After drastically under-performing in the first half of the 2012 season, the Detroit Tigers finally seem to be getting into the swing of things. At 47-43, their record might not be where they wanted it to be, but it is good enough to have them atop the wild-card standings and only 3.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
The reasons behind the sluggish start in Motown were no mystery, however. Looking at any number of games throughout the course of the season, the flaws in Jim Leyland's team were evident. Detroit had no real second baseman, no support behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and inconsistent pitching, aside from Justin Verlander.
For a team relying on a powerful offense to mask their potential issues coming into the 2012 season, the Tigers struggled mightily when that offense wasn't extraordinary for their first 81 games. But, near the end of the first half, the Tigers started to pull it together. Delmon Young, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch finally started to support the big men in the middle, and Detroit surged back into the thick of things in the AL playoff hunt.
However, as it stands, many still believe that the Tigers do not have enough to overcome the Yankees or Texas. With rumors flying around about which move can wake the American League's sleeping giant, these are the best speculative moves that have been discussed.
Hamels is the best player on the team, but he represents the worst trade scenario for Detroit. While they would be pairing the lefty with Justin Verlander to form a formidable one-two punch at the top of the rotation, the move might not guarantee them a World Series this year. This is important because Hamels is almost certainly just a rental for the Tigers. With Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera all locked in and cashing in huge checks, Hamels simply would be too expensive to keep long-term.
Beyond that, Hamels is not just literally expensive, he is figuratively expensive. In order to obtain someone like Hamels, the Tigers would have to give Philadelphia a package that involved top prospects Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner, in addition to other prospects and possibly major league talent as well.
If Mike Ilitch believes that Hamels will win Detroit a championship in 2012, he may bring the Philadelphia hurler to Motown, but he may mortgaging the Tigers' future to do so.
It's clear that Detroit wants to add a southpaw in their rotation. Without a consistent presence from Drew Smyly, who has spent time on and off the disabled list and is also just a rookie, the Tigers have an entirely right-handed rotation. Cole Hamels is clearly the top lefty on the market, but the Tigers need to look elsewhere if they want to keep their future intact while getting better.
The concern here is Rodriguez's contract.
Rodriguez is 7-7 with a solid 3.45 ERA playing for a bad Houston team and can only get better playing with a Detroit offense that is much stronger than Houston's to begin with. Tigers fans weren't impressed with Doug Fister last year when Detroit acquired him, but he pitched phenomenally with the aid of Comerica Park's lengthy fences and Detroit's potent offense.
Rodriguez could have the same potential if given the chance to show it.
Scutaro isn't the biggest name on the market. In fact, he's probably one of the smallest. However, at second base he is a serious upgrade over Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. Beyond that, he adds a contact hitter to a lineup built primarily from slugging power-hitters, and he brings a defensive upgrade as well.
If Scutaro was acquired by Detroit, he would most likely not be the only move they would make. Not to mention that he could spell Jhonny Peralta at short stop from time to time and is cheap as well. Scutaro has struggled the past few years, but at one time he hit 14 home runs and drove in 60 runs for Toronto while also hitting 11 home runs and driving in 56 runs for Boston.
Getting out of Colorado could provide Scutaro with a spark and give Detroit a real second basemen, something they desperately need.
Getting a pitcher from the Mariners at the deadline 2011 propelled Detroit to the ALCS. Doing it again could have the same affect. Vargas is 9-7 with the Mariners, who are still a poor offensive team. Beyond that, he is a left-handed starter which is a theme on the Tigers' wish list.
As with Scutaro, Vargas would most likely be paired with another acquisition to bolster the Tigers' roster. As with any pitcher, the friendly confines of Comerica can pad stats, and Vargas has shown some real solid talent behind Felix Hernandez in Seattle.
He would not be the second top-line starter that the Tigers are looking for, but he would definitely be an upgrade over Drew Smyly and could possibly supplant Porcello in the playoff rotation, if the Tigers make it that far.
Quentin was a bigger priority for the Tigers when their offense was struggling. There is no guarantee that the Detroit offense has staying power, but right now, starting, pitching and second base have to be the true concerns for the Tigers.
However, Quentin is still worth a look. The outfielder has hit eight home runs and driven in 21 runs in just 36 games for a bad San Diego team. Comparatively, this is much better than Delmon Young who has similar numbers in a full season as part of a potent lineup. Beyond that, the Tigers know from Quentin's White Sox days just what he is capable of.
