The Tigers are known to be open to moving some veteran pieces to get younger and to shed some salary, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Insider link) that Detroit’s asking prices for its top players are “so high” that rival execs wonder if they’ll actually trade anyone other than J.D. Martinez this offseason. In addition to Martinez, Ian Kinsler has been the primary name mentioned in trade rumors to this point, although there’s been speculation about players ranging from Justin Verlander to Miguel Cabrera.
Olney does report that the Dodgers have interest in acquiring Martinez. That fit between the Dodgers and Martinez is somewhat natural when considering that they struggled enormously against left-handed pitching and have been tied to another slugging right-handed corner outfielder: Ryan Braun. However, as Olney points out, the flooded market for corner bats makes it difficult to envision the Dodgers parting with a highly regarded prospect for a player that’s set to become a free agent after the 2017 season.
It’s worth remembering, too, that the Dodgers have a number of right-handed-hitting outfield options already on the roster. That includes, most prominently, Yasiel Puig, Trayce Thompson, and Scott Van Slyke. And the Los Angeles brass has suggested that the corner outfield isn’t an area of chief concern. There’s little doubt that the slugging Martinez would represent a significant upgrade at the plate, but he did also rate as one of the game’s worst defensive players in 2016 (-22 DRS, -17.2 UZR).
Olney’s report may shed the most light on Detroit’s valuation of Kinsler, whose partial no-trade clause — along with a stated demand for an extension to facilitate a deal to any of the ten teams to which he can block a deal — already complicates matters. (He’s another player who the Dodgers have shown interest in, though the team is reportedly on his no-trade list.) On the surface, he’s perhaps the most readily movable veteran, apart from Martinez, on the roster. Though he’s 34, Kinsler is coming off of one of the best years of his career, in which he slashed .288/.348/.484 and hit 28 home runs. And he’s guaranteed just $11MM for the 2017 campaign, with an affordable $10MM option for the following season. But given the relative dearth of demand for second basemen, a high asking price (combined with the no-trade factor) may make it rather difficult to line up a deal.
Kinsler isn’t the only quality Tigers player who has trade protection. Verlander, Cabrera, and Victor Martinez all have full control over their futures, and also come with rather hefty commitments given their relatively advanced ages. Recently signed free agents Jordan Zimmermann (full no-trade) and Justin Upton (can block deals to twenty teams) also have protection. While pitchers such as Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey, and Mark Lowe may be freely dealt, each is coming off of a rough year. Closer Francisco Rodriguez isn’t vested with any no-trade rights, either, but we haven’t heard much suggestion that the Tigers are interested in parting with him.
Of course, it’s still rather early in this offseason’s game of musical chairs, and other organizations with quality veterans to deal are also seemingly floating high asking prices at this stage. Detroit’s stance could certainly soften as it gathers information and names start coming off of the free agent board. While there are indeed alternatives on the open market who’ll impact the trade value of the above-noted players, Martinez and Kinsler figure to hold particular appeal since they promise to deliver impact without the necessity of a lengthy commitment.
All told, it’s tough to predict whether the Tigers will end up making drastic changes this winter. Though GM Al Avila has made no secret that the organization plans to get younger and more cost-conscious, after all, he has also made clear that the shift likely won’t occur overnight.