The Detroit Tigers entered 2014 as possible World Series favorites given their formidable rotation trio (Scherzer, Verlander, Sanchez), solid lineup from top to bottom and the addition of Joe Nathan, one of the best active closers in baseball heading into the season. But despite the high expectations and overall hot start to the season, which has included winning streaks of eight and six games, new manager Brad Ausmus and his club have run into trouble as of late, with some of the team’s glaring weaknesses being exposed.
In an effort to shore up those issues, the Tigers will certainly be buyers when we reach the July trade deadline. Aside from the obvious holes at shortstop and in the bullpen, Detroit has received poor play from its catcher and third base positions, ranking 16th and 22nd in WAR, respectively. That’s not surprising considering Nick Castellanos’ average offensive production and well below average defensive play, and Alex Avila’s continued disappointing performance at the plate (.216/.337/.365), highlighted by his outrageous 62 strikeouts in 148 at-bats. Though general manager Dave Dombrowski might not spring for upgrades at those positions given his team's other more pressing needs, it’s worth at least considering the alternatives there too.
Possible Players to Acquire
The Arizona shortstop has been the odd man out with Chris Owings' emergence this year, but he's still a valuable player despite his lack of playing time, and he'd be a clear upgrade at shortstop for the Tigers. Gregorius has a .901 OPS in 29 plate appearances this season after putting together a .704 mark in 404 PAs in 2013, and his proven ability to reach base with relative consistency would be a refreshing change for the club should Dombrowski be able to find the necessary pieces to deal for Gregorius. That could be the most limiting factor here, but if the teams could come to terms, Gregorius to the Tigers would be an excellent deal for a Detroit team in grave need of a new shortstop.
Trade Likelihood: Medium
The struggles at shortstop have been primarily defensive for the Tigers, given the club's 24th-ranked defense at the position. Kozma would provide relief in that aspect, with his solid 6.7 UZR in 2013, and he's shown flashes of hitting competence in the past despite posting putrid numbers last season. FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi said that Kozma's similarity to Danny Worth would make this deal unlikely to happen, though that's not an entirely accurate comparison given Kozma's clearly superior fielding and Worth's proven inability to hit consistently (or at all).
Trade Likelihood: Medium to low
The most obvious acquisition for the Tigers would be Street, one of the most enticing players on the Padres roster with his 1.08 ERA this season. The fit makes plenty of sense given Street's impending free agency (though the team does have an option for 2015) and the Padres' overall struggles this season. If any player acquisition could ever be deemed "likely," this would be the one.
Trade Likelihood: High
The Tigers' bullpen troubles extend beyond the closer spot, and Adams, a consistently successful setup man who has a 2.12 ERA in 19 appearances this season, just might fit the bill for a team in desperate need of bullpen aid of any sort. As our own Tyler Drenon noted, Adams is likely to be a free agent this season, and he won't come at too steep of a cost. In terms of getting a good return without much of an investment, it won't get much better than Adams for the Tigers 'pen.
Trade Likelihood: Medium to low
Remember him? Placed on the 60-day disabled list on April 14 with a strained hamstring, Cervelli will return from the DL within the next week, and he could be a valuable addition to the Tigers roster. In particular, with Alex Avila's struggles against lefties (.200/.256/.325 this season) and Cervelli's proven success against them (.295 career average, .389 OBP), this deal could benefit Detroit significantly.
This is obviously pure speculation on my part, as there haven't been any rumors linking Cervelli and the Tigers. But given his relatively cheap price tag, which is made all the more cheap by the Yankees' stock of catching prospects, and the favorable split stats, this is a deal to at least consider.