Tigers Mulling Trade Deadline Moves While Awaiting Biogenesis Fallout

by Jon Erkkila | Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2013
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Dombrowski & Leyland

The word “Biogenesis” makes many Tigers fan’s skin crawl these days. Waiting for the decisions from the offices of Commissioner Allan Selig will determine much of what the Tigers do over the next few weeks. This adds to other issues that have been in place for a while with the Tigers relief crew and a few injuries they have been dealing with over the course of the summer.

The Tigers polished off a 6-2 victory over the punchless Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. This win gained the Tigers a series win in the four-game set and they will try to complete the sweep on Thursday afternoon against the not-long-for-ChiTown Jake Peavy. Leading the Tigers will be Justin Verlander as he tries to rebound from a rough outing in Kansas City that kicked off his post All-Star Game efforts.

Wednesday night’s victory was notable for the Tigers as they won their second consecutive game without third-baseman Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder’s three-run homer greeted Sox starter John Danks and provided all the runs that Anibal Sanchez would ultimately need although Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter provided solo shots later on as well. Certainly playing the lowly Pale Hose is convenient timing for being without Cabrera…but the concerns about how the Tigers offense would function without their slugger have been tempered slightly by notching six runs in each game thus far.

With the MLB trade deadline looming it will be interesting to see what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski conjures up to augment his ball club. It would seem the Tigers should feel fairly confident in their ability to hold off the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals to secure a third consecutive division title in the AL Central. If, indeed, they feel this way, then the trade deadline is really about setting the club up for the post-season and then there may be no particular rush as they could also use the second trade deadline at the end of August to fill any need for short-series baseball.

The Tigers seem to be coming together at a season high 12-games over .500 and a couple of trouble spots on their roster seem to stabilizing in some fashion. What will Dombrowski tweak?

Cabrera Nicked Up

Start with Cabrera. The injury doesn’t seem like one they are overly concerned about. He is “day to day” but the one problem there is that Omar Infante lingered in day-to-day status for quite some time before they bit the bullet and put him on the DL. However even if Cabrera were to need a DL-stint it appears unlikely at this point that the Tigers would look for corner infield help unless a decided turn for the worse occurred with Cabrera’s hip issue.

Waiting on Biogenesis Fallout

Jhonny Peralta’s status is certainly one up for discussion. The Biogenesis Scandal is unfolding as we’re all likely aware. Peralta’s fate is unknown at this time and how he handles any possible suspension will obviously be a big factor in the Tigers remaining 62-games. How many games will get levied against Peralta? Will he fight the suspension through appeals and push his penalty possibly into next season? Will the Tigers keep him around a’la the A’s and Bartolo Colon or will they bid him an immediate adieu like the Giants did with Melky Cabrera last season? (never mind that the Giants had two-time PED suspendee Guillermo Moto on the roster while shunning Melky!)

Peralta’s decision is made difficult by his impending free agency. It would seem that for him personally he may benefit from having his suspension served and being unencumbered by that when he’s searching for his next deal. However from a team perspective, the Tigers would certainly rather keep their All-Star shortstop on the field as they try to wrap up a division title. Much will probably hinge on how many games the suspension ends up being. There have been whispers that the evidence against Peralta isn’t deep as some of the others. Is that true? We have no idea. But if it is, perhaps MLB will seek to cut a deal with Peralta for a short suspension. If it’s 20-games or less the Tigers will probably weather the storm.

However, if it ends up being 50-games and Peralta decides he needs to serve it and start fresh next year the Tigers will likely need to make a move to shore up the position. It would seem highly unlikely they could find a .300+ hitting shortstop very easily on the market. They might be better served by finding a true defensive upgrade at the key position. Peralta has been described on twitter recently as “a Hoover vacuum with a short cord.” This is very accurate. He catches most balls at him but doesn’t range very far. Acquiring a defensive ace like Brendan Ryan from the Mariners might help the Tigers pitching staff quite a bit even though Ryan’s anemic bat will make the struggling Alex Avila feel adequate once again. No matter, the Biogenesis news is being monitored closely by Tigers fans at this time.

