DETROIT -- The Tigers stood within a game of first place in the American League Central on May 15 -- 41 games into the season. They stood within a game of .500 on June 17 -- 73 games into the season.But Detroit has won five of 25 games since the
DETROIT -- The Tigers stood within a game of first place in the American League Central on May 15 -- 41 games into the season. They stood within a game of .500 on June 17 -- 73 games into the season.
But Detroit has won five of 25 games since the latter. The most recent victory was a six-run shellacking of former ace Justin Verlander on Sunday.
Welcome to the travails of a young, rebuilding team. With 64 games left on the schedule, there's more of this to come. Injuries have contributed to the recent struggles, and trades over the next couple weeks could further sap the roster of what little experience it has left.
Still, what has stood out about the Tigers this season goes beyond the record. It's a young team in transition, and it shows, but it's a team that plays hard under manager Ron Gardenhire. It's a team that has shown a knack for late-inning comebacks, long before the Rally Goose became a thing. It's also a team that plays an aggressive, hard-running style of offense that hasn't been seen around Comerica Park for quite some time.
There's still a ways to go for the Tigers before they contend again. This season is more about the process, and the moments within it. So far, this team has provided more moments than expected.
Here's a look at where the Tigers stand at the season's halfway point.
Current status: Seller
The Tigers might be better than expected this season, but they're still in their rebuilding phase, and they're still trying to accumulate the prospects they need for the next few years, especially on the offensive side. If anything, that need has only heightened with the Draft -- during which Detroit used the top overall pick on Auburn starting pitcher Casey Mize -- adding to what was already an area of depth.
What they are seeking
The Tigers have pitching, evidenced by five starting pitchers among their top seven prospects. They need impact hitters around whom they can build their next lineup in a few years. Detroit could also use more athleticism, notably in the outfield, along the same lines of the talent of Daz Cameron from last summer's Verlander trade.
What they have to offer
Short-term veterans like Francisco Liriano and Mike Fiers are obvious trade candidates, and Liriano is all but certain to land somewhere as a lefty starter or reliever. But the most intriguing candidate -- and the most likely to net Detroit a decent return -- would be Michael Fulmer, struggling of late but just 25 years old with four years of team control. Nicholas Castellanos is a year and a half away from free agency, but he is coming into his prime as a hitter at age 26, and he could help a team looking for more than a rental bat.
If the Tigers traded Fulmer, they'd most likely do so with a team that has many hitting prospects. Detroit entertained interest from the Yankees last offseason, and it could rekindle talks again if it could center a prospect package around young hitter Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial. The Braves would also be an intriguing team to swap with, if the Tigers could somehow pry third baseman Austin Riley or outfielder Cristian Pache from their system.
Either team, however, would likely have to be convinced that they would get four-plus productive seasons from Fulmer, whose right ulnar nerve reposition surgery last offseason raised questions around scouting circles about long-term health.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.