For Detroit Tigers fans, July is one of the most exciting months of the baseball year. While most teams are fighting through the “dog days”, the Tigers are typically making a surge and oftentimes pursuing some pieces that will help them to a championship.
Rest assured, Tigers fans. While the Tigers may not be exactly “surging”, the appropriate moves will be made by general manager Dave Dombrowski.
I’ve already discussed one potential splash (and a big one at that) here, but this article will focus on the bullpen, an area that double D has focused on in many deadlines past.
Right now, the Tigers’ bullpen is pedestrian at best. They’ve had their hot streaks, but come October, their flaws will be exposed by the MLB’s best. Their combined ERA of 4.75 is abhorrent and ranks dead last in the Majors.
Needless to say, DD won’t let that trend continue.
When Dombrowski looked at his starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, he was probably thinking the same thing we all were: “who needs a bullpen!?!?!” Sadly, the starters at the front end (I’m looking at you, JV) have been less than stellar, and Sanchez and Smyly have both seen the DL. Porcello has been great, but he isn’t the type of pitcher that can carry a staff. Since he’s a soft-tosser, he’s susceptible to getting hit on any given night.
The bottom line is this: the starters aren’t going as deep into games as we originally thought, meaning more innings for a ‘pen that has been terrible.
The sad part for Brad Ausmus is that he has no sure thing. He can’t even call on closer Joe Nathan to give him a sure-fire ninth, as we have seen over and over again. Joba Chamberlain is having a nice comeback year, but he’s far from an elite set-up man.
And past that, things only get uglier. Al Alburquerque is the same pitcher he’s always been: he can’t throw his fastball for strikes and while his slider can be lethal, it’s a long homer when it isn’t. Phil Coke is just laughable at this point, and the Tigers have resorted to bringing up Triple-A guys in an effort to bring a spark to the bullpen.
I feel as though the Tigers need not only a lefty, but also a right-handed reliever. If they can only have one, I’d take the lefty so I never have to see Coke’s beard and incessant spitting anymore.
The first guy that caught my eye was left-handed veteran Tony Sipp. Tigers fans have seen Sipp before: he pitched in Cleveland from 2010-2012 where he posted a 3.68 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. This season in Houston, Sipp has had his best year as a pro, sporting a 1.80 ERA and stunning .65 WHIP over 20 innings of work.
Will Sipp’s stellar numbers drive his price up? Maybe a little, but he turns 31 in two weeks and likely isn’t part of the future in Houston. Knowing GM Jeff Luhnow, he’ll be more than happy to trade Sipp for one or two of the Tigers’ up-and-coming prospects.
But would DD part with one or two of his prized prospects? No, certainly not. But he may part with one of his stellar starters down at low-A West Michigan. There are several guys who are really tearing it up on that starting staff, and would make for intriguing trade bait.
Jake McGee is another intriguing arm that the Tigers could make a run for. A lefty currently employed by the atrocious Tampa Bay Rays, McGee has done nothing but produce this season. He currently boasts a 1.36 ERA and .82 WHIP over 33 innings. He’s racked up 38 Ks to just 9 walks, and opponents are hitting just .161 against McGee. He’ll be eligible for arbitration next season, so to avoid it the Rays might deal him in exchange for prospects.
Again, if I have to choose one or the other, I want a lefty, but I’m going to get greedy here and predict that Dombrowski goes after both a left and right-hander before the July 31 deadline.
It will be no surprise that I’m including another Houston Astro here in Chad Qualls. Dombrowski has a history with the ‘Stros and pulled off a deal that brought reliever Jose Veras to Detroit just last year. Dombrowski and Luhnow seem to have a working relationship, so don’t be surprised if DD dips into the well again this year. If I had my way, it would be a double dip.
Qualls is a bit of a journeyman, and his career numbers really aren’t outstanding, which could make him a “throw-in” in a potential Sipp deal. His ERA and WHIP have been respectable throughout his career, although not stellar: 3.73 and 1.27, respectively. Because of his age (35), Qualls will be expendable for Houston but would be a good option out of Detroit’s bullpen, as his numbers this year are solid: 2.05 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 to just 1.0 BB/9.
The best case scenario goes down like this:
Detroit Tigers receive Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls
Houston Astros receive Low-A starter Austin Kubitza and a conditional 2015 draft pick/ player to be named later
I know that Kubitza has been killing it for West Michigan this year (6-1, 2.53 ERA, 85K:29BB) but it’s not certain whether he’ll pan out or not- hence the term “prospect”. The Tigers are in win-now made and won’t mind dumping a prospect for two guys who can contribute right now.
Will Luhnow see it the same way? Who knows. The draft pick included in this deal may have to be a high one in order for it to work, but it would certainly give Detroit a better shot at the title in 2014.