With the Tigers (40-56) having dropped 19 of 23 to fall out of contention in the AL Central, they’re setting up as sellers as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. And right-hander Michael Fulmer and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, two above-average players who are under affordable team control past this season, stand out among the Tigers’ potential trade chips.
The 26-year-old Fulmer is the more valuable of the two, considering he’s a proven, in-his-prime starter who’s making a near-minimum salary this season and isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2022 campaign. Fulmer, who’s due to make his first trip through arbitration over the winter, has drawn wide interest in recent weeks, as his MLBTR page shows. As you’d expect, then, he’s not someone whom the Tigers are going to give up for an insignificant return. The belief is Detroit would want “an impact bat” back in order to deal Fulmer, according to Katie Strang of The Athletic (subscription required). Unsurprisingly, Strang suggests that hitter would need to be young – “within a year or two of reaching the major leagues,” Strang writes.
With the Yankees among teams interested in Fulmer, one of their young outfielders, Clint Frazier, could perhaps be part of a trade between them and the Tigers. Frazier, 23, has the potential to serve as a quality major league hitter, though playing time has been hard to come by in New York because of a crowded outfield which features the established quartet of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Thanks to their presences, Frazier has totaled just 40 MLB plate appearances this year after racking up 142 a year ago. Further, with the possible exception of Gardner – who has a team option for 2019 – all of those players figure to start again for the Yankees next season. As such, the Yankees could cash in Frazier for a much-needed rotation upgrade – perhaps in the form of Fulmer.
The Tigers, for their part, are interested in both Frazier and teammate Tyler Wade, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The 23-year-old Wade is versatile enough to play several positions, having lined up in the middle infield, at third base and at all three outfield spots in the minors. However, as with Frazier, there’s no clear path to playing time in New York for Wade – who has collected 114 big league PAs since 2017. In addition to their slew of capable outfielders, the Yankees have a set middle infield (second baseman Gleyber Torres and shortstop Didi Gregorius) and a potential long-term third baseman in Miguel Andujar (though he could be a trade chip if the Yankees upgrade at the hot corner with Manny Machado). That wealth of talent may help influence the Yankees to trade Wade, who was their 15th-ranked farmhand at Baseball America after last season.
Even though Frazier and Wade have piqued the Tigers’ interest, there’s no indication trade talks between them and the Yankees have gotten serious. In fact, New York hasn’t gone past the point of inquiring about Fulmer, per Marc Carig of The Athletic, who echoes Strang in noting the Tigers have placed a “high” asking price on him.
Castellanos, meanwhile, is “available,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. An above-average hitter since 2016, the 26-year-old Castellanos is now enjoying a career season in which he has slashed an outstanding .306/.362/.523 with 15 home runs in 401 PAs. But despite that strong output – which, per FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric, has been 39 percent better than league average – there’s only “mild” interest in Castellanos, Strang writes. Teams are wary of Castellanos’ defensive shortcomings, Strang continues, after he struggled at third from 2014-17 and has been subpar across nearly 800 innings this year in right. In first extensive stint as an outfielder, Castellanos has posted a minus-5.2 Ultimate Zone Rating, minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved and a league-worst minus-16 Outs Above Average mark.
Despite his defensive questions, Castellanos could emerge as a major offensive piece for a contender if such a team acquires him in the next couple weeks. At $6.05MM, his 2018 salary doesn’t break the bank, and he still has another year of arbitration eligibility remaining. The Tigers reportedly had interest in handing him a contract extension after last season. No deal has come together, though, and thanks in part to that, Castellanos may be in the final weeks of his Detroit tenure.