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Tigers could seek more rebound candidates

Hardy auditioning for rotation spot in 2019
MLB.com @beckjason

ANAHEIM -- The Tigers went into the season looking to continue trading their veteran talent for prospects to help in the rebuild. Their two major trades this summer involved two players who weren't Tigers at this point a year ago.

The way the Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin deals worked out, expect general manager Al Avila to pursue the same path this coming offseason. With plenty of holes open on next year's roster, and outfielder Christin Stewart the only prospect likely knocking on Detroit's door for a call-up next spring, team officials will spend another offseason looking for rebound candidates.

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ANAHEIM -- The Tigers went into the season looking to continue trading their veteran talent for prospects to help in the rebuild. Their two major trades this summer involved two players who weren't Tigers at this point a year ago.

The way the Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin deals worked out, expect general manager Al Avila to pursue the same path this coming offseason. With plenty of holes open on next year's roster, and outfielder Christin Stewart the only prospect likely knocking on Detroit's door for a call-up next spring, team officials will spend another offseason looking for rebound candidates.

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"Pitching will be addressed again, bullpen, starting pitching," Avila said Monday on his conference call with reporters to discuss Fiers' trade to Oakland. "It'll be kind of the same process, and as you go through it, you hope your system gets better."

It's not unprecedented. Ironically, Fiers' new team, the A's, used the strategy to their benefit at times over the years. Two years ago, the A's turned a one-year, $6 million deal with Rich Hill into package trade to the Dodgers that netted them youngsters Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton. A similar deal with Rajai Davis a year later earned them a prospect from the Red Sox last summer.

It's far from automatic, signing veterans and boosting their value with a regular role on a team without lofty expectations. The Tigers had a good knowledge of Fiers; Avila knew him from his days growing up in South Florida, and former Tigers pitching Chris Bosio knew him from his days on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.

Martin had metrics in his favor, suggesting he was better than the player who bounced between the Mariners and Cubs last year. If anything, the thought was his speed and defense in center should bring value; he hit well enough to enhance that.

Video: Leonys Martin glad to be with a contender

Both Fiers and Martin, moreover, had more than one year of team control, despite signing one-year deals. Both had been non-tendered, two years shy of traditional free agency. So, while the Tigers signed both to one-year contracts, they both have a year of control beyond that through arbitration, essentially acting like an option year.

The Tigers could again have a void in center for next season, though JaCoby Jones and Mike Gerber could help their cause as platoon options with strong stretch runs. Detroit could have a big opening at shortstop with Jose Iglesias eligible for free agency. The DH slot, too, could be open with Victor Martinez's contract expiring at season's end.

Hardy auditioning for rotation spot next year
After being removed from the 40-man roster in Spring Training, Blaine Hardy has stuck in the Majors this season by proving himself as one of the more versatile pitchers in the league, bouncing between Detroit's rotation and bullpen. Now that Fiers is in Oakland and the rotation has thinned, Hardy has a chance to not only finish out the season as a starter, but make his case for a rotation spot next year.

"We like him no matter how we use him," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's good for him. He likes to start. He's stretched out now, we know that, so why not just leave him in there?"

While the Tigers called up Jacob Turner to take Fiers' rotation spot, starting with Tuesday's game against the Angels, Hardy -- who starts Wednesday's series finale -- has been filling Michael Fulmer's spot while he rehabs an oblique strain. He's currently throwing long toss at the Tigers' Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., but the Tigers are taking it cautious with him to avoid a re-injury.

If and when Fulmer returns this year, Gardenhire indicated he'll play it by ear, but Hardy's track record as a starter -- including seven scoreless innings in Oakland last Friday -- has been one of the better stories around the team this season.

"He has definitely shown us that he can do some things," Gardenhire said. "He's done really well."

Video: DET@OAK: Hardy brings no-no into 7th in stellar start

Hardy, of course, is saying the right things.

"If I end up starting for the rest of the year, great. If I end up going back to the bullpen, great," he said. "I really don't have too strong of an opinion on where I'd like to be, besides being in the big leagues. I'll do whatever they want from me."

Ask further, however, and he'll admit he wants to make the most of this opportunity that he never thought he'd have. To at least compete for a starting job next spring would be a boost for him.

"It would be fun to see what I can do, because this is the first time I ever got an opportunity to start," Hardy said. "I'm going to try to run with it. … I think I've done a good job of at least proving that I can start. Now it's a matter of: Can I continually start, stay healthy and try to get the team to the sixth, seventh inning?"

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers