and Eovaldi. Boston is a different story. The Red Sox’s young and talented starting pitchers (Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster) have a combined 25 major league starts.

At 26, Kelly (whom you’ll remember from a certain John Lackey trade) may be the best option for the Tigers in any Porcello trade. Kelly played a key role in St. Louis, posting a sparkling 3.08 ERA in 61 appearances and 231 innings.  


In Conclusion

It’s no surprise that Porcello is a coveted player on the trade market. The former first-round pick finally seems to be cashing in on his potential.

Porcello is cashing in on his potential metaphorically, but he could literally cash in on it when he hits free agency next offseason. This likely occurrence will be expensive for Porcello’s employers. Very expensive.

Detroit could cut bait on Porcello, similar to how it offloaded Fister. If this happens, the team’s brass must ask for everything in return, so to speak.

Porcello is a legitimate front-line starter and must be valued as such. “Fister Fiasco 2.0” can’t happen, not for a Tigers team in win-now mode. Miami and Boston are two destinations. While both have exciting players, Miami may be the better option thanks to the Fish’s superior pitching.

The bottom line is that if Porcello is dealt, Dombrowski and the Tigers can’t accept anything less than a king’s ransom.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Is a Start, but M’s Need More Hitters

The Seattle Mariners have reportedly signed Nelson Cruz. Yancen Pujols of the Dominican newspaper El Caribe reported the news, which was confirmed by’s Jerry Crasnick.

The former Rangers slugger will make his return to the American League West after a one-year hiatus in Baltimore, where he mashed 40 home runs and drove in 108 runs.

Cruz gives the Mariners a three-headed monster in the middle of the order that also features Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. For manager Lloyd McClendon, it’s a poor man’s version of the trio (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez) he coached in Detroit.

While not as fearsome as Detroit’s grouping, Seattle’s trio finally gives the M’s the complete set of sluggers they have been searching for.

The middle of the Mariners lineup is complete, but the batting order is far from it.

In terms of OPS, Seattle received below-average production from every position except second and third base—positions where Seager and Cano receive the lion’s share of at-bats. These low numbers should change in 2015.

First base and center field will be greatly improved with Logan Morrison and Austin Jackson, respectively, playing full seasons, while Cruz will solidify the designated hitter position. In addition, catcher and shortstop should see continued improvements from youngsters Mike Zunino and Chris Taylor.

That leaves the corner outfield spots as the only positions susceptible to change.

Seattle’s right fielders (namely Michael Saunders, Endy Chavez and Stefen Romero) ranked 17th in OPS in the league. Dustin Ackley received the majority of the at-bats in left field. Ackley and the Mariners’ other left fielders ranked 21st in OPS.  

It’s entirely possible that none of the previously mentioned four hitters will be in the Opening Day lineup in 2015.

According to Crasnick, the Mariners have reportedly shopped Saunders. In addition, Chavez is 36, and Romero hit .192 in 177 plate appearances.

At 26 years old, Ackley hasn’t lived up to the potential that made him the second overall pick. That, combined with Ackley’s ability to play multiple positions, makes him better suited as a utility player.

An outfielder like Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton would be an outstanding addition. But at this point, with a middle-of-the-order trio in place, Cespedes or Upton would be a costly luxury that would likely mean the loss of Taijuan Walker or James Paxton.

Seattle should be going after complementary bats in the mold of Jackson or Morrison—players who can fill out the top of the lineup card and, more importantly, the sixth through ninth spots in the order.

Cano, Cruz and Seager are fantastic, but someone has to hit between them and Zunino (who’ll likely hit toward the bottom of the lineup).

Players like Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, Torii Hunter and Alejandro De Aza are all attainable, as is old friend Ichiro Suzuki. Melky Cabrera is another name to watch.

Cabrera finished 2014 with an .808 OPS, good for 33rd in all of baseball. His OPS was higher than potential teammate Seager, as well as established stars like Albert Pujols, Josh Donaldson, Adam Jones and Ryan Braun.

Hunter—who is looking at Seattle along with a handful of other teams, according to Mark Whicker of OCRegister.comwasn’t far behind Cabrera with a .765 OPS. Byrd posted a .757 OPS.  

The moral of the story here is that there are options out there for the M’s.

