The Tigers will make all their veteran players available for trade if they are below .500 by the end of June, sources told Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Currently, the Tigers are 22-24 and are in third place in the AL Central.
Morosi says this is the stance that the Tigers took in the winter after surpassing the luxury-tax limit last year and having a payroll that was in the top five in baseball. Tigers general manager Al Avila said to Jason Beck of MLB.com at the time that he wanted the Tigers to get younger without shelling out more cash than they have, but they kept most of their team intact.
A big reason they did so was because they are locked-in to a ton of long-term contracts with aging veterans, which can hurt them when the big 2019 free agency period starts, as noted by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
They have All-Star first baseman and former MVP Miguel Cabrera signed through 2023, with options for 2024 and 2015, after the 34-year-old inked an eight-year $248-million contract in 2016. They also have All-Star pitchers Justin Verlander (34 years old, 10 years, $219.5 million) and Jordan Zimmerman (31, five years, $110 million) signed through possibly 2020 if Verlander finishes in the top five in the Cy Young voting in 2019 in order to achieve his vesting option of $22 million for 2020. They also have outfielder Justin Opton (29, six years, $132.75 million) under contract through 2021, designated hitter Victor Martinez (38, four years, $68 million) signed through 2018 and reliever Francisco Rodriguez (35, three years, $17 million) inked through this year.
Passan said the contracts of Cabrera and Zimmerman are “untradeable,” and Verlander is a 10-and-5 player. The Tigers also owe $6 million per season to Prince Fielder, who is medically disabled and on the Rangers’ 60-day list, through 2020.
Morosi did tweet that out of all the players for the Tigers, new closer Justin Wilson drew the most interest in the offseason. The 29-year-old Wilson, who took over the closer spot that was held by Rodriguez, has a 1.89 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP with three saves this season and is a free agent in 2019.
Along with Wilson, Detroit might also look into trading 29-year-old outfielder J.D. Martinez and 34-year-old second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Martinez and Kinsler, both of whom were rumored to be in trade discussions over the winter, are free agents in 2018 at the earliest. Kinsler has a $12 million option ($5 million buyout) for that year. However, Kinsler has a 10-team no-trade clause and would only agree to a trade if he was guaranteed a contract extension on his current contract.