Guest Post: Andrew Welch Sells the Farm

Editor’s note: At the time of the writing of this article, Shane Greene was indeed pitching badly. However, it took your friends at Glass Half Fulmer so long to review it that Shane Greene is now pitching very well and we’ve made Andrew kind of look like a jackass in the process. Either way, Andrew, longtime friend of the blog, is staunchly not on Team Firesale, and he would like to share his reasoning.
You can find Andrew on twitter at @Grape_Juice13.
    Seriously, this is probably the Tigers last year at contending for a title. It’s not so much that the two players that carry the team are old, even though age regression has yet to set in, it’s that they have key players up for free agency and the front office and ownership have shown a willingness to slash salary and rebuild as they attempted in the offseason. This is why I’m advocating for the Tigers to sell the entire farm system and to make one last run at the playoffs. The team has relatively few holes and the holes they do have are easily acquired or the hole honestly doesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot. They have decent enough talent in the minors, albeit without a marquee name, to make trades for good players or a great player like they did in 2014.
    The Tigers bullpen remains an area of concern for this. Bruce Rondon doesn’t have it all after being lights out for August and September last year striking out 26 in 21 innings with an ERA under 2. K Rod is lost somewhere in the void and teams seemed to have figured out just to not swing at anything that’s remotely low in the zone.
More after this!

Shane Greene is an enigma. He looked like an absolutely elite relief pitcher after moving to the pen last year. The start of this season has come around and he’s seemingly forgotten what the strike zone looks like. Wilson and Wilson, destroyers on mound, are doing pretty much exactly what everyone expected. They bring a certain stability to the pen and are uber reliable. Blaine Hardy is also a better than average arm.

Shane Greene! (Photo by Alexandra Simon)

I wasn’t exactly counting on K-Rod t this but having Rondon and Greene be awful has really thrown the entire bullpen down the trash. They came into the season with at least 5 good options and are now at three.
This is a hole that can be filled by acquiring a RP, say Jake McGee. They have a top end RP prospect in Joe Jimenez that would look ultra attractive to teams so it’s not like they can’t trade for one. Their only other “hole” is in CF. There’s a lot that can be said about the job JaCoby Jones has done this year. He’s provided major stability to an outfield that’s been lacking a premier athlete who covers everything. He’s been an absolute gem out there outside of the first series and that wacky Tampa series.
I think a lot of the miscues due to some chemistry and communication issues between all the fielders. The downside to JaCoby has been his bat. JaCoby put together some absolutely tremendous at bats the first two weeks of the season, constantly driving up pitch counts. The problem is he’s lacked the ability to put the ball in play and get hits. At 24, going on 25, you’d hope a guy like JaCoby was more advanced in terms of his hit tool. It could still come around but he’s been severely lacking in that department.

JaCoby Jones (photo by Alexandra Simon)

