Tigers' reboot of roster enters final hours
Cespedes, Davis, Avila among remaining trade chips
BALTIMORE -- Most Tigers players were on their way from the team hotel to the ballpark Wednesday afternoon when they found out David Price had been traded to Toronto. At about the same time, Tigers officials were on the reverse route, heading from Camden Yards to the hotel so they could talk to Price in person about the deal before getting back to work.
"We have 24 hours to go," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said at a Thursday afternoon news conference about the Price trade. "When you say imminent [additional moves] ... that's why I'm not going to be here very long."
A few hours later, Dombrowski and assistants were back at the ballpark to notify closer Joakim Soria that he had been traded to Pittsburgh. The front-office decision-makers were not seen in the clubhouse at the end of Thursday's 9-8 Tigers win over the Orioles, but nobody else on the roster had been moved. Rajai Davis, who replaced Austin Jackson in the middle of an inning at last year's Trade Deadline, was lifted before the ninth inning Thursday, but it was a defensive move, not the sign of another deal.
By batting practice today, the uncertainty should largely be over. The 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline should bring the reboot mostly to a close, leaving no more looks into the dugout to see if any goodbye hugs are exchanged. With at least four more pending free agents potentially on the market, Friday could be just as busy of a day for the Tigers.
"I'm trying not to think about it as much as I can," said Davis, who created a trade rumor by himself Monday when his Twitter account suddenly started following several Cardinals players. "I'm still playing to go out there and get ready to play a game, and let the rest take care of itself."
Many players didn't find out about the Tigers' decision to sell until Wednesday afternoon. Some weren't shocked, but they had to brace themselves for what was to come.
The most likely player to go would be Yoenis Cespedes, who looms as one of the most impactful offensive players on the trade market. The Tigers would like to keep him but have not had substantive talks toward a contract extension this summer. A clause in Cespedes' contract prevents a team from making him a qualifying offer, allowing him to sign wherever he chooses without the signing team losing a Draft pick. Conversely, the Tigers can't get a compensation pick for losing him to free agency.
If Cespedes needed any more regard, his performance under the pressure of trading season might have actually enhanced his stature. With fans and teammates watching to see if he was headed out, he went 3-for-5 with three RBIs on Thursday, including a no-doubt home run to left-center. He improved to .304 with eight homers and 18 RBIs over his last 24 games.
"I don't know what's going to happen with him," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but I'll keep him as long as they let me."
Ausmus could lose Cespedes to the division-rival White Sox, who are looking for offensive catalyst. A Tigers win and White Sox loss, incidentally, drew them into a virtual tie in the American League Central and Wild Card standings.
Davis could benefit any number of teams looking for speed and baserunning acumen, which has become of fashion in recent years. Alex Avila has value as a left-handed-hitting catcher who can handle a pitching staff and deliver a high on-base percentage.
One player who might have delivered his way off the trade market is Alfredo Simon, who earned the win with 5 2/3 innings Thursday but showed he's not yet over the groin injury that knocked him out of his previous start. His fastball velocity was down, and he threw an inordinate number of splitters.
"I had a lot of trouble," Simon said. "I don't try to throw hard today. I just tried to throw down."
He still delivered on a day when he didn't have to, for a team that might have dealt him if he were 100 percent healthy.
"It's really hard, but I know the situation," Simon said. "Everybody knows the situation. That happens sometimes. Baseball is like that. It's business. When you go out there, you have to stay focused and try to do your job."