The Tigers have informed rival teams they’re willing to consider trade offers on breakout starter Tarik Skubal, report Ken Rosenthal and Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic. The 25-year-old southpaw marks a fascinating new entrant into the summer trade market with the deadline exactly one week away.
Detroit being willing to listen to offers on Skubal certainly doesn’t mean he’s destined to change teams. Rather, it seems the Tigers are generally taking a wide-open approach to the deadline as they weather another non-competitive season. One rival executive tells the Athletic the Detroit front office has signaled “that just about everyone is available.” It seems likely general manager Al Avila and his front office are fielding offers on virtually the entire roster more as a matter of due diligence than in an effort to earnestly ship out possible long-term core pieces like Skubal.
Even if a trade coming together over the next week remains a longshot, it’s noteworthy the Detroit front office seemingly won’t dismiss offers on Skubal out of hand. There’s certainly no urgency for the Tigers to deal him. Skubal remains controllable through the end of the 2026 season, and he won’t even qualify for arbitration until the end of next year. Avila and his staff would have to be overwhelmed with an offer to pull the trigger. Even with all hopes of competing this season dashed, the Tigers anticipate getting back into the playoff mix during Skubal’s window of club control — perhaps as soon as next year.
The Tigers have been rebuilding for essentially the entirety of Avila’s tenure atop the front office. Their last playoff berth came in 2014, and they’re on their way to a sixth straight losing record. They expected to be more competitive this season, but they’ve been hit with a laundry list of absences on the pitching side and a virtually unanimous underperformance from the lineup.
Skubal has been one of the lone bright spots, as he’s looked like a possible top-of-the-rotation starter at his best. The Seattle University product has posted a 3.88 ERA across 106 2/3 innings. He’s punched out an above-average 25.5% of opponents, limited walks to a stingy 6.2% clip and induced grounders on a solid 47.8% of batted balls. Skubal has averaged north of 94 MPH on his fastball and induced swinging strikes on 12% of his offerings, the 14th-best rate among 52 starters with 100+ innings. Those numbers alone are strong, but the 6’3″ hurler looked like a bona fide ace through the season’s first two months. He carried a 2.44 ERA with a 27.1% strikeout percentage through the end of May before scuffling in June.
Even if Skubal is more of a mid-rotation type than the #1-caliber arm he resembled earlier in the year, he’s still a plenty valuable player. The Tigers have envisioned coming out of their rebuild with a star-studded rotation anchored around Skubal, former top ten picks Casey Mize and Matt Manning, free agent signee Eduardo Rodríguez,and Spencer Turnbull. Each of Mize and Manning has had their 2022 season more or less wiped out by injury to this point, and the former underwent Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss most of next year as a result. Rodríguez has been out for a while attending to a personal matter. Turnbull was always expected to be out for the bulk of the year after undergoing his own TJS last summer. That’s left Skubal as the sole healthy, reliable member of the rotation for much of the year, and the Tigers could build around him for 2023 and beyond.
At the same time, there’s little harm for the front office in at least evaluating all options. Skubal’s control window and affordability means virtually every team could eye him as a possible trade target. Clubs don’t have to be in the mix for the playoffs this year to look into his availability, since he’d still be controllable for an additional four seasons.
Teams like the Orioles and Rangers, for instance, are unlikely to reach the postseason this year (although Baltimore has hung around the Wild Card race), but have been mentioned as teams that could simultaneously look to move players on shorter-term deals while trying to acquire pitchers controllable beyond this season. In a separate piece, Rosenthal wrote this morning that Texas is continuing to seek a controllable starter before the deadline. Skubal fits the bill, and while there’s been no indication Texas has yet contacted the Detroit front office about the young hurler, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that were the case.
While the Tigers may be open to offers on Skubal and other players with extended control windows, Avila and his staff figure to be much more motivated to part with some shorter-term veterans. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explored this month, relievers like Andrew Chafin, Joe Jiménez, Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto should draw plenty of calls from contenders. Robbie Grossman and Tucker Barnhart are impending free agents and would surely be available, although neither veteran is having a good season. That’s also true of third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who is controllable through next year via arbitration.