Tuesday, July 18, 2017

JD Martinez. The first domino?

The Detroit Tigers traded right fielder JD Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three "prospects". A good move? Maybe. One never knows about prospects. If even one of them turns out to be a star for many years, the Tigers would have done OK.

Martinez himself was far from a complete player. Sure, he could hit, but was also a defensive liability in the outfield.

But JD is probably good with the trade. After all, he's of Cuban descent, went to a school in southern Florida, and spent his early Major League years with the Houston Astros. In other words, hot places. Playing in Detroit in April or October had to be quite the cold culture shock to his system. Arizona ought to suit him just fine.

He's also coming up on free agency, and will likely demand and command a huge raise. This is a problem Detroit no longer has to worry about.

Yet the Tigers find themselves in quite the unenviable position of being far closer to the basement of the American League than in contention. At this posting, only the Chicago White Sox sported a worse record.

However, something called the elusive "hope" seems to be in endless supply when it comes to Detroit. See the long hapless Lions as Exhibit A. Six decades of futility and counting, but dammit, this just might be the year. Right.

What's misleading is how the Tigers still have a theoretical shot at the post season this year. This is only because they play in the AL Central division. Mysteriously, the Cleveland Indians, far and away the superior team, have yet to gain traction this year. Is the hangover from having the World Series snatched away from them at the last second in 2016 still lingering? Maybe. But the Tigers are a mere 6-7 games out with roughly 70 left to play. Doable? Hmmm.

Looking around the rest of the Major Leagues presents a much more sobering picture. If the Tigers were in the.....

Al East -- they'd be 10 games behind.
Al West -- 21 games out.
NL East -- 15.
NL Central -- 11.
NL West -- a whopping 23.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, JD's destination, are very much in the thick of the wild-card race and are 12 games ahead of the Tigers at this point. A definite upgrade.

Thing is, could Martinez be only the first domino to fall if the Tigers decide to clean house and go into the rebuild mode they've been long overdue for?

At least he had some value. As mentioned above, he can hit, if nothing else.

Looking at the rest of their roster, it's difficult to see which players other teams might be interested in.

Justin Verlander, one time ace, has regressed into merely a journeyman pitcher. Plus he has three more years of a guaranteed whopper contract as baggage.

Miguel Cabrera, just a few scant years removed from the glory of a Triple Crown season, has also taken a huge step backwards in productivity of late.

Both these guys are clearly on the back sides of their careers, with major long term contract issues. So who would want them?

Michael Fulmer is a promising young starting pitcher, but not great by any means. The Tigers seem to think he's worth his weight in gold, and he might well be some day, but that day is not here yet. Fulmer could as easily flame out ala Mark Fidrych from yesteryear. One never knows. If the Tigers want quality players in return for what has become an obvious rebuild situation, Fulmer's trade stock will never be higher than what it is now.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler remains a quality player in every way. But his biological clock is ticking as well. To hang onto him trying to salvage respectability for an otherwise inferior team wouldn't seem to make a whole lot of sense either. In a year or two, his value will no doubt diminish greatly.

Though it goes against their always proud grain, the Detroit Tigers might be wise to take a lesson from the Boston Celtics. There has never been a prouder franchise in all of sports than the Celtics. Championship banners galore hang from the rafters in their building.

But GM Danny Ainge wisely blew it all up and started over. Sure, the Celts were terrible for a few years. Growing pains that come with the territory. But look at them now. They've acquired several really good young players, still have high draft choices coming out of their ears, and are poised to become a force in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, and stay there, in future years.

In short, the Tigers can't have it both ways. They tried the short-term free-agent route, but could never quite get over the hump for another championship -- and their drought now stretches way back to 1984.

The make-up of the current team certainly isn't going to get it done either. Way, WAY too many liabilities and not nearly enough assets. It is what it is, and it ain't pretty. Did I mention cellar dwellers? It's coming one way or the other. To prolong the agony of the inevitable defies logic and business sense.

This team is going nowhere in the near future as it is.

Much better to sell/trade off what few assets they have and hope to rebuild for a more promising future in years to come.

As the trade deadline approaches -- we'll see.....

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