Despite entering the 2015 MLB season as one of the favorites in the American League, the Detroit Tigers could be sellers heading into the trade deadline. The team is reportedly preparing to deal starting pitcher David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes before July 31.
Only a veto from owner Mike Ilitch will prevent the Tigers from trying to trade a few of their top assets within the next 10 days, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports. With Detroit falling out of the AL Central race, they are looking to trade Price and Cespedes, who will both become free agents in the offseason.
Detroit has been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball, going .500 through the first 92 games of the season and trailing the first-place Kansas City Royals by 9.5 games. With two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera expected to miss at least another month with a hamstring injury, it might be tough for the Tigers to climb back into the race for the division title.
Making a push towards the playoffs certainly isn’t impossible for Detroit. They are just four games behind the Houston Astros for the second wild-card spot, and general manager Dave Dombrowski has been reluctant to admit that the team will accept not making the postseason in 2015. But the Tigers don’t look like a World Series contender, and the front office is planning accordingly.
"At this point," Dombrowski said, "our focus is trying to win right now. We're trying to do everything we can to qualify for the playoffs. Things can turn dramatically over a 10-game period. But you have to play well, at some point, on a consistent basis.
"We're at a point where we have to do what's best in our heart for the franchise."
Because of their impending free agency, Price and Cespedes won’t be traded for equal value. But the two players haven’t been the reason why Detroit has struggled, and they could be highly coveted by teams that are looking to win a title.
Price might be having the best year of his career, going 9-3 with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. His 127 strikeouts are tied for fifth in the AL, and his 26 walks in 132 innings give him one of the best ratios in the league. The Tigers traded pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Willy Adames and outfielder Austin Jackson in the deal that landed them Price at last year’s trade deadline.
Cespedes has been one of the best players at his position this year. Hitting .289 with 13 home runs, 52 RBI and a .482 slugging percentage, he ranks in the top 10 in each category among AL outfielders. The Boston Red Sox sent Cespedes to Detroit for pitcher Rick Porcello in December.
If the Tigers were to keep both players beyond July 31, it might be hard for them to sign them in the offseason considering they already have a top-five MLB payroll. Price could sign a contract worth over $200 million, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs figure to be his most likely destinations. The New York Mets could be a leading candidate to sign Cespedes, according to Nightengale, but they aren’t likely to trade for him by this year’s deadline.
After failing to make the playoffs in 24 of 26 seasons, the Tigers have been an AL powerhouse over the last four years. Detroit has made four consecutive postseason appearances, reaching the ALCS three times and winning four straight division titles.