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Tigers will look to speed up rebuild at Deadline

@beckjason
July 10, 2019

DETROIT -- The timing of general manager Al Avila’s contract extension on the first weekend of July wasn’t a coincidence. Yes, it came amidst a holiday weekend with his predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, in town with the Red Sox. But it also came ahead of the Trade Deadline on July 31.

DETROIT -- The timing of general manager Al Avila’s contract extension on the first weekend of July wasn’t a coincidence. Yes, it came amidst a holiday weekend with his predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, in town with the Red Sox. But it also came ahead of the Trade Deadline on July 31.

If Avila is to see this rebuild through and bank his job on the results, the next few weeks could be one of the most important stretches of his tenure not involving the MLB Draft. With two of the more coveted pitchers available on the trade market, the Tigers have the chance to further stock their farm system. At the same time, they’ll face intriguing questions that could have major ramifications for the franchise long-term.

Is Matthew Boyd a clear-cut trade piece or potentially a veteran cog for the rotation as the club's top prospects arrive in Detroit over the next couple years? Can the Tigers get fair value for Nicholas Castellanos as a rental player before free agency? Is this the chance for the Tigers to acquire the offensive help they need to fill out their pitching-heavy farm system?

Current status: seller
As Avila explained upon announcement of his contract extension last week, the Tigers are still in the middle of their rebuild, a project that began in earnest two years ago, and the club still has work to do before the young talent in the farm system begins to remake the big league roster.

What they are seeking
While the Tigers have stockpiled pitching in their system, they continue to seek impact hitters to form the core of their offense in the coming years. They don’t have to be particularly selective about what positions those impact hitters play, especially since Miguel Cabrera's full-time move to designated hitter created a big opening at first base for the short and long term.

Ideally, Avila and his staff would like hitters who are close to Major League ready, so they can arrive along the same timetable as their crop of highly-rated starters over the next year or two. But they wouldn’t turn their nose at more pitching prospects, either. After all, this is the organization that operates under the idea that they can never have enough pitching.

What they have to offer
The Tigers check the boxes on several commodities that teams are seeking. Boyd is a mid-rotation lefty starter with front-line upside and three more years of team control before free agency. Shane Greene is an All-Star closer who was a multi-inning setup man a couple of years ago, He could fill a variety of roles in a contender’s bullpen, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season. Castellanos is an impact hitter in a contract year, though his downtick in home runs and inconsistency on defense temper his potential market. Beyond that, the Tigers will listen to interest on the vast majority of their Major League roster, including 24-year-old setup man Joe Jiménez.

Possible scenario
No, the Tigers won’t be able to snag All-Star infielder Gleyber Torres from the Yankees in a Boyd trade. But with Clint Frazier blocked from a full-time role in the Bombers' outfield, the Tigers could build a package around him with some of the many pitching prospects in the Yanks' farm system. The Tigers had interest in outfielder Estevan Florial, ranked as New York's top prospect by MLB Pipeline, during Michael Fulmer trade talks a couple of years ago, but were told Florial was off-limits. Injuries have slowed Florial’s development since then, and he’s still way off from reaching the Majors, but his talent makes him worth the wait.

The Tigers could also try to leverage their return by packaging together trade pieces for a team with multiple needs. With the Red Sox reportedly pushing to add a starting pitcher along with a clear need for bullpen help, Detroit could conceivably bundle Boyd and Greene -- both of whom Sox president of baseball operations Dombrowski acquired when he was the Tigers' president/GM -- for a package of prospects. While Boston’s farm system isn’t deep and AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate Michael Chavis is presumably off-limits, the Tigers had evaluators watching its Double-A Portland team when it was in Erie last month. Bobby Dalbec, Boston’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, didn’t do much in that series, but the third baseman has some of the best raw power in the Minors, resulting in 19 home runs at the break. Lefty swingman Darwinzon Hernandez has raw power, a high strikeout rate and command issues, but he has the pure talent to fill a trade package.

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