Signing Cruz is a start, but the Mariners need more hitters to fill out the lineup. Whether they accomplish the feat by trade (Byrd or potentially De Aza) or free agency (Hunter, Cabrera, et al.), the team will have plenty of attractive options.

Once this happens, the M’s offense will no longer be second fiddle to the team’s outstanding pitching. Once this happens, the M’s will finally experience October baseball.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Which Red Sox Outfielder Is the Best Trade Fit?

The Detroit Tigers are natural trade partners with the Boston Red Sox.

Detroit has a need in the outfield, and Boston has enough quality players at that position to fill starting outfields for three teams.

Boston has beefed up its batting order thanks to the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but its starting pitchers could use some help. Clay Buchholz is the best of the bunch, but he posted an ugly stat line that included 11 losses and a 5.34 ERA.

The rumored target for Boston is Rick Porcello, according to Frank Pimentel of MLB Hot Corner.

There are pros and cons in dealing Porcello. He may grow too rich for Detroit’s blood, and the team could move on from him.

The downside in dealing him is that he could prove that his breakout season in 2014 was no fluke. If the Tigers don’t get a suitable replacement, they could find themselves in the same situation they found themselves in with Doug Fister last season.

Whether Porcello is dealt to the Red Sox, the Tigers still make ideal trading partners with Boston.

Through free agency and trades, Boston has stockpiled an abundance of outfielders. They include Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr,, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig and Daniel Nava.

Ramirez, Castillo, Holt and Victorino can be crossed off as potential fits. Ramirez and Castillo were only recently signed, while Holt is better suited to a utility role.

Victorino would be an ideal fit, but he is in the final year of a three-year, $39 million deal. He’d be a fit with Detroit if Boston ate money in a trade.

That leaves Cespedes, Betts, Bradley Jr., Craig and Nava.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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3 Seattle Mariners Who Could Be with Different Clubs Next Season

The 2014 season was a success for the Seattle Mariners. The team improved by 16 wins, transforming a 71-win team into an 87-win team.

The 2014 season was also one of change. Seattle brought in a new manager, Lloyd McClendon, and a player, Robinson Cano, who immediately became the co-face of the franchise along with Felix Hernandez.

In addition to Cano, the team brought in a bevy of new players who paid dividends. Included in the group was American League Comeback Player of the Year Chris Young, who posted 12 wins and a 3.65 ERA in 30 starts.

In addition, the team brought in ace reliever Joe Beimel and closer Fernando Rodney to solidify its bullpen. Beimel posted a 2.20 ERA, while Rodney led the league with 48 saves. Lastly, first baseman Logan Morrison provided the team with an injection of offense. Morrison posted an OPS of .735 in 2014—higher than that of Ian Kinsler, Joe Mauer, Evan Longoria and Dustin Pedroia.

Despite those changes, the team just missed the playoffs. With a solid pitching staff already in place, the Mariners should look to improve their offense in 2015.

Seattle was reportedly interested in Hanley Ramirez and Victor Martinez but missed out on both. Either would have filled the need for a cleanup hitter.

If the M’s want to contend in 2015, they’ll need to improve their offense. If the offense improves, changes will be necessary thanks to last season’s woefully underperforming unit. Here are three Mariners who could be with different clubs next season.  


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Seattle Mariners: How to Acquire Matt Kemp, Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes

The Seattle Mariners need a cleanup hitter. What position that hitter plays remains to be seen. The club was reportedly interested in shortstop Hanley Ramirez, but it lost out on the former Dodger when he signed with the Red Sox.

With Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas also off the board, the number of chairs is dwindling. The music isn’t close to ending, but the M’s list of potential targets is shrinking.

Seattle’s need for a middle-of-the-order bat happily coincides with the team’s need for a corner outfielder. The corner outfield spots are generally regarded as traditional power positions (and luckily for the M’s there are numerous possibilities).

Matt Kemp’s name has been trade-rumor fodder for months—if not the last year—due to a hefty contract, a slight decline in play and an overcrowded Dodger outfield.

Another trade option is Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton. The former Diamondback reportedly removed the M’s from his no-trade list, and Atlanta could be open to trading its star outfielder after sending Jason Heyward to St. Louis.

Seattle previously attempted to acquire Upton while he was in Arizona, but the outfielder vetoed a deal that would have involved Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin (among others), per Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.

