Five Relievers to Ignore
First off, while fans often want a big splash at the deadline, the Tigers don't appear primed to make one, especially now that Joaquin Benoit has tightly grabbed onto the closer's job. With that plus high trade demands, here are five names you likely don't need to pay much attention to:
RHP Tim Lincecum
A couple of weeks ago, discussion picked up out of nowhere that teams were looking at Lincecum as a possible bullpen solution, while he continued to struggle in the Giants rotation. It's an interesting concept, with the only challenge being that the Giants aren't clearly selling, despite being in last place in the NL West. In addition, if they were, they'd still be looking for a return package closer to what a frontline starter would fetch, and not the package you'd expect for a late inning reliever.
RHP Joe Nathan (Rangers)
Word is just leaking out of Texas that the Rangers would consider moving Nathan, one of the top closers in the game, for the right package. Only problem is, the Rangers would only be pulling the trigger on a deal to boost their offense. Any move to bolster the bullpen for the Tigers won't come at the expense of the everyday lineup, and a player like Matt Tuiasosopo isn't nearly enough to make a deal.
RHP Jonathon Papelbon (Phillies)
Papelbon has been on the market for weeks now, but the Phillies have a high asking price for him, as the assumed top closer option on the market. In addition, Papelbon is still owed more than $30 million over the next 2.5 seasons, with a vesting option for 2016. If the Tigers were desperate for a closer, they may have made a run at Papelbon, but it's safe to say with Benoit settled, they'll be looking elsewhere.
RHP Bobby Parnell (Mets)
Sometimes a player appear to be a perfect fit, and it would seem that the Mets and Tigers would have had a perfect opportunity to consummate a deal for Parnell – at 28, he's just approaching his prime, but is still two years away from free agency, while the Mets are likely still a couple of years away from contending. Only problem is, the Mets don't have any interest in moving Parnell.
LHP Glen Perkins (Twins)
Like Parnell, Perkins would be the ideal fit of a strong closer entering his best years, and while a common refrain would be that the Twins and Tigers wouldn't do an intra-division deal, the teams were able to agree on a package for Delmon Young two years ago, and a decade ago, the Tigers shipped closer Todd Jones to the Twins for their playoff push. But, also like Parnell, Perkins isn't being made available at the deadline, and it's unlikely the Tigers will reach a level of desperation that would force them to make an offer the Twins couldn't refuse.
Five Relievers to Watch
With those names out of the way, the Tigers are still in need of bullpen help, and while the pickings are somewhat slim, there are names floating out there, and the current going rate based on what Matt Thornton and Francisco Rodriguez went for, appears that the right setup man could be had for a reasonable offer. So here are five guys the Tigers will have their eye on over as a potential solution to their bullpen depth woes:
1. RHP Luke Gregerson (Padres)
The San Diego setup man has supposedly been in the Tigers' sights before, when he was rumored to be a part of an off-season deal in exchange for Rick Porcello. Gregorson has been very good again this year, with an ERA under three and a K:BB ratio over four. Affordable ($3.2 million salary for 2013), in his prime (age 29), and not a free agent until after 2014, Gregorson would be the perfect fit for the Tigers need of a setup man.
2. RHP Steve Cishek (Marlins)
Like Parnell and Perkins, the Marlins claim that Cishek isn't on the market, but unlike those two, there's little reason to believe that's actually the case as the Marlins are more likely bluffing in hopes of driving up the asking price. Cishek has been a very good closer for the Marlins, and could be a very good setup man for a number of teams that are looking for relief help. Like other candidates, he has good numbers (sub-three ERA, high strikeouts, low walks). He's also arbitration eligible after this year, meaning the Marlins would have to pay up for the 27-year old. Given that the two teams have made deals in the past, this will again be a guy to watch.
