The Detroit Tigers have gone through their fair share ups and downs so far in the 2010 season.
The Tigers, who were leading the AL Central just two weeks ago, have had a dreadful start to the second half of the season, dropping seven in a row, including a four game sweep to the lowly Cleveland Indians. In the past ten days, Brandon Inge, Carlos Guillen, and Magglio Ordonez have all gone on the DL, joining Joel Zumaya. But don't you fret, Tigers fans. Because General Dave Dombrowski has the farm system talent and history of pulling the trigger on trades to make a run at the division crown.
With a week left before the trade deadline, the Tigers have five major holes to fill in order to stay in the race: Catcher, Third Base, Shortstop, Outfield, and Starting Pitcher.
Catcher: Gerald Laird and Alex Avila can't hit their way out of a paper bag this season, batting .187 and .210 respectively. Last season, Laird was not much better in the batter's box, but it was behind the plate that made him so valuable, throwing out 42% of potential base-stealers with 78 assists, leading starting AL catchers. This season is a different story as he is throwing out 32% of base-stealers.
Tigers fans thought they found their catcher of the future last season, when Avila drove in 14 runs in 29 games. Jim Leyland and Dombrowski may have jumped the gun with Avila, though. Another year in Toledo would have drastically helped him consistently hit both lefties and righties. This year against lefties, he is hitting an abysmal .133, and his barely better against righties coming in at .218. These numbers just are not getting it done and Dombrowski may be looking to a former Tiger for a replacement. Pudge Rodriguez is hitting .275 while throwing out 42% of runners at the tender age of 38. The Washington National's may look to move their catcher for a young, middle-of-the-road pitcher, such as Jay Sborz or Alfredo Figaro. Pudge will get on base, drive in crucial runs, already knows most of the pitchers on the team, and will also provide great leadership down the stretch.
Third Base and Shortstop: Fan favorite Brandon Inge was not blowing the league away with his batting average this year, but he was a Gold Glove caliber third basemen and was putting together a very nice run to end the first half of the season. On May 29th, his batting average was .215, but slowly raised it to .272 just before the All-Star break. The Tigers might be smart to fix these positions from within the organization with a combination of Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth at SS and Scott Sizemore, Don Kelly, and Ryan Raburn at 3B.
Of course, it seems like every year at this time, Jack Wilson's name starts popping up. The Seattle Mariners' shortstop has incredible range and a better bat than some of the possible replacements. Word on the street is that Red Sox third basemen Mike Lowell is also on the trade block. The 36-year-old former World Series MVP would provide a steady bat with some power, but would come at a very high price. The Red Sox would not demand a high-profiled prospect in return, but his 2010 salary is above $12 million.
Starting Pitcher : All of the Tigers starting pitchers have shown some promise this season, but they are unable to put it together consistently. Justin Verlander is pitching like the ace he is paid to be, with a 12-5 record and is currently 5th in the AL in strikeouts. Max Scherzer is quietly 16th in the AL in strikeouts after a horrific start to the year and becoming the #2 Tigers fans thought he would be. Rick Porcello is definitely going through his sophomore slump and spent a month down in Toledo AAA. He showed signs of life in his last start, going eight innings giving up one earned run, but he will need to be more like last year's AL Rookie of the Year candidate to quiet the critics. With Armando Galarraga's "perfect game" and Jeremy Bonderman's first healthy season since 2007, the rotation could be worse. However, you can't trust the your top two pitchers to get you to the postseason by themselves.
The crafty lefty Ted Lilly is available in Chicago, and the asking price might not be very high. Just like for Pudge, a player like Sborz or Figaro might get the job done for Lilly. He is a pitcher who takes the mound and will get your team seven innings of three run ball every five days. It is reported that the Diamondbacks are still shopping their pitchers. Dan Haren is off to Los Angeles, but could Edwin Jackson be back with in the D? He had a great first half in 2009, but slowed down in the second half, justifying his trade to Arizona.
J.A. Happ, another left-hander, had an incredible 2009 season, his first full season in the Bigs. Compiling a 12-4 record with an ERA of 2.93, he helped the Philadelphia Phillies to the NL Pennant. The Phillies could move Happ, along with outfielder Jayson Werth, to bring in a more proven arm.
Outfield: Magglio Ordonez's injury and Brennan Boesch's July slump has opened up a spot for another outfielder. And we all know you can never have enough left-handed power hitters. Enter: Adam Dunn. The Big Donkey is slowly becoming a Hall of Fame candidate and would fit perfectly in the Tigers lineup ahead of Cabrera. Dunn-Cabrera-Boesch? I'll take it. Along with Jayson Werth, Jeff Francoeur, and Jose Guillen, there is plenty to go around in the outfield. Let's just hope the Tigers bounce on one of them.