The middle of June is about the time of year when teams start deciding whether or not they will be buyers or sellers before the July 31st trade deadline. Of course there is still quite a bit of time left before that date, so a team could improve and become a buyer, or fall in a slump and join the sellers.
This year two teams that have become notorious buyers find themselves in third and fifth in their divisions respectively and six games back; The Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies are struggling with injuries and inconsistent play.
The Tigers Problem
The Tigers haven’t been able to drive in runs, which has led them to lead the A.L in stranded runners. The five through nine spots in the line-up have brought next to nothing when it comes to driving in runs. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are batting a combined .320 and have driven in 86 out of their 248 runs. No one on the team other than these two has more than 21 RBI’s, which is absolutely pathetic.
Alex Avilla and Jhonny Peralta were All-Stars last year and both of them batted around .300 and drove in over 80 runs. This year they are hovering around .250 and on pace to come in with just over 50 RBI’s. Bringing in Prince Fielder replaced Victor Martinez and allows Cabrera to swing freely, but Avila and Peralta need to start playing more on the level they played last year if the season is going to turn around.
Two other players in the Detroit line-up that have done very little this season are Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch. Young was almost traded to the Braves for Martin Prado before the season began, but the Tigers’ management held off because of how well Young played in the playoffs last year. Obviously Prado’s .324 average would be an upgrade over Young’s .243, and would have driven in Cabrera and Fielder a little bit more than the 20 times Young has. Boesch at this point swings too hard and is too undisciplined and should be traded.
So there’s half of the Tigers problem, now for their biggest issue: pitching. Doug Fister was terrific for the Tigers after being traded in late July. He went 8-1 with a sub 2.0 ERA. It was set up for him to be Justin Verlander’s second ace this year, but he has been hampered by injuries and really hasn’t made his mark on the season.
If the Tigers go into one more season without a legitimate fifth starter someone needs to be let go in the front office. Phil Coke isn’t a starter, Casey Crosby isn’t a legit starter, and Drew Smyly is still a couple years away from being in a rotation.
These are all problems the Tigers face, but there biggest problem is still Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Both of them have terrible ERA’s, and only Scherzer has an acceptable K/Walk ratio. It’s time the Tigers traded for two more starters and get rid of these two. The Rangers have a consistent line-up that produces year in and year out. It’s time the Tigers made it their rotation that puts them over the top.
It looks as though Quintin Berry might get a chance to be the second hitter, and Victor Martinez will eventually come back to be the fifth hitter, but that leaves a few places that can still be upgraded.
The Cubs are falling fast and will almost forsurably be a seller this season. Starlin Castro has fallen out of favor with the organization; Matt Garza might be too expensive to keep, and Ryan Dempster is another solid pitcher they have who wants out so there is a good opportunity for the Tigers to strike a deal there.
Grienke, Shields, Ethier, Billingsly, and B.J. Upton could all be options as well.
The Phillies Problem
The Phillies are built around their pitching, and that hasn’t been something they can count on so far. Halladay is hurt, Cliff Lee hasn’t recorded a win yet, which hasn’t been all his fault, but it would be nice if your second ace would have won a game by mid-June. Vance Worley is a promising young pitcher, but has spent time on the DL too. If the Phillies are going to turn this around and become buyers they will need more than just Cole Hamels pitching up to their potential.
There have been some bright spots to the line-up this year though. Carlos Ruiz has sbeen one of the league leaders in average, slugging percentage, and runs batted in. Hunter Pence has struggled with runners in scoring position, but is still enjoying a fine season with a .272 average, 13 home runs, and 36 rbi’s. If Howard and Utley come back healthy and play even remotely close to what we know they are capable of they could turn this nightmare season around.
The biggest thing the Phillies needs is health, but a bit of youth wouldn’t hurt either. Getting a bat or two such as Brandon Belt might give them the young player to grow around that they lack right now.