Like Kemp, Boston outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is part of an overcrowded outfield and could conceivably be dealt.

Should one of those three (or another trade target of their ilk) be acquired, he won’t come cheap. Each one of the three previously mentioned players comes from a team with specific needs.


Matt Kemp

Any trade conversation between the M’s and Dodgers must start with Los Angeles eating a majority of Kemp’s salary. While still a productive player, Kemp is not the player he was in 2011 when he finished runner-up in the MVP voting. The outfielder hit a good-but-not-great .287 last season.

As mentioned, the Dodgers lost Hanley Ramirez to Boston and thus are without a shortstop. The Mariners have two of these in youngsters Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. It’s unclear if Los Angeles would be interested in either. Surely it has a need at the position, but the two have only played in a combined 246 games. That kind of experience at a crucial position isn’t ideal for a team with major championship aspirations.

Los Angeles’ other glaring need is that of a starting pitcher. Former Colorado swing-man Juan Nicasio is slated to be the fifth starter in a rotation that features, among others, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Nicasio posted a 5.38 ERA in 33 appearances (14 of which were starts) for Colorado in 2014. His career ERA is a smidgen smaller at 5.03.

Unless Nicasio posts improved numbers, the team will need better quality and pitching.

Seattle has plenty of intriguing prospects in its system, such as Tyler Pike and Danny Hultzen. However, with the Dodgers in need of pitching now, Roenis Elias could be in play. The rookie starter made the jump to the majors in 2014 and put up 10 wins and a 3.85 in 29 starts.

A package of Miller and Elias for Kemp and a lower-level prospect could get the deal done. The Dodgers will have to eat a good portion of Kemp’s salary in the swap, but the acquisition of two young players like Miller and Elias would probably mean the inclusion of a minor prospect on Los Angles’ part to even things out.


Justin Upton

While similar in terms of what they could provide the Mariners with, Upton and Kemp are very different in other areas—mainly age and salary. Upton is 27 to Kemp’s 30. In addition, Upton’s contract expires after 2015, while Kemp’s runs through 2019.

Judging by Upton’s comparatively favorable numbers—and the high price the Cardinals paid to acquire Jason Heyward—it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the M’s had to pay a high price for Upton.

While not the same player he was when the M’s attempted to acquire him previously, Upton is still a player who can provide 30 home runs, 100 runs driven in and passable defense in the outfield.

Upton vetoed a previous deal to Seattle in which the Mariners would have parted with Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton or Danny Hultzen.

The Mariners won’t have to give up nearly as much to acquire Upton this time around, but they’ll likely have to part with something of value.

The Braves, like the Dodgers, could use starting pitching. Even after acquiring Shelby Miller in the Heyward swap, the team could use extra starters. Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana could leave in free agency (and Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are recovering from Tommy John surgery).

To acquire Upton, one of either James Paxton or Taijuan Walker is likely forfeit. Losing either of the two would hurt, but given the strength of the M’s pitching and dire need of a cleanup hitter, they could weather the loss.

Atlanta will also be in the market for a new outfielder if the team deals Upton, especially after dealing fellow outfielder Heyward for two pitchers. The M’s could offer Dustin Ackley or Michael Saunders in return. Saunders is rumored to be on the trade block.

In addition, Brad Miller could be used as additional trade bait. Atlanta could play him at second—until top prospect Jose Peraza is ready—and then slide Miller to third base long-term to take over for the aging Chris Johnson.

Upton will hit free agency after 2015, but the fact that he took the Mariners off of his trade list (which was the catching point in the 2013 deal not coming to fruition) suggests he’d be willing to play for the team. Should the M’s make the playoffs and/or make a deep run in 2015, Upton may be more inclined to stay than bolt when his contract expires.


Yoenis Cespedes

Thanks to a bevy of roster moves, Cespedes finds himself in an overcrowded Red Sox outfield that also features Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Shane Victorino.

The same quality depth cannot be found in the Red Sox’s rotation. Clay Buchholz is the veteran presence and ace. Meanwhile, spots two through five will be filled by some combination of Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman.

Because of this, one of Seattle’s starting pitchers will surely be involved in any potential trade. A straight swap of Walker or Paxton for Cespedes is plausible, but Cespedes has his warts and, like Upton, is a free agent after 2015.

