As July 1 approaches, the MLB trade rumor mill will begin churning out nuggets of speculation on a daily basis, and the Detroit Tigers won’t be immune to the chatter.
This year, unlike a season ago, the Tigers’ offense appears to be set in stone. I don’t expect any Jeff Baker type of disasters this time around. Likewise, the starting pitching needs the help of no one. It will be the bullpen that gets the headlines this July.
Detroit has already been linked to a host of relievers, none that appear overly appealing at the moment, and for good reason. Most teams out there still believe they have a shot at the playoffs and won’t unload a critical late inning arm until they’re more certain of their seasonal doom.
A quick glance at the rumor mill shows the Tigers mentioned in the same breath as guys like the Nationals’ Drew Storen, the Cubs’ Kevin Gregg, and a pair of relievers from Miami – Ryan Webb and Steve Cishek.
As always, it’s important to look at GM Dave Dombrowski’s most likely trade partners. He has a deep history of wheeling and dealing with the Marlins as well as the Mariners. It seems odd to keep diving into the same well of talent-depleted teams but additions like Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante give the method a measure of validity.
With that in mind, perhaps Cishek and Webb are the most likely additions. Cishek has been serving as the closer for Miami in part because they literally have no other options. He has done a good job netting 13 saves, a 3.34 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 31 K’s in 32.1 innings of work.
Webb has a 3.41 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, mediocre numbers at best, which would put him in good company as a member of the Tigers’ pen.
To be sure, the reliever rumors will swirl for the next 30 some days and these names could be long forgotten by the time Dombrowski strikes a deal. But here’s what we do know: he will pull the trigger.
If the longtime GM is going to go down, he’ll go down swinging. The Tigers might be able to get away with Joaquin Benoit as their closer for the rest of the season. And quite frankly, the notion of adding someone better will be extremely difficult to pull off. So what the Tigers are most after is a solid 8th inning arm.
A guy like Storen or perhaps Tom Wilhelmsen from Seattle could fit that bill. Storen was Washington’s closer until they signed Rafael Soriano this past offseason. His numbers have sagged in 2013 (4.11 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) but a change of scenery might do the talented reliever some good.
Take comfort in knowing that the bullpen you see now is not the one you’ll see come October. At least one deal will be made, if not more. The question on the other end is always – what will the Tigers have to give up to bolster their staff of relievers?
To get anything short of a legitimate star reliever, the Tigers will have to tread very carefully not to unload any of their slowly growing stable of minor league talent.
Oh, and then there’s always Bruce Rondon lurking in Toledo. A dominant Rondon would be better than any trade the Tigers could pull off, but will he get the chance?
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