Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Detroit Tigers Get: CL Jonathan Papelbon
Philadelphia Phillies Get: 2B Devon Travis
The Detroit Tigers can’t seem to find any consistency from their bullpen, and time is running out to shore up a unit that ranked 13th in the American League in ERA (4.43) and last in batting average against (.275) going into action on Monday, per splits over at ESPN.com.
No doubt, the group needs to improve, and the Philadelphia Phillies may be able to help.
To that end, The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote that “with the need for back-end bullpen help, [Jonathan] Papelbon could still be in play for a deal before the end of the month.” Cafardo went on to add that “now the question becomes does a team such as the Tigers make one last attempt to bolster their bullpen before the playoffs?”
To be sure, just about every contending club would happily take on a player with Papelbon’s pedigree, but the franchise with the bleakest long-term picture in the bullpen is the Tigers, and they have the financial resources to assume his salary.
As such, a deal that includes Devon Travis as the focal point should be enough to satisfy Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s need for a prudent return. And let’s not forget that, as Amaro himself noted to various outlets, including Todd Zolecki from MLB.com, not getting a player that would make the Phillies “better” is what stood in the way of a move before the deadline—not money.
Regarding Travis, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo wrote the following:
He has an advanced approach at the plate and uses his quick, compact swing to make hard contact. He showed some surprising power as a professional, but he's more of a gap hitter than a slugger. He's a heady player, allowing his average speed to play up on the basepaths.
Travis is a solid defender at second base. His tools aren't the loudest, but he has the potential to be an everyday second baseman in the big leagues.
On the season, the right-handed hitter is slashing out at .300/.352/.457 with nine home runs and 42 RBI in 350 at-bats at Double-A. He also has 18 doubles and 14 stolen bases, highlighting his ability to find the gaps and his savvy baserunning. With Ian Kinsler on the 25-man roster, however, his path to the big leagues is blocked.
Besides the obvious talent that Travis possesses, there is another reason that grabbing him makes sense for the Phillies—their top prospect at the position is Jesmuel Valentin. Now, Valentin has a ton of tools, but he won’t be ready for at least two or three years and has been pegged “as a utility man,” per Mayo. That's not going to get the job done
What if Chase Utley's three $15 million vesting options beginning in 2016 that are based on plate appearances don't kick in? Wouldn't it be wise to have a guy like Travis already in the system to ease the transition? You bet it would.
And while this is a move that may end up hurting the Tigers from a fiscal perspective in two or three years, this season is all that matters. It is about what manager Brad Ausmus' relievers are able to do with the leads that the starting rotation hands them—right now.
Grabbing Papelbon (2-2, 1.61 ERA, 0.854 WHIP, 28 S) would go a long way toward making the bullpen situation a better one in the Motor City.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are accurate as of game time on Monday, August 18. Transaction, prospect, game and injury information are courtesy of MLB.com. Contract information pulled from Cot's Contracts.