GM Dave Dombrowski tells Nightengale that the team has yet to reach a final decision. But other sources inside and outside the organization reportedly say that Detroit will market those free agents-to-be unless owner Mike Ilitch intervenes with a “veto.”
Dombrowski certainly left open the possibility of a sell-off in his comments to USA Today. “At this point, our focus is trying to win right now,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to qualify for the playoffs. Things can turn dramatically over a 10-game period. But you have to play well, at some point, on a consistent basis. We’re at a point where we have to do what’s best in our heart for the franchise.”
The addition of Price and/or Cespedes to the trade market would certainly represent a dramatic alteration of the market. Both are 29 years of age and in the midst of highly productive campaigns.
Price is an undisputed ace, and would immediately join (and arguably displace) Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels at the top of the starting pitching market. He owns a 2.32 ERA over 132 innings, with 8.7 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9. Those numbers are right in line with — or, in the case of his bottom-line results, even better than — his outstanding career numbers.
Cespedes, meanwhile, is in the midst of the best overall campaign of his career. His 120 wRC+ paces any batting line he’s carried over a full season since his debut year. And he has earned career-best defensive ratings for his work in left. All told, Cespedes has already racked up 3.1 fWAR on the year.
It is not clear whether the Tigers will consider moving other players whose control is up after the year, to say nothing of longer-term assets. Closer Joakim Soria, starter Alfredo Simon, catcher Alex Avila, and outfielder Rajai Davis are among the members of the current roster who are slated for free agency. Soria and Davis have both enjoyed quality seasons, while Simon and Avila have been less productive, but all of those players would figure to draw varying levels of interest.
If Detroit moves some of its key veterans, it appears that it will do so with the intention of getting near-term value from those expiring assets. “We’re not thinking of rebuilding,” said Dombrowski, “but if we have to, it would be a case of regrouping.” The long-time executive emphasized that he believes the organization has a better stock of “good young players than people think,” making clear that he sees plenty of cause for hope in 2016.
Prior to the All-Star break, Dombrowski maintained that the team was focused on the present. But having entered play today ten-and-a-half games back of the division-leading Royals, the Tigers seem less optimistic of their immediate outlook. The loss of Miguel Cabrera for much of the second half, obviously, also tells large in that assessment.