The Tigers are currently ten games under .500 with a 40-50 record. Despite that reality, the club is in third place in an exceptionally weak AL Central division, just five games back of the division-leading Twins. The club has managed to look competitive at various points this season, with a 16-11 record in May and, more recently, a 14-13 record since snapping a nine-game skid on June 12th. Detroit has also begun to get healthy in recent weeks, with outfielder Riley Greene, right-hander Matt Manning, and lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and Tarik Skubal each coming off the injured list in recent weeks after an extended absence.
With the club approaching full strength, the division within reach, and stretches of success in the first half, it seems that president of baseball operations Scott Harris isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel on the 2023 campaign. In conversation with 97.1 The Ticket, Harris noted that he remains open to the possibility of avoiding a mid-season sell-off if the team gets hot in the final two weeks ahead of the trade deadline on August 1.
“If we get hot out of the break, it’s going to change our approach to the trade deadline.” Harris said Thursday, “We are going to be responsive to the way the team is playing heading into the deadline and we’re going to try to make the best decisions we can for the organization.”
While that’s hardly a strong declaration of intent, the fact that the Tigers are even considering not selling at the deadline leaves the door open for a major shakeup to the market this trade season. With an unusually small number of clear sellers, the Tigers have found a handful of their players at the center of trade buzz all throughout the season. Indeed, MLBTR’s list of the Top 50 Deadline Trade Candidates featured each of Michael Lorenzen (#9), Rodriguez (#12), Jose Cisnero (#28), and Alex Lange (#43).
Should Detroit decide to hold onto that group of coveted arms, that could drive up demand for the arms available on other expected sellers, such as Lucas Giolito of the White Sox and Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals. It’s also possible that a dearth of proper sellers could encourage trades of established major league players between contenders to address needs on both teams. While such deals are typically rare, they still happen on occasion; the Harrison Bader for Jordan Montgomery one-for-one swap between St. Louis and the New York one year ago is perhaps the most recent example.
Even if the Tigers decide not to sell at the deadline, it seems unlikely that they would spend significant prospect capital to add a rental bat like Tommy Pham or Cody Bellinger to address the club’s offense, which ranks bottom three in the majors with a wRC+ of just 86. That being said, if Harris and the rest of the front office feel they’re close enough to contention to consider holding onto short-term assets, they could look to improve the club’s offense by pursuing players with club control remaining after the 2023 campaign. Speculatively speaking, Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill or Arizona infielder Josh Rojas could be the sort of multi-year acquisition that could make sense for the club to look into if they decide to pursue a division title in the second half.