Cespedes can hit for power—that much is certain—but he is far less of a complete player than someone like Upton or even Kemp. In any deal, Seattle’s brass has to accept the fact that Cespedes has warts—Cespedes’ OPS in 2014 was .751, just above Logan Morrison’s .735 number.

The former Athletics slugger’s numbers don’t suggest he is a player who commands a massive return, but given Boston’s depth in the outfield and its need of starting pitching, the Red Sox won’t just give him away. They’ll want the max return for their power-hitting outfielder.

He may not be the most hand-in-glove fit for the M’s, but Cespedes would cost one of Walker, Paxton or Hisashi Iwakuma. Losing any of the three would be a massive loss for Seattle, but that would likely be the cost of trading.

Whether it is Matt Kemp, Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes, the Mariners will be losing some valuable assets via trade. It’s the sad reality of the situation, but another reality is that if the M’s want to make a run in the playoffs in 2015, they’ll need a cleanup hitter.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Defense Should Be Much Improved in 2015

In the past, the Detroit Tigers have been ceaselessly ridiculed and lambasted for having awful defense and relief pitching. Despite this, the Tigers are quietly putting together a strong defensive unit.

Most of the criticism was based on the fact that Detroit played Miguel Cabrera at third and Prince Fielder at first. Now, even with Fielder gone and Cabrera at first (where he actually plays decent defense), criticism still pours in.

This criticism was ever-present at last season’s trade deadline when the team traded possibly its best defender, center fielder Austin Jackson, to acquire David Price. The Tigers didn’t have a team of Gold Glove winners, but Jackson was looked at as the best of the bunch. His presence was missed as Detroit fans were made privy to the center field adventures of Rajai Davis and Ezequiel Carrera.

That may sound like a children’s program, but it was a serious issue.

Davis is a corner outfielder by trade and thus had to adjust to playing center in Comerica Park, which can be treacherous to navigate for some center fielders. Carrera had the same—if not more—trouble defensively.

General manager Dave Dombrowski recently addressed the issue by adding talented and fleet-of-foot defensive center fielder Anthony Gose.

In addition to the center field fiasco, the team also had defensive issues at third base, right field and shortstop.

Statically, third baseman Nick Castellanos was (in layman’s terms) bad. Despite that, this happens to be an easy fix. As a 22-year-old rookie, the third baseman has time to develop.

He works closely with infield coach Omar Vizquel, one of the better fielders of all time. Last season was Castellanos’ first under Vizquel’s tutelage. He may never be considered the best defensive third baseman in the league, but give Castellanos more time with Vizquel and he’ll develop into a solid defensive presence.

Outside of third base, right field was a defensive problem area. J.D. Martinez put in a positive display during his limited time in right field. Despite Martinez being a bright spot, Torii Hunter didn’t play like a former Gold Glove winner. The former Twin struggled in the first half, then improved down the stretch. Dombrowski has said, per George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press, that Hunter won’t return to the Tigers. Hunter will be missed, but this gives Detroit the opportunity to greatly improve its outfield defense.

Playing J.D. Martinez in right field allows the team to play Davis in left field (his natural position). With Martinez’s breakout season validating his claim to the lion’s share of at-bats in right, the team can find a strong defensive outfielder to platoon with Davis in left. Players like Ichiro Suzuki and Nori Aoki would fit the bill.

Having an outfield foursome of Gose, Aoki, Davis and Martinez would give the Tigers two above-average defenders and two who are (at the very least) passable defensive options. This would provide a significant upgrade over last season’s outfield quartet of Davis, Martinez, Hunter and Carrera, who were, at best, two passable options defensively and two below-average defenders.

The last defensive problem area for Detroit was shortstop.

While Tigers shortstops combined for the most putouts in Major League Baseball, the group ranked sixth in errors. Among the players suiting up at shortstop in 2014 were Andrew Romine, Eugenio Suarez, Danny Worth, Alex Gonzalez and Hernan Perez. That grouping finished below the league average in nearly every defensive stat, with the exception of those pertaining to double plays (Detroit shortstops ranked fourth in the league in double plays turned).

Luckily for the Tigers, Jose Iglesias will be back in 2015 after missing last season due to injury.

Acquired in a three-team trade in 2013, per Chris Iott of MLive, Iglesias is the definition of a defensive wizard and should win multiple Gold Gloves in his future.

