The Detroit Tigers entered the 2012 campaign with visions of an American League Central crown and a trip to the World Series, the team’s first appearance since 2006. The national media was eager to anoint the team title contenders, jumping on the bandwagon with the signing of slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, seemingly out of left field. On paper, it certainly appeared that the Tigers would be able to slug their way past the porous defense they would play each day.
Unfortunately, as we near the All-Star break and creep closer to deadline day, the Tigers have sputtered. Slow starts, injuries, arrests, and an inability to put together consecutive wins have doomed the team to a 38-40 record entering July. Dave Dombrowski, the team president, has the luxury of having an owner pushing for a World Championship, and will certainly be active in the trade market to improve the club and move past the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.
Target number one for the team will be a sparkplug second baseman by the name of Jose Altuve. Altuve is hitting to the tune of .308/.350/.450 in 2012, with a WAR of 1.6 while the Tigers have combined for a stat line of .202/.273/.271, good for -2.1 WAR. You read that correctly folks, the Tigers’ second basemen have cost the team 2 wins when compared to replacement-level players. If the Tigers had seen Altuve –level production over the course of the season’s first half, they could have a boost of nearly four wins, putting them at 42-36, a ½ game ahead of the White Sox for first place in the Central.
Altuve being such a young and dynamic player could raise the price for the Tigers, potentially taking two of the club’s few top tier prospects. In this case, a package of mid-level, near majors-ready prospects such as Casey Crosby and Rob Brantly should be enough for the Astros to consider the move. The Tigers do have some depth in terms of fringe rotation arms, and could sweeten the pot if required by adding top prospect Nick Castellanos, who is blocked by superstar Miguel Cabrera. Look for the Tigers to try to avoid such a scenario as they attempt to bolster a weak spot in the lineup.