This is it. Here we go. As the calendar winds its way toward July 31, it’s all trade talk, all the time. What will the Tigers do? My own theory is that we’ll mostly stand pat. Why? Well, the team has hit a slump and just can’t seem to put much, if any, distance between them and a .500 record (well, not on the right side of a .500 record, anyways). So, logically, that would make us “sellers” in a potential trade market. For my next few turns, I’ll take a look at just what we have to offer. Today, the infield:
C: Ivan Rodriguez — Somewhat of an untradeable contract (especially for a catcher at age 33), and hasn’t been playing well to boot: at 4.59 Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC27), he’s ahead of only Nook Logan among Tigers who have qualifying plate appearance totals. Here’s another trade-killer… Let’s say a contending team does want him. We’ll need a major-league quality catcher in return. Our minor league system is bereft of quality catching, especially at the upper levels. I suppose one could argue that Max St. Pierre is finally hitting, but is doing so at age 25 in his third try at AA. Nobody will want Vance Wilson the way he’s been going. I’m not even sure we really much want him. Speaking of which, have you seen what Anderson Hernandez has been up to?
1B/DH: Chris Shelton — Young (turned 25 this summer), not yet arb-eligible, and hitting up a storm (a whopping 9.32 RC27, which would place him atop the league if only he had enough plate appearances to qualify) after his lost Rule V season. Not going anywhere. As close to untouchable as it gets, though if you really want to offer us 3 premium prospects (at least one of which is ready right now) or the like for him… And who’s going to do that for a guy that has a… less-than-stellar (and I’m being kind, here) defensive reputation?
1B/DH: Carlos Pena — As bad as he was earlier in the season (a woeful 2.90 RC27), dude is flat-out raking down at Toledo. As much of a disappointment as he was in the Olde English D, the Toledo numbers make you wonder if he has found it again at the age of 27. In fact, he might make some excellent trade bait, assuming we’re looking to buy instead of sell.
1B/DH: Dmitri Young — He’s kind of on the border of whether he would be on the next significant Tiger team at the age of 31 (turns 32 shortly after the end of the season). Making far too much money for his output and relatively poor defense (he’s pretty much down to 1st base duties only), and I recently learned that his 2006 season vests with 500 plate appearances in 2005. Believe me, I am not above rooting for an injury. Furthermore, he stinks right now: a 4.74 RC27, including an odious .309 OBP. His RC27 number is only that high because of his recent penchant for 400+ foot bombs on his one hit he gets in every dozen at-bats or so. He has improved lately (1167 OPS in the last 7 days), but he’s currently at 333 PA… Count me in as pulling for a pull, if you know what I mean.
2B: Placido Polanco — Might be the perfect Comerica-type player, and he won’t turn 30 until shortly after the regular season… Hits line drives, isn’t swinging for the fences on every at-bat… Has compiled a 6.71 RC27 since the trade, and was at 6.01 with the Phils. Word is that the Tigers brass would like to ink him to a Carlos Guillen-like deal… I like the idea of that. However, he might make for some fine trade bait if the Tigers feel like they’re not going to retain him in the off-season, as he is in his “walk year”. If they do sign him to a reasonable deal, he might well find himself in a “sell” trade as the deal draws to a close (see Carlos Guillen comments below).
2B/SS/possible utility role: Omar Infante — Showed a lot of promise last year after quite a down year in 2003, but has lost his job by not keeping it going… His RC27 in 2003 was 2.39, spiked to 5.01 last year, and currently sits at 3.57. On the other hand, he does have the age thing going for him (he’s just 23). If we sign Polanco to an extension or at least have indications that such a deal is close, Infante might be bait for a buying trade.
3B: Brandon Inge — Not yet arb-eligible (and is 28 years old), and his bat has made an amazing transformation since his conversion from catcher… His RC27 in his years playing primarily as a catcher: 1.64, 2.82, 2.78. In the 2 years since then: 5.43 and currently 5.90. To my mind, he’s not going anywhere, but on the other hand, he might be in the “Jeff Weaver role” as the Tiger who can get the most value in return in a “sell” trade. Could Infante play third if we did that?
SS: Carlos Guillen — Age 29 and signed to a very reasonable 4-year deal last year. Had a breakout season at 7.60 RC27 after spending 4 consecutive years in the 4’s. It looks like the improvement was genuine, as he is currently at 7.00 despite battling a knee recovering from surgery all season. About as untouchable as any Tiger, but I do wonder about his age a bit. He is one of the older players on this list, and there does seem to be a replacement there in Infante. Probably not this year, but I could see him going in a “sell” trade near the end of his contract. On the other hand, I would hope that by the end of his contract, the Tigers will be in “buy” mode.