May 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) receives congratulations from designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (24) after the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila is bringing change to the team this offseason. So far, Avila has already dealt Cameron Maybin. Despite the change, here are the 10 Tigers least likely to be traded.
Age: 29 Position: Left Fielder Controllable Through: 2021* (Upton can opt out of his contract after 2017) 2016 Stat of Note: .219 ISO
Signed last season to beef up Detroit’s offense, Justin Upton initially struggled to do just that.
Over his first 99 games in a Tigers uniform, the slugger batted just. 236 with a below-par .296 on-base percentage. What’s more, Upton only collected 46 RBI, 20 doubles and 13 home runs while striking out 124 times.
While the outfielder’s strikeout total left much to be desired, Upton recovered with a torrid stretch run.
The former first-overall pick mashed 18 home runs to go along with 41 RBI over his final 37 games of the season. That stretch saw Detroit post a 22-15 record.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Upton
Upton’s contract may simply be too much of a burden to move.
It may have been different story in terms of a potential trade had the ex-Padre not struggled so mightily to begin the year. However the reality is that Upton may be sticking around in Detroit.
What’s more, Upton’s contract also includes some trade protection.
Per Spotrac, the veteran also has a no-trade clause that includes 20 teams each season.
Apr 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (27) pitches to the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Age: 30 Position: Starting Pitcher Controllable Through: 2020 2016 Stat of Note: 1.3 WAR
Similar to Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann was signed last offseason to beef up an area of need. While the former National also garnered a hefty contract, he turned in a season that was more or less the opposite of Upton from a production standpoint.
While Upton’s struggled early and came alive down the stretch, Zimmermann got off to a flying start.
The veteran starter didn’t allow a run (earned or otherwise) in his first 19.1 innings with Detroit. Fast forward to early June and the former National’s ERA sat at a sparkling 2.58.
However, from that point forward, Zimmermann was limited by ineffectiveness and injures. The veteran pitched to an 8.77 ERA in 39 innings.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Zimmermann
Also like Upton, the value of Zimmermann’s deal would impact any potential trade. Additionally, according to Spotrac, the starter has a full no-trade clause in his contract through the 2018 season.
Zimmermann’s contract may prohibit a deal, but it may be in the Detroit Tigers best interest to keep him around.
Outside of Justin Verlander, Detroit’s only other veteran starters are Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. The duo hardly did much to inspire confidence last year with ugly starts happening far too often.
Using Zimmermann, who showed improvement late in the season as the Tigers fifth starter may be the most prudent route.
Jul 7, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) is tagged out at home plate by Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann (34) in the sixth inning at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) pitches in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) warms up prior to the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
#6 Justin Verlander
Age: 33 Position: Starting Pitcher Controllable Through: 2020 2016 Stat of Note: 5.2 WAR
Justin Verlander doesn’t look to be slowing down, at least not any time soon.
Finally healthy after being limited by injuries, the future Hall of Famer dominated last season.
Verlander returned to ace-like status, leading the American League in WHIP and strikeouts while finishing tied for the lead in WAR. He also ranked second in innings pitched, SIERA and ERA.
Detroit’s ace also finished among the league’s elite in strikeouts per nine innings (third), swinging strike percentage (sixth), and 11th in both xFIP and walks per nine innings.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Verlander
If the Detroit Tigers are going to stay competitive, they’ll need to hang on to Verlander. Not only is the veteran Detroit’s best starter, but it would be an extremely difficult sell to the fans.
Michael Fulmer is very much the future of the rotation, but Verlander showed in 2016 that he’s still among the league’s best starters.
What’s more, any potential trade market will be limited to teams that can afford Verlander and offer a premium return. There aren’t many teams in the league that tick both of those boxes.
May 17, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) hits a triple in the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Age: 33 Position: First Baseman Controllable Through: 2025* (Per Spotrac, Cabrera has two mutual options on his contract for the 2024 and 2025 seasons). 2016 Stat of Note: 152 wRC+
Miguel Cabrera’s