Detroit has all the makings of a solid, if not above-average, defense in 2015. The outfield should be vastly improved (thanks to Anthony Gose’s acquisition alone). Gose, along with the returning Jose Iglesias and an improving Nick Castellanos, should improve a defense that already features another solid defender (Miguel Cabrera) and two above-average defenders (Ian Kinsler and Alex Avila). The end product is a defense that will be much improved in 2015.

If the Tigers can fix the defense to a point where it’s above average (which it should be), then Detroit could finally lift the World Series trophy it should have already claimed.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Don’t Discount the Tigers Making a Big Offseason Move

With their most important bit of offseason business (re-signing Victor Martinez) wrapped up, the Detroit Tigers can now turn their attention to other needs. These needs used to include adding an outfielder, but Anthony Gose’s acquisition seems to have satisfied that. Re-signing the rehabbing Joel Hanrahan will help strengthen the bullpen, which was and still is another need, if the former Pittsburgh closer is healthy. Still, more bullpen additions can be expected.

If the team does sign free agents to fill the need, or goes after trade targets to achieve the same purpose, it wouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. But history tells us that the Tigers general manager makes transactions that shock just about anyone—generally making deals to acquire premium players at positions where an upgrade isn’t necessary. Past examples include signing Ivan Rodriguez and dealing for Miguel Cabrera and David Price.

After re-signing Victor Martinez and handing out arbitration raises to standout performers like Price and J.D. Martinez, the Tigers will have little wiggle room financially. This shouldn’t dissuade any thoughts of Detroit making a big move.

In December of 2009, Dombrowski sent Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson packing in a three-team trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks to avoid giving them hefty raises and to alleviate pressure on the salary cap. The deal allowed the Tigers the room to sign lockdown closer Jose Valverde. The trade also brought Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer to Motown. The moral of the story is that Dave Dombrowski knows how to make impact moves on a tight budget.

Detroit’s general manager is already helped by the fact that the collective salaries of Torii Hunter, Don Kelly, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain have come off the books, thus giving him some wiggle room. While a percentage of that money was likely allocated to Victor Martinez and saved for arbitration rises, it still creates cash.

Dombrowski knows how to make his team younger, with the Granderson/Scherzer deal serving as a chief example. He has already acquired a young, controllable player with considerable upside in Gose and may not be done dealing.

Already, rumors are swirling about potential Tigers moves. The latest involves listening to trade offers for catcher Alex Avila. Dealing Avila would seem unconventional for a couple of reasons, one being the fact that Avila works well with Detroit’s starting pitchers. A second is that defensively the catcher grades out positively, while bringing power to the lineup as a left-handed hitter. Thirdly, the next catchers in line for the Tigers are backup Bryan Holaday and prospect James McCann.

Dealing Avila would mean that Detroit either has another deal lined up/in the works for a cheaper catcher they feel is an upgrade or that they feel McCann is ready to take the next step and start full-time.

Despite all the potential negatives, sending Avila to another team comes with benefits. The first would be wiping his salary from the books—Avila will make $5.4 million next season. The second would mean that the team could move on from a player who has been seriously affected by injuries.

Avila is still a starting catcher in the major leagues and certainly brings positive attributes to the table, but he isn’t what he once was. His finest hour came in 2011, when he posted an .895 OPS and drove in 82 runs. Injures soon ran rampant on Avila’s offensive production. Starting with the 2011 postseason, where he hit .063 against New York in and .080 against Texas.  The catcher has hit a combined .235 since 2011.

With surprise moves becoming the norm this offseason, (thanks to the Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller trade and the Mets signing of Michael Cuddyer), it wouldn’t be a shock to see the baseball landscape rocked by an unlikely Dombrowski trade. He’s turned potential salary cap burdens into, among others, a Cy Young winner (Max Scherzer) and a player used to acquire yet another player with a Cy Young on his resume (David Price).

It’s unknown if Alex Avila’s name will appear in the transactions logs due to a trade, but it wouldn’t be surprising. Neither would be a conceivable, cost-cutting trade of a player like Rajai Davis. The bottom line is that Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers front office know what they are doing, and with the offseason in full swing (pun!), the ball is in their court.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 

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Seattle Mariners: Failed Trades with the Detroit Tigers

Awful baseball teams tend to deal away veteran talent. Such is common practice in Major League Baseball.