3. RHP Jesse Crain (White Sox)
Currently he's on the disabled list, and after suffering a slight setback, doesn't appear that he'll be ready to come off before Wednesday's deadline, meaning either a team would have to trade for him sight unseen (highly unlikely), or wait for him to hit the waiver wire in August. Should that materialize, he's a natural fit for the Tigers – he's been an outstanding middle reliever, could fill a similar role for the club, and would likely come cheaper as he's a free agent at the end of the year.
4. RHP Jose Veras (Astros)
The Astros closer has been very good this season, and at age 32, doesn't figure to be a part of Houston's long-term plan as they rebuild. He's striking out more than a batter per inning, has a sub-3 ERA, and has experience both closing and working as a setup man. The organization is split on him however, and the fact that no team has been willing to hang onto him for more than a year since the Yankees traded him in 2009 serves as a red flag. But, the Astros should move him, and he could be had for the right price.
5. LHP Oliver Perez (Mariners)
There's been little discussion of Perez so far on the trade market, but his 12+ K/9 rate means he has to be under consideration, given the Mariners aren't going anywhere this season, even if their recent winning streak has caused them to pause on dealing. His wildness remains a concern as he's still walking four batters per nine innings, but the fastball/slider combo could make him an ideal complement in the back end of the bullpen with Smyly's four-pitch repertoire and Bruce Rondon's 100+ MPH fastball.
Five Prospects That Could Be Dealt
The challenge remains in Detroit, what would the Tigers be willing to part with? They have consistently rebuked attempts to pry either Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia away, and the flame-throwing Rondon won't go anywhere unless it's in exchange for a long-term solution at closer.
The Tigers though are short on mid-level prospects, making any potential trade a tough equation – would the Tigers be willing to trade from a position of strength and overpay by giving up a talented young outfielder like Steven Moya or Danry Vasquez? They certainly don't want to, but might not have another choice.
If a deal goes down, here are the names most likely to be on the move:
OF Steven Moya
Certain organizations love Moya's power potential (much like the Tigers), and while he's raw and still years away from contributing at the big league level, he has the sort of upside that would entice a team to make him the centerpiece of a deal for a reliever.
A year ago, the Tigers were willing to part with Rob Brantly because they had McCann coming up behind him, and with Alex Avila's continued struggles this season, it's hard to envision the Tigers wanting to move someone like McCann. But, he's a close-to-big-league-ready position player at a premium position, and his name isn't Nick or Avisail, and quite simply, you can't make every prospect untouchable.
RHP Drew VerHagen
VerHagen has made quick work of the minors since being drafted last summer, and is the sort of lower-ceiling, high-floor player that might motivate a team to make a deal, as VerHagen could be ready to compete for a job in the big leagues in 2014, similar to another guy named Drew that was an experienced college pitcher and did well in his first full season. Someone like the Marlins or Astros in particular would seemingly be a good fit.
LHP Casey Crosby If a smaller deal comes to fruition, it's a good bet that Crosby will be involved in it. A power left-hander, Crosby still hasn't quite been able to master his mechanics and delivery, which has bred inconsistency in his performance. Nonetheless, he's still only 24-years old and a left-hander that can hit the upper 90's.
Again an option for a smaller deal, Collins will be squeezed sooner or later, as he's sandwiched between guys like Moya and Vasquez below him, and Garcia and Castellanos above him on the organizational ladder. The left-handed hitting outfielder has pop in his bat and patience at the plate, an appealing combination especially for teams that believe he'll be able to adjust to advanced pitching to put up a respectable batting average.
What It All Means
The market is quite light right now, with multiple pitchers that the Tigers would love to make a run at being made unavailable, at least for the moment. To top it off, the Tigers have no interest in parting with Castellanos or Garcia (their two best trade chips), but are light on alternatives needed to fetch a top-line setup man.
It all comes together to most likely mean the Tigers won't be making a blockbuster deal, but are still likely to swing a trade for a solid middle reliever that can give the team another reliable arm, and won't break the bank on the farm. And knowing Dombrowski, there always remains the outside chance of a blockbuster deal outside of the relief market, that would fetch a premium player and a reliever would just end up a part of that package.