It’s funny how a surge by the Detroit Tigers can quiet the storm. Jim Leyland’s team has won 10 of their last 12 games and are within 1.5 games of the 1st place White Sox. The top 2 teams in the sluggish AL Central will square off at Comerica Park this weekend for bragging rights.
A few short weeks ago most fans were in a full-fledged panic mode. But when a team roughs up the red-hot Anaheim Angels the way the Tigers did this week it soothes the inner complainer. It reminds us all that it’s a 162-game season and it’s awfully tough for the best team not to prevail.
And yes, the Tigers are the best team in the Central. As I tweeted about a month ago, this team will make the playoffs. Guaranteed. But let’s not get lost in a video board game of hat shuffle. The AL Central isn’t the prize this team seeks. It is a World Series title.
Directly in their way are the New York Yankees, a team that is somehow steamrolling the competition in the AL East, as well as the mighty Texas Rangers and recently dispatched Angels. These are the 3 best teams in the American League. And these are the 3 teams the Tigers must find a way to beat come October.
As currently constructed, the Tigers are still a ways off. Leyland continues to struggle to find a reliable 5h starter. Drew Smyly is on the DL and former prized prospect Jacob Turner is currently serving up meatballs in his stead. And then there’s the enigma, Rick Porcello. Trust him if you dare, but the minute he proves you right he’ll break your heart the next.
In a short series you have to like the trio of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer. If hot, that group can beat anybody. But last year’s rain soaked playoffs taught us that you need at least 4 guys that can be counted on. Porcello isn’t one of them.
And that’s why, 2nd base and a slugging outfielder aside, if the Tigers are going to do anything at the trade deadline it should be adding another high caliber starter to the mix.
The list of available names is growing by the day, but only a few seem like a good fit. The problem with the Zack Greinke’s of the world is that with the new rules in place, they are truly just 2 month rentals. So for teams like Milwaukee shopping a guy in the final year of his deal the asking price isn’t quite what it used to be because the renting team won’t be compensated with a draft pick if that player doesn’t re-up with his newest employer after the season.
So assuming Milwaukee acts within reason, and Philadelphia does indeed re-sign Cole Hamels, and the Crew doesn’t seek a ridiculous package in return, Greinke is the guy on the market.
Other difference-makers include the Cubs’ Matt Garza and potentially Tampa’s James Shields. The Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez cluster will return far less certain results.
So while most fans in Detroit will continue to pick on the horrid 2nd base position as the must-change spot on the roster, don’t be surprised if GM Dave Dombrowski is zeroing in on Doug Fister 2.0.