The Tigers have had an active offseason, acquiring Javier Báez, Eduardo Rodríguez, Andrew Chafin and Tucker Barnhart. They could still use some help at the back of the rotation, though, and they’ve been tied to a few starting pitchers in recent days.
Jon Heyman of the MLB Network tweeted last night that Detroit was among the teams in discussions with the A’s about Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. It is widely believed Oakland will move one or both of those players, as the A’s have kicked off their long-rumored reboot since the lockout was lifted. Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman have already been shipped out. Manaea, entering his final year of club control, seems a lock to change teams. Montas has an additional year of control, but that was also true of Chapman and Olson.
Either would be a marked upgrade to the rotation, beyond a typical back-of-the-rotation acquisition. Manaea tossed 179 1/3 innings of 3.91 ERA/3.68 SIERA ball last season, his third sub-4.00 showing in four full seasons. Montas was even better, pitching to a 3.37 ERA in 187 frames with a strong 26.6% strikeout rate.
The A’s two starters may be the top two arms available to pitching-needy clubs. Every currently healthy starting pitcher who made MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list entering the offseason has already signed. The Reds don’t intend to trade Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle, leaving few obvious remaining trade candidates.
Detroit general manager Al Avila met with reporters (including Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press) this afternoon. He acknowledged that the market was “thinning out a little bit” but said the front office was “still trying to improve the team.” The Tigers were reportedly involved in the bidding for Zack Greinke before the six-time All-Star returned to the Royals on a $13MM deal. Avila confirmed as much today, saying “we were in the Greinke situation” but that the righty preferred to “(go) back to Kansas City and the place where he started.” Avila implied the Tigers were prepared to make an offer at least competitive with the Royals’ proposal but suggested Detroit was at a geographic disadvantage against their division rivals.
Asked about the possibility of acquiring one of the A’s hurlers, Avila said they’ve looked into making an impact acquisition via trade but expressed a desire “to be careful” in not parting with too much prospect talent. Montas, given his two years of control and superior numbers, would bring back more in return than would Manaea.
Speaking of top prospects, Avila addressed the status of Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Both young hitters are among Baseball America’s top five overall minor league talents, and each had excellent late-season showings with Triple-A Toledo last year. Whether either of Torkelson or Greene will make the Opening Day roster is one of the biggest questions for the organization.
Avila denied that service time considerations would play a role in whether to carry those players out of camp. “When a player is ready to come up, and the team is ready to go, there’s no reason to hold a player back. I was not taught that way,” the GM said, via Petzold. “I also believe I’m not arrogant enough to think that I could hold a guy back and we’re going to get by and we’re going to make the playoffs anyway. You got to go full bore from Day 1. Those few games at the beginning could mean everything at the end. That’s the way I was taught. Our decision is going to be to put the best team on the field where we can win and get to the playoffs.”
To be clear, that’s not a formal declaration that either of Greene or Torkelson will break camp. Avila said the front office will “know it when we see it” when asked about when those players will be ready for their debuts. There’d seem to be a real opportunity for either to open the year on the MLB roster. Putting Torkelson at first could allow Jonathan Schoop to kick back to second base, which might otherwise be manned by Willi Castro or Harold Castro. Greene could be an option for either left or center field, where he’d presumably be complemented by Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman, with Víctor Reyes moving into a fourth outfield role.