Five years ago, the Detroit Tigers were regarded as a powerhouse threat in the American League. Today, it is a completely different story.
The Dog Days in Detroit: What’s Next?
The Tigers are a team in transition. The 2017 campaign has simply been a disaster for the former American League champions. The Tigers own a 62-91 record and currently sit 34 games back of the division leading Cleveland Indians.
The first indication of the full rebuild was the departure of All-Star outfielder Justin Upton. Upton was shipped off to the Los Angeles Angels for pitching prospect Grayson Long. The next was former Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander being shipped off to the Houston Astros. The Tigers attained three of Houston’s top prospects. Perhaps the two most concerning veterans on the Tigers roster are Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
A Fading Star
Cabrera has done it all. He is an 11-time All-Star, a triple crown winner, a two-time MVP winner, and a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. He has been a staple in the culture of Tigers baseball with a career batting average of .318 and a career on-base percentage of .396. According to ESPN, an average season for ‘Miggy’ between the 2004-2015 seasons is a .323 batting average, 33 home runs and 115 RBI.
Those numbers are downright absurd for the future Hall of Famer. However, Cabrera has seen a significant regression in those video game numbers both in terms of power and average over the last two seasons. The superstar is batting a mere .249 while his strikeout rate ballooned to over 20 percent. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has plummeted to .290. That is ten points lower than his career BABIP and 46 points lower than it was in 2016.
It has been well-documented that Cabrera will have no choice but to move to the designated hitter role realistically next season. This is a move he is less than happy to make based on his drive to contribute on both sides of the baseball.
This now leaves the Tigers in a real bind. Martinez, signed a four-year, 68 million dollar deal with Detroit back in 2015. This means that he is locked up with the Tigers for another season. At age 38, Martinez’s inconsistency from year-to-year should be a red flag to the Tigers organization. V-Mart posted a solid .289 batting average and .476 slugging percentage in 2016.
However, his inability to stay healthy throughout the course of the 162-game schedule has cost the aging slugger as his numbers declined in 2017. Martinez is hitting an abysmal .255 in 2017. Martinez has just been shut down for the rest of the season due to an irregular heartbeat.
So what do the Tigers do? It is unrealistic for management to waste $17 million dollars a year for Martinez sit on the bench. With the concerning decline of Cabrera, the Tigers have two options.
First, buy out the remaining $36 million Martinez is owed the next two seasons. Second, find a contending team who would be able to take on a substantial part of V-Mart’s contract. In exchange, Detroit could acquire a prospect and benefit from a salary dump of at least $12-13 million.
Perhaps teams such as the Seattle Mariners or Boston Red Sox could be interested in acquiring a veteran bat like Martinez. It would make sense from a financial perspective if Detroit were to trade Martinez to a contender for at least something.
The Tigers are heading in an all too familiar direction of being a basement-dwelling organization. From the 1989 season up until 2005, the Tigers were lucky to achieve a winning record. However, with mid-season trade acquisitions of the likes of third baseman Jeimer Candelario, the Tigers are showing progress. The time to tear it down is now. Let’s get to work, Detroit.