Required Bullpen Chit-Chat

The Tigers bullpen has been a source of consternation all season for observers to obsess over. Jose Valverde’s travails kept Pepto Bismol on hand for many. The sight of Phil Coke facing a right-handed batter did no one’s nerves any favors either.

However a funny thing is happening. Joaquin Benoit has slid into the Closer’s role to compile saves and has stabilized matters (why wasn’t this Plan B at least? It seems like it was Plan D or E…very curious). Drew Smyly has evolved into a shut down force in the set up role as he serves his apprenticeship to hopefully return to the rotation next season. Bruce Rondon has started to throw more strikes and looks like his triple-digit heat and nasty slider could be ready to help.

No one is proclaiming the Tigers bullpen is fixed. However there are signs of competence that weren’t apparent a few weeks ago. This has probably let Dombrowski give the situation time to breath as he trolls the trade market for the right deal. He hasn’t had to jump at a bad deal to plug the leaking bullpen dam.

Will the Tigers add a veteran bullpen presence? Almost certainly. The July 31st deadline however may not be as big of a deal right now. Waiting until the August deadline may be in play. The only drawback of course is that deals can occasionally be blocked by the waiver process if GM’s are playing games to keep certain players out of certain cities.

The question comes down to this: Is the trade target an upgrade over Luke Putkonen and/or Phil Coke? These are the pitchers likely to lose innings if the most depending on who the Tigers acquire. Expect to hear the names out of Milwaukee, John Axford and Mike Gonzalez, bandied about as Tigers targets. The Tigers old friend Charlie Furbush could interest the Tigers as well if Seattle puts Furbush on the market.

Club Coming Together?

With the bullpen possibly on the mend that really tempers the “worries” in Detroit. Omar Infante is on his rehab assignment in A-ball and should return to the Tigers this weekend barring a set back. There seems to be no reason right now to think Cabrera won’t return in fairly soon.

Veteran bats Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez are both heating up in July and their respective stirring is adding a new dimension to the lineup. Martinez especially is barrelling up nearly everything he swings at of late with even the outs mostly ringing off his bat. The month of July has seen “VMart” rolling with a .395 batting average, 14 RBI, and 11 extra-base hits.

Hunter is nearly as hot at the moment. Slugging over .600 for July with a .354 average, he is adding some real punch to the top of the order. One cautionary note on Hunter is that he is walking at a career low rate of 4.4%…so he is very batting average dependent at this point in his career. Will he continue to find all the holes as the season evolves. His sterling second half in Anaheim last year gives the Tigers hope he can indeed sustain this through the second-half of 2013.

Rookie 2B Hernan Perez has shown a nice glove and given the club a burst of speed on the base paths as he has played a few games in the absence of Infante. The big thing now is how the Tigers react upon Infante’s impending return. Will they do the easiest thing and return Perez to the minors? Or will they determine that they’ve seen enough from Perez to jettison long-time utility-man Ramon Santiago? Santiago’s struggles certainly aren’t enough to really hinder the club contending into the Autumn (after all, they won a division title and an AL Pennant with a dormant Santiago just last season). But Perez could be very valuable as a pinch-runner in the late innings for some of the Tigers “tug boat” crew of heavy-legged sluggers. Perez has played some shortstop in the minors…do the Tigers trust him to play there now in a utility role or if Peralta is suspended? Or is Santiago the old pair of shoes that Jim Leyland wants to keep around?

So with the vets rolling, players returning from the DL, and the bullpen not quite the nightly crisis it was, that truly leaves the Peralta situation. How will MLB rule and when?  Will the fallout be a present day crisis for the Tigers? Or will Peralta fight the ban pushing it into next season? How this plays out may provide some real excitement for watching the corresponding moves it pushes on to Dombrowski’s plate.

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Jon Erkkila
About the Author

Jon Erkkila is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. Currently living in MLB Blackout Hell, otherwise known as Iowa. Follow him on twitter @yooper_ia

  • mickeylolichreturns

    Very good article. Good questions/observations. Stay tuned as the rest of the season unfolds.

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