His defense makes up for it and there are many teams who have weak hitting centerfielders so it’s not a gigantic hole for the team, especially when JD comes back. I could go and cite his DFS but honestly I trust DFS about as much as I trust Jhonny Peralta’s ability to get a ball that’s not hit directly at him. (seriously, he had a +15 DFS the year the Cards signed him and he was about as agile as Prince Fielder.)
    The other fix I would do is probably the most highly controversial part of this post and brought me incredible heat for saying it. Put Daniel Norris in the bullpen. Seriously. No, I’m not joking here and don’t click off PLEASE I BEG OF YOU GIVE ME A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN. Daniel Norris has absolutely incredible stuff. Electric stuff even. Daniel’s issue is that he gets into a fight with the strike zone after after a couple innings and acts like he has a complete and total resentment to it. I think that makes him a prime candidate to move to the bullpen if they’re looking win a title. I get it, it’s controversial, but I think this a title winning move. Daniel would bring that much needed elite reliever Detroit has been craving since Drew Smyly moved from the pen back to starting and was then traded. One of the prime issues is that this leaves a semi truck sized hole in the Tigers rotation and they don’t have the guy to fill it, don’t worry, i’ll get to that in a minute. The other issue with moving Norris is that there’s a fairly decent chance you stunt his growth as a starter.
 Norris’s growth as a starter is a integral part of the Tigers success in the future and normally you wouldn’t want to take a chance on doing that to a pitcher of his caliber. I have my doubts about this move working even being plausible. There’s no reason for Norris to acquiesce to such a move because of the financial ramifications if his growth were to stunt. I just firmly believe that this is the best move for the franchise to make for a chance to win a title.
    The Tigers should sell the farm system this season. Let’s face it, the farm system is really not good at all but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t talent that other teams in the middle of their rebuilding process wouldn’t be happy to acquire. Burrows, manning, and Tyler Alexander are all interesting starters down on the farm. Burrows and Manning come with a much higher degree of hype around them with both carrying a future projection of being #3 types that could play up to #2’s if everything breaks right for them. Alexander is a soft tossing lefty who has an area of doubt around him as to his ability. I know a guy who loves Alexander and another who thinks there isn’t all that much going on with him. His value to a team all depends on how much a scout for a team does or doesn’t love him (can really be said for any prospect to be quite honest).
They also have a real big boom or bust arm in Anthony Castro. Castro’s a big righty coming off Tommy John in 15 with a slider that borders on the obscene at times and a fastball that works 92-94 and tops at 95. Boom or bust players can really make the big trades happen in the league. You always see teams trade one or two of their high end talent players but there’s always an attractive 2nd or 3rd player that teams are always looking to get. Castro can be that guy for the Tigers that can help push an offer over the edge and acquire that starter they need. I could mention Joe Jimenez but we’re all aware of him at this point and his potential so we all know he’s an attractive piece to a team.
    There are a few bats down on the farm too. Mike Gerber, Christin Stewart, Derek Hill, and Jose Azocar. It’s REALLY barren here. Maybe you can talk a team into taking Greyson Greiner or Joey Pankake but I’m honestly not sure the interest is going to be there for most teams to take one of those two on in a trade for something of decent value. Christin Stewart has some really intriguing value here. He’s an absolute tragedy in the OF as a fielder, like, Jhonny Peralta in LF bad. What you can’t deny though is Christin Stewart can absolutely obliterate the baseball. Now, a lot of people will see that and probably think “oh great another Moya” but Stewart’s got a better hit tool on him. He’s not an “if everything breaks right he’s a 250 hitter with a bajillion homers” like Moya, he’s more of a 235+ with 25 homers if he makes the league. Christin probably isn’t a player who’s going to be involved in a deal that brings back a great player but, if the scouting team is doing their job probably, he’s an intriguing name that can be added into a deal for a reliever, like, oh say, JAKE MCGEE.
Gerber’s the same way just with a better hit tool and less power, not a guy that’s going to carry weight in a trade but a nice option as a second player for a decent guy. Derek Hill isn’t the name it once was either. A spate of injuries have hurt his career and progression and he’s out of action until July as he recovers from tommy john last season. He’s an elite fielder in the OF that teams crave but his bat hasn’t progressed the way Detroit would like. I’d like to believe he alone would bring back a quality RP. Azocar is the real interesting name in this equation. I love him. You can see all the raw tools he possesses and there’s some real talent there. He has maxed out body wise and I think there’s a decent amount of power in that body. I think Willy Adames lite would fit his trade profile. There’s a lot to like about him. He probably won’t help bring in a David Price like Adames did though because the Tigers lack that distinct projectable arm that the Tigers had in Drew Smyly.
    This trade market this year could be absolutely insane. The Rangers are floundering, albeit early in the year, and Yu Darvish IS a free agent at the end of this season. Are the Tigers a perfect trade partner with Texas? Nah, not really, but you bet your ass I’m literally throwing every prospect of value at the Rangers for Matt Bush and Yu Darvish. Does it get him? Probably not. Will they laugh at you? Probably. Should you do it anyway? Absolutely. You have nothing to lose. The relief pitch market for guys on expiry is kinda barren. Pat Neshek is ever reliable and probably shouldn’t cost a whole bunch. I think he’s entirely within the realm of possibilities. Jake McGee, a personal favorite of mine is a FA too. I’d just throw Christin Stewart and Joe Jimenez at them and see if they bite. I think that’s a more than reasonable offer for a pending FA and would go a long way in solidifying the bullpen. Even if they don’t send Norris to the pen, the Wilsons, Neshek, Greene, Hardy, and McGee would make for a formidable bullpen.

Blaine Hardy (photo by Alexandra Simon)

They’d give Ausmus six solid options from which to work with. Alex Cobb is a solid option too as a pending FA. He’s been up and down to start the year, also coming off an injury which has wiped out his last two seasons, but there’s no denying the talent that’s there when he’s got it together.