If Detroit could pair the Carlos Quentin, who hit 36 home runs and drove in 100 runs for the White Sox, with Cabrera and Fielder, they could compete offensively with Texas and have a better lineup and rotation than New York. Not to mention that Victor Martinez could also be part of that lineup by the time the playoffs roll around.
According to ESPN's Jim Bowden (story is behind a pay wall), the Tigers are interested in acquiring Barney for a mid-level prospect which would be a very solid deadline deal if they paired him with a quality starting pitcher. Barney is cheap, young and a legitimate second basemen. He brings average, a good glove and youth to a team that needs all of those things. Barney will never be Robinson Cano or Chase Utley, but he would sure up the second base position in Detroit for years to come.
Barney hit .276 and drove in 43 runs last year for a poor Chicago team. With support in front and behind, Barney could become an even better player. Maybe he won't be an All-Star, but he will assuredly be a good second basemen in the MLB. For this year, he could close a hole in the Tigers' lineup and add heart and hustle to a team lacking leadership in the wake of Victor Martinez's injury.
Dempster is in the midst of one of the best statistical years of his life. While he is only 5-3, that is more a reflection of his team than his own skill. Dempster has thrown 33 straight scoreless innings and has a 1.86 ERA. He has also struck out 75 batters and has a 1.02 WHIP. Behind Justin, Verlander Dempster provides a solid number-two starter and allows the Tigers to acquire other pieces at the deadline while not mortgaging their entire future.
The concerns with Dempster are his age (35), and the fact that he has already stated an interest in returning to the Cubs, even if he is traded. While the Cubs won't demand a Hamels-like haul from Detroit, they will want someone while Dempster's trade value is hot, and Dave Dombrowski may not want to give up someone like Jacob Turner for just one year of Ryan Dempster.
However, with a playoff rotation that would consist of Verlander, Dempster, Fister and Scherzer, the Tigers would be a formidable opponent for anyone they faced.
During the offseason, the Tigers' interest in Garza was one of the most compelling rumors in the MLB. With Garza, the Tigers thought they would have two dynamic, top-of-the-line starters and a good supporting cast in Fister, Scherzer and Porcello. However, Garza has struggled this year, and even playing for the Cubs can't be an excuse for an ERA around four, a 5-7 record and an apparent lack of focus.
A change of scenery might be just what Garza needs and just what the Tigers need. Garza is younger than Dempster and would be locked into a Tigers uniform, unlike Hamels. The Cubs right-hander is still 28 and has loads of potential. The Tigers may have to give up Jacob Turner to land Garza, but like Garza, Turner's stock has plummeted in the wake of 13-0 loss to the Angels in a call-up start on Tuesday.
Many speculated that Shields would be traded at the deadline last year, but when the Rays began their spectacular run, those rumors went away. This year, with the Yankees pulling away and the Rays struggling in the absence of Evan Longoria, Shields' rumors are once again arising. As Danny Knobler of CBS Sports suggested, the Tigers may be interested.
Shields, like Hamels, would cost a lot in terms of players and prospects, but unlike Hamels, he is under team control for a longer period of time and would give Detroit the best 1-2 combination in all of baseball. Shields, who was in the Cy-Young running before Verlander pulled away, is just 30, durable and has had more than 10 wins in every year he has played in the MLB, with the exception of his rookie year.
Shields is struggling this year but is still 8-6, could benefit from Comerica and is perhaps expendable with all the younger pitching talent in Tampa Bay. With Verlander and Shields, the Tigers could be World Series favorites.
Stephen Drew and Ryan Roberts are the opposite of Cole Hamels in the trade market this Summer. They aren't the biggest names, but they represent the trade that makes Detroit the best possible team they could be under the circumstances.
Drew is one of the truly talented, young shortstops in the game and is finally healthy after he fractured his ankle. Roberts, on the other hand, could be the future at second base in Detroit and give them exactly what Jim Leyland meant when he said he wanted his Tigers to have more "dirtbag" players and a mean streak.
A deal that would send Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Raburn and prospects to Arizona for these two infielders is one that the Tigers have to pull the trigger on. Peralta gives Arizona a shortstop, and Raburn, with a change of scenery, could be the player Detroit thought he could be.
Drew once hit 21 home runs and drove in 67 RBIs while hitting .291 and could be the shortstop in Detroit for years to come, while Peralta is on the back end of his career. Ryan Roberts represents a significant upgrade over Raburn and Santiago at second base and gives the Tigers an attitude. He is young too.
If the Tigers could acquire Stephen Drew, Ryan Roberts and Jason Vargas they could easily be in the World Series come October.