Chad Tracy (1B/3B/OF), seen above, could be one of several players on the radar screen for the Detroit Tigers as the trade deadline approaches.
Welcome to July.
The All-Star festivities are next week, and the trade deadline is approaching. The midseason hot stove is heating up, and some deals have already been cut.
The Detroit Tigers are still in first place in the American League Central. Now is the time for the front office to address the weaknesses the team has and shore them up.
Very rarely do the teams that compete in October have the same personnel that they started the season with in April.
This should be the case with the Detroit Tigers this year. To stay in first place, they will need to upgrade.
Several teams have already fallen out of contention for 2009 and are in selling mode.
One of the key things to remember for the Tigers is this: They do not have the ability to take on large amounts of salary, especially for players with larger contracts that extend beyond this year.
With that being said, let us evaluate the needs the Tigers have and some possible suitors to fill those needs.
I doubt many would disagree with the idea that the Tigers need help in their relief corps.
Fernando Rodney has not been a very good closer and has been even worse in non-save situations. Brandon Lyon has been on the upswing lately but is a very sporadic reliever.
Finally, Joel Zumaya has not matured into the dominant setup man everyone hoped he would be.
Some possible solutions:
1. George Sherrill (LHP, Orioles)
The closer for the Orioles is 15 for 18 in save opportunities this year and is striking out nearly a batter per inning.
2. Chad Qualls (RHP, Diamondbacks)
It might be easy for Qualls to slip through the cracks because he is not flashy, but he has a career ERA of 3.32 in nearly 400 innings pitched. He is having another fine, consistent season.
3. Jason Frasor (RHP, Blue Jays)
Originally drafted by the Tigers in 1999, Frasor has been a hard-throwing reliever since entering the Majors with the Jays in 2004. He is enjoying a career season in 2009 thanks to the emergence of an effective changeup.
The Tigers actually have a very productive and versatile bench, but significant upgrades can still be had. An intriguing idea is to acquire someone who can play regularly in right field, leaving Magglio Ordonez on the bench more often.
Some possible acquisitions:
1. Adam LaRoche (1B, Pirates)
LaRoche is a left-handed hitter who, historically, heats up with the summer. He could be used at DH, moving Marcus Thames to left field full-time.
2. Luke Scott (OF, Orioles)
Scott has been a notorious Tiger killer in his career. Why not put the English "D" on him instead of letting him gun the Tigers down? He is an average defender in the outfield but swings an excellent bat from the left side.
3. Chad Tracy (1B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks)
Tracy is an intriguing thought as a buy-low candidate. He is only hitting .203 for Arizona but could benefit from a change in scenery. He is another left-handed veteran who could be a productive bench hitter.
Dusty Ryan is a tenuous choice as the backup catcher because of his lack of seasoning as a defender, but he is the best of the in-house candidates.
Through trade, the Tigers could grab any number of good veteran backup catchers:
1. Gregg Zaun (C, Orioles)
Zaun is yet another good piece the Tigers could pluck from Baltimore. The arrival of top prospect Matt Wieters cleared the way for Zaun to be traded. Zaun is the pedigree of catcher every team needs on its bench to head toward the playoffs.
2. Henry Blanco (C, Padres)
Despite recently going on the DL with a hamstring strain, he should be healthy as the trade deadline approaches. He could be had for cheap and is in the same class as Zaun.
Because of budget constraints, big-name acquisitions are right out the window.
That means Adam Dunn, Aubrey Huff, and Nick Johnson will not be coming to Detroit. The desire for these players from multiple teams will drive their prices up.
The Tigers will not be big players in the midseason hot stove, but they don't need to be. They can still pick up a few solid pieces with some smart trading.
One possible wild card solution is Carlos Guillen. He could be nearing a return to Detroit from the DL, but his injury history makes it hard to rely on him.
Finally, more options will open up as the end of July draws closer. Fringe teams will decide that they are out of contention and sell.