A trade for he and Colome seems like it’d actually make some sense. Matt Moore has a 9M dollar club option for next season which could drive his price up but the Giants are awful and trading for him would help solidify the rotation. This move would actually make a lot of sense if you’re the Tigers and I’ll explain that in a minute. Another name to throw out is Marco Estrada, again, another middle of the rotation guy that the Tigers have the pieces at their disposal to use to acquire. The options are plentiful for the Tigers to pick and choose from and they should go for it.
    Let’s accurately assess the farm though. As i stated, it’s awful. Truly bad. They’ve got a handful of good pitching prospects but prospects have the tendency to fail. I also don’t see any of these guys as franchise difference makers. When you’re a team like the Tigers clinging onto the last vestiges of a window to win the world series, you need a franchise difference maker to help connect one generation of players to the next. None of the guys in Detroit’s farm move that needle far enough for me to give me a pause in trading them. That’s a major reason for why I’d just sell them all and go for it. You’ve got some guys with value but they really don’t move the needle too far for the future.
    The one thing the Tigers have going for them is that they have A LOT of players with big value to trade in the offseason. We’ve all heard the rumors in the past about Chris Illitch being a polar opposite of his spend happy father and that he wants to slash payroll. Say the Tigers do win it all, it’d give them no reason not to sell and capitalize on the value of the players they have at their disposal. It could make a long rebuild relatively fast. We all sat and watched with bated breath during the offseason as they discussed trading Verlander and Cabrera so we know the organization isn’t opposed to moving them. They’d both bring back more than enough to replenish the farm system by themselves. If they were to acquire Matt Moore, they could make it a true rental for the team and activate his option to  recapture some of the value they lost when trading for him by trading him. Zimmerman is more than likely a tough move for the franchise with that hefty contract and declining skill set. Iggy probably returns near nothing, if Upton doesn’t opt out and continues his torrid pace, there’s an unbelievable amount of value in him. Kinsler also has a team option and they could certainly trade him. The Tigers could also wait another season to do this if they don’t win. It’d probably require them to find a replacement for JD, hope Upton doesn’t opt out, and spend some cash to keep their relievers, but it’s a plausible idea that they could compete in 2018, it’d just be tough.
    Rebuilds are no sure thing, we all know this, but let’s not act like it’s a lost cause because the number one value in all of baseball is the prospect. The Tigers trading all of their star players would replenish their farm with players that lots of potential and therefore lots of value to teams. Trading their stars would allow the Tigers to tank and stock up on number pick after number one pick. Star players like Bryce Harper, generational franchise changing number one picks don’t grow on trees but if the Tigers were to tank for five year, who’s to say there isn’t one in those five years. As long as the Tigers draft effectively, which is a scary though given their current scouting department, they could turn this team around fairly fast. The Nationals did this effectively, the Rays do it continually, the Sox have drafted spectacularly after a few down years and look where they are. That wasn’t an intentional tank but boy was it ever effective. If San Diego didn’t decide to go for it all and trade their prospects, they’d be in an extremely good position from their years of mediocrity. The Tank worked for the Mets, it worked for the Stros, the Royals, and the Braves are getting there too. Hell, we all rag on the Phillies but they’ve got a really interesting team now and some really good prospects to work with. The strategy works across all sports but, like any attempt, it’s still not foolproof, i mean, look at the Reds and Twins. It helps that the Tigers do have deep pockets in case they do get those can’t miss prospects so they can also spend their way into contention.
    What I’m really saying here is that this is the only option for the Tigers if they’d like to win a title for Mr. I. Their prospect pool isn’t filled with the type of elite level talent to keep the window open and it’s only open right now thanks to the incredibly random development for JD Martinez (seriously, he doesn’t get enough credit for keeping the Tigers a contending team). They’ve got just enough talent to reel in some good fish that’ll help them in their venture to win it all. Their team is currently rife with juicy, appealing, tradeable talent in the offseason. This isn’t a deeply flawed team either, they’ve got their holes, they can patch them up relatively easily, and should do it. I know the thoughts of another rebuild in our lifetimes scares us all but it’s bound to happen if Chris Illitch doesn’t spend his money. Anyway, these are my ramblings after a few conversations on twitter and I’d like to thank Grey and Alex for being kind enough to allow me to put my thoughts into an article to post on their site. Much appreciated.

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