The moment fans have been waiting for, some of us for years, has finally come. The Detroit Tigers have finally conceded that they are not competitive in their division and have seemingly gotten serious about overhauling the team. The opening salvo in this long awaited rebuilding project was a move that seemed imminent for some time now.
The Tigers finally went and did what everyone knew they were going to do and they traded away their most valuable market piece, JD Martinez. It was all but certain that Martinez’ days were numbered in Detroit due to the fact that he has a major pay day – one that the Tigers have made clear they want no part of – coming his way. This should have been a happy event for realistic fans of the team who knew that there were some painful days ahead.
Trading away a slugger like JD to a contender in need of a monster bat was going to yield some exciting new prospects that would help build the future of the team. Maybe a promising young bat or a hot pitching prospect. Instead, team president, Al Avila, came back with a haul of underwhelming infielders. Which I’m sure the Arizona Diamondbacks were more than happy to ship off for Martinez. The most promising among them is 22-year-old third basemen, Dawel Lugo. The Tigers think his combination of fielding and hitting will continue to develop to the point that he could be in the majors within the next couple years. The other two guys, shortstop Sergio Alcantara (21) and shortstop Jose King (18), are too raw to even project when they might be ready for the big leagues.
Looking back to when the Tigers traded away Yoenis Cespedes in 2015 and got Michael Fulmer in return, you would think that the team could have gotten a better haul for Martinez. The you realize that the team really shit the bed by not trading him in the offseason. This is because after years of reckless spending, the team’s payroll is set to exceed the 2018 luxury tax threshold, set at $197 million. What that means is that if the team kept JD Martinez and he left in free agency (which he will because the team can’t afford another $20+ million contract), the team would only be able to receive a 4th-round pick at best for compensation. This gave other teams way more leverage than they should have had in this situation, resulting in this underwhelming return.
And this is why I’m concerned about this first step in the Detroit Tigers rebuild.
I can’t blame Al Avila for everything that’s wrong with this team and it’s roster, but the strikes against him are starting to add up. It’s because of Avila that the salaries of both Jordan Zimmerman ($18 million this year, $24 the next and $25 the two after) and Justin Upton ($22 million/year) are on the books and killing this team’s ability to be competitive. When coupled with the salaries of both Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, both of whom were homegrown and deserved their big money deals, it’s too much to handle. The guy running the team should have known that this team was getting old and already saddled with some painful contracts, and that adding those two players at that price was a horrible idea. Instead here we are.
It’s clearly going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Detroit Tigers and their fans. The Martinez trade was the first of a probable many trades that the Tigers will make before the July 31st deadline. If this is any indication of how the team is going to shed salary, then what could have been a 2 or 3 year project could take much longer. This team gave baseball fans in Detroit a ton to cheer about over the last decade or so, but they never quite reached the mountain top. Fans have held out hope for a renaissance with this roster in the last couple years in order to finally get that World Series title, but it’s clear that even the team has given up on that hope. Now comes the really hard part, and if this is any indication of how’s it’s going to go down, then it’s going to be harder than even I thought.