Editor’s Note: Dan Johnson contributed to this post.
Just minutes before the 4 o’clock non-waiver trade deadline, news surfaced that the Rays had traded their ace, David Price, to the Tigers as part of a 3-team deal that also included the Mariners.
Details are rather sketchy at the moment, but it appears that the Tigers will send starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor leaguer Willy Adames to the Rays and center fielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners. Seattle, in turn, will send middle infielder Nick Franklin to Rays. While this deal shows the lengths Seattle and Detroit are willing to go to win right now, it is also a sign of Tampa Bay giving up on 2014.
Detroit goes all in
This is a deal that will work very well for Detroit. The Tigers reacted to the Lester deal with an even bigger one. Both Oakland and Detroit gave up a big piece of the outfield to acquire that talent, though the A’s had more pitching depth to begin with.
Over the past several years in Major League Baseball, player salaries have risen, and with them, the value of free agent contracts. It seems that every offseason, players whose contracts are up or have become free agent-eligible for the first timed are increasingly hyped.
Teams fight over them, and they are eventually offered deals that will pay them big money well past their primes. Sometimes, they will live up to these contracts for the first few years, but eventually, reality sets in and the numbers drop. However, they continue to get paid like superstars, even when they are average players at best.
The problem is not that these free agents are good players. For the most part, recipients of huge, $100 million plus contracts have been amazing throughout their careers. But once they are free agents, they are often in the middle of or near the end of their primes. Most analysts agree that a player’s best years will occur between the ages of 25 and 32.
This period fluctuates, but the point is that once you reach your mid-thirties, your body begins to break down. The problem is that most players are not eligible to be free agents until their late twenties. Another possibility is that they were been signed to a team-friendly contract early in their careers, one that expires at around their thirtieth birthday.
The All-Star break is a great time for evaluating where a team stands. Last week, Joe looked at the long-term prospects of some cellar-dwelling teams. This week and next, we’re previewing the race for the postseason within each division. Monday I discussed the American League East; today’s topic is the AL Central. The content is organized by current standing:
55-42 | division lead
The Tigers offense is firing on all cylinders. Currently they are second in the league in OBP with a .332 mark. They rank 4th in runs scored with 453, and 2nd in batting average at .278. Victor Martinez is batting .322, and Miguel Cabrera is batting .311.
While the offense is doing its job, however, the pitching has struggled this year. Justin Verlander has struggled to find his form so far, posting a 4.88 ERA, (1.3+ runs above his career average) while the team’s 4.00 ERA is 23rd in the majors. Some of Verlander’s peripheral stats indicate he may be having some bad luck, but even his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is above 4. Also of worry is the Tigers’ home record, which is hovering around .500.