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Tigers eye potential rebuild in second half

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- One way or another, the Tigers are going to have a historic second half. It's looking less and less likely to be a historic comeback.

"I do believe we can turn it around," Justin Verlander said last Saturday, "but it's not looking great."

DETROIT -- One way or another, the Tigers are going to have a historic second half. It's looking less and less likely to be a historic comeback.

"I do believe we can turn it around," Justin Verlander said last Saturday, "but it's not looking great."

If they can, it'll be one for the ages. If they can't pull off a winning streak out of the break, general manager Al Avila will most likely begin the process of dismantling the star-laden, veteran roster they've assembled over years of a win-now philosophy, and embark on Detroit's first real rebuilding project in over a decade.

:: 2017 Midterm Report: Complete coverage ::

"We don't have long to turn it around," Verlander continued. "Obviously, Al's already put out there some of the guys that are on the block, and we'd probably have to peel off like 10 or 12 straight to kind of turn that tide a little bit. But I'm not saying it's not possible.

"I think as long as everybody in this clubhouse is wearing the Old English D, that's all we think about. You think about winning for this organization. You think about turning things around. Think about winning ballgames. That's it."

How long these Tigers remain will be the biggest question of the next few weeks. Some, like soon-to-be free agent J.D. Martinez, are obvious, others less so. Justin Wilson is a year and a half out from free agency, but in a market where relievers are the hot stock, he might never be more valuable to deal. Same goes for slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias, also a free agent after 2018.

Then there are the big-contract players like Verlander, who has two guaranteed seasons left on his deal at $28 million each and the no-trade rights to leverage his $22 million vesting option for 2020 to be picked up.

Trade scenario
For all the attention surrounding Martinez and Verlander, some scouts following the Tigers believe Wilson could draw more interest and a bigger return in this market, a late-inning reliever with an extra year of control at reasonable salaries. Given the bullpen situation in Washington, it's difficult to see the Nationals not making a run at him. The Tigers have pitching depth in their system but desperately need young hitters. Thirteen of Washington's top 16 prospects on MLB Pipeline's rankings are position players, including speedy center fielder Andrew Stevenson (fifth), third baseman Sheldon Neuse (sixth), corner infielder Drew Ward (12th) and outfielder Blake Perkins (14th).

Video: DET@CLE: Wilson picks up save with clutch outing

What are they playing for?
For now, they're playing for their chances at a comeback. If they sell heavily at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the final two months could be tough. The one motivation could be preservation of jobs, with manager Brad Ausmus and his staff up at season's end.

The road ahead
If there's any factor helping the chances of a Tigers comeback, it's the schedule. Other than a mid-August trip to Texas and an Interleague series at Colorado later that month, Detroit's longest travel is a pair of trips to Kansas City and Minnesota. More than half of their remaining games are against division foes, and they're over .500 against AL Central foes.

Key player
For all the potential personnel changes, this team goes as Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler go, and those two aren't likely headed anywhere at the Deadline. The Tigers need a second-half resurgence from both, whether they're trying to climb back into contention or playing out the season with kids and replacements.

Video: CLE@DET: Miggy crushes a solo tater to center

Prospects to watch
Joe Jimenez was supposed be the prospect who could give the Tigers a second-half boost in the bullpen. It's probably too late for Detroit's fifth-ranked prospect in MLB Pipeline's rankings to help a playoff run, but Jimenez could get an extended look in Detroit if Wilson is traded. JaCoby Jones (ninth-ranked) could get another spell in center field if Martinez is traded, moving Mikie Mahtook to right.

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

Detroit Tigers