The Seattle Mariners, until recently, fit the bill of one of those awful baseball teams. Only twice did they surpass the 75-win plateau from 2004 to 2013. The M’s, like any other dreadful team in their situation, dealt away most players of worth. Out the door went Cliff Lee, Michael Morse, Ichiro Suzuki, et al.

While Seattle has a recent history of losing trades in spectacular fashion (Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez was a huge blunder), its trades with the Detroit Tigers have all generally gone up in flames.

Starting with the loss Carlos Guillen and winding through the transactions logs all the way to the Doug Fister debacle, here are some of the M’s notable failed trades with the Tigers.


Carlos Guillen

Mariners Acquired: Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez

Tigers Acquired: Carlos Guillen

The history of these lopsided deals can be traced back to Carlos Guillen’s departure from Seattle.

Guillen was a solid, but not spectacular shortstop during his days in the Emerald City. He drove in 211 runs for the team from 1998 to 2003 and hit .264 along the way. Guillen also produced 122 extra base hits over four years as a regular contributor. A nifty feat considering  shortstop is generally an offense-derived position.

Knowing this, you would think the Mariners would have received a return that ranked somewhere in between “good” and “great,” considering they were trading a solid offensive player (and not a shabby defender either) at a premium position not known for its hitting.

The Mariners received minor league pitcher Juan Gonzalez and infielder Ramon Santiago from Detroit.

Upon arriving in Motown, Guillen was a staple of the Tigers’ mid-2000 teams, was a three-time All-Star as a Tiger and garnered MVP votes on two separate occasions. At the peak of his powers in 2006, Guillen was an offensive-minded shortstop who had a WAR of 6.0, posted a .920 OPS with 85 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases.

Also an above-average defender, Guillen was quite the dynamic player in his prime. He would later show his versatility in Motown, moving all over the diamond to accommodate the likes of Brandon Inge and Miguel Cabrera while playing shortstop, third base, first base and left field.

Some of this was done to incorporate better hitters into the lineup, but it was also implemented to lengthen Guillen’s career. Before all of this, Guillen was a key player for the M’s at the turn of the century, appearing in close to 500 games (473 to be exact) from 2000 to 2003.

Back in Seattle, Gonzalez never panned out, and Santiago went back to Detroit. Yes, back to Detroit. The M’s let Santiago leave after he posted a .170 batting average and .482 OPS in Seattle. It can be argued that Santiago never received his chance with the Mariners. Yes, his numbers were exceptionally poor, but he only played in 27 games for Seattle.  

Then Detroit pounced.

It’s one thing to lose a trade spectacularly because the player traded away went on to achieve massive success. It is, however, another thing entirely to have a team trade away a player who flourishes somewhere else, then let one of the key players acquired in return go back to the team that originally traded him.

Basically, the Tigers acquired Carlos Guillen for Ramon Santiago and a minor leaguer. Then Seattle gave up early on Santiago, who promptly went back to Detroit and became Guillen’s backup no less! In the long run, the Mariners came away with nothing while Detroit eventually had both Guillen and Santiago on payroll. Both players played a part in sending the Tigers to the World Series in 2006—a feat the Mariners have never accomplished.

This deal serves as the poster child example of a number of Mariner trades over the years. The M’s either give up on a player too early or don’t get enough in return. This is true of a number of players dealt to the Tigers. Guillen is part of a long list of players who the M’s shipped out, but who went on to achieve bigger and better things.


Jarrod Washburn

Mariners Acquired: Pitchers Luke French and Mauricio Robles (Minors)

Tigers Acquired: Jarrod Washburn

One player that Seattle didn’t give up on too early—but still failed to receive a proper value for—was Jarrod Washburn.

The M’s signed Washburn from the Angels before 2006. During his Seattle tenure, Washburn never posted an ERA under 4.30 and failed to surpass 10 wins in a single season. In fact, Washburn’s numbers were pretty pedestrian in his time in the Emerald City. Pedestrian, that is, until 2009 when the lefty went 8-6 with a 2.64 ERA in 20 starts. The M’s attempted to sell high on the former Angel, dealing him to the Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles.

This simply wasn’t enough for a dependable innings eater like Washburn. Seattle needed young pitching, seeing as they were relying on Ian Snell and Chris Jakubauskas to pitch a major amount of innings, but French and Robles never panned out.

At the time of the trade, French and Robles weren’t elite prospects, but considering Washburn’s value, you feel like the Mariners could have gotten more from the trade. Despite Washburn struggling immensely in Motown, this still must be looked at as a win for the Tigers and, as a result, a loss for the Mariners. Seattle received two pitchers who didn’t have tremendous upsides when they could have received much more. French’s WAR over the course of his Seattle tenure was 0.1. Robles never reached the big leagues in a Mariners uniform.


Doug Fister

Mariners Acquired: Pitchers Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin, minor league third baseman Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Casper Wells

Tigers Acquired: Doug Fister and relief pitcher David Pauley

The Mariners worst fleecing at the hands of the Tigers occurred at the 2011 MLB trade deadline when the M’s dealt Doug Fister to Detroit.

At the time, the trade was met with widespread shrugs. It turned out to be one of the most lopsided deals in recent history.

Fister has improved every single year since leaving the Mariners, starting off with a stretch run in 2011 when the ex-Mariner posted an 8-1 record with a 1.79 ERA and a highly absurd 57-5 strikeout-to-walk-ratio. Every season since, Fister’s WAR has inexplicably gone up, rising to 3.3 in 2012, 4.1 in 2013 and 4.5 in 2014. During the pitcher’s time in Detroit, he compiled 32 wins in two and a half seasons, nearly three times as many as he had over the same span in Seattle.  

What was the Mariners’ return for a pitcher who was widely perceived as one of the best 20 players at his position?

Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, minor leaguer Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later (Chance Ruffin). At first, the return seemed substantial. Wells and Furbush showed promise in limited action for the Tigers, while Martinez and Ruffin were both highly regarded prospects. Baseball America rated Martinez as the team’s fourth best prospect at the time, while Ruffin (a former first-round pick) was seventh. Both players ranked higher than Drew Smyly and Avisail Garcia.

That was 2011. This is 2014. The Mariners would go on to lose the trade in an absurd fashion. Fister has gone on to great success, while the M’s effectively acquired Furbush—a pitcher who has parlayed his career into that of a successful reliever with ERAs of 2.72, 3.74 and 3.61 in the last three seasons. Other than that, the players acquired failed to stick.

Wells never got a chance to claim a full-time job as he was pushed out of an overcrowded Seattle outfield. To further the point, Wells hit .126 with a .334 OPS and had one singular RBI in 53 games for three different major league teams in 2013. None of them included the Mariners.

The highest rated prospect in the deal (Martinez) had a mixed bag of results during his time in the Mariners’ organization. He got off to a solid start, hitting .310 in 33 games in Double-A Jackson before falling back to earth with a .227 batting average the next year for the same team. 2013 saw his Double-A average plummet further to .206. Seattle soon moved on from Martinez and dealt him to (you guessed it) Detroit. Is this another Ramon Santiago in the making? Time will tell.

Elsewhere in the trade, Ruffin gave up 16 runs in 22 innings for Seattle on the way to a 5.70 career ERA as a Mariner. He recently retired from baseball.

Seattle was showed up in its attempt to acquire anything of value for Fister. The Mariners did receive Furbush for their troubles, but the forgotten wrinkle of the trade is that Seattle gave up reliever David Pauley in the transaction. Pauley was in the midst of an extremely effective season as a reliever, posting a 2.15 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched.

Thanks to Furbush’s success, the team has essentially lost Fister and acquired a younger version of David Pauley.

The moral of the story here is that Mariners’ general manager Jack Zduriencik probably shouldn’t seriously consider any trade offer from his Tigers counterpart Dave Dombrowski—unless  he wants to risk trading Robinson Cano for some catching gear.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: 2014’s Most Defining Moments

The Detroit Tigers’ 2014 season certainly had its ups and downs. During a roller coaster ride of a year, Detroit started the campaign with an offseason full of hope and promise. Then the roller coaster officially started.

The Tigers experienced more highs and lows than most. They went from a runaway division favorite to being in danger of missing the playoffs. In the end, thanks to some key performances and acquisitions, the team pulled out a fourth consecutive American League Central title.

Unfortunately, the success found in the division did not carry over to the playoffs as Detroit was swept by Baltimore in three games.

Here are some of those high and low points, or in other words, the most defining moments of the season.



All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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