The Tigers need to make crucial decisions about the future of the franchise.
The Tigers enter play on Jul. 9 at 43-41. While they sit just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, Miguel Cabrera recently injured his calf and is out for at least six weeks. The Tigers are in the difficult spot of deciding whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline, and the team has barely more than three weeks to decide its course of action. What action the team takes this July will inevitably change the course of the franchise.
The Tigers’ roster is filled with aging players locked up in long-term deals. The Tigers already have almost $112 million committed to 2016 payroll. The payroll situation doesn’t get any better in 2017 or 2018 either. In those years they have $107 and $92 million committed. Additionally, it seems that Justin Verlander‘s contract is going to be a sunk cost. He is under contract for four more years at $28 million annually.
While the Tigers are getting older and are going to lack financial flexibility in the future, that doesn’t mean the team’s roster is without young talent. Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, JD Martinez and Anthony Gose are all under the age of 28 and project as everyday players into the future. While these four project as good players, the team’s farm system is barren of impact talent.
The Tigers’ farm system can be significantly improved at the trade deadline if they decide to sell. Specifically, the team could sell impending free agents David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes.
Determining whether to make another push for the playoffs or to waive a white flag on this season will have a wide-ranging impact on the future of the Tigers. Deciding to go for the playoffs could result in a World Series championship, but would leave the Tigers in a difficult place going forward. Trading these three significant players would help the Tigers in the future, but how much help they would get is impossible to know.
The best thing for the Tigers to do is to sell. The amount of talent they can get back in this market is vital to the long-term outlook for the franchise. Going all in on one more playoff appearance would likely put the team on a course that the Phillies took after the team’s run of success disappeared: a rapid decline toward rock bottom.
The Tigers will be able to reload in the off-season. The team will need to significantly revamp its bullpen and starting rotation. They will also potentially need a starting catcher and everyday left fielder. Finding long-term solutions to these holes through trades and then spending to solidify the rest should put the Tigers right back into the thick of things in the AL Central.
Ultimately, the Tigers’ decision about what to do at the trade deadline will be made by ownership as well as how the team plays in the coming weeks. It is highly unlikely the Tigers will fall too far out of the playoff race and Mike Ilitch will probably want to keep going for it. The Tigers should sell, but making that decision is easier said than done. The next three weeks will define the next five years for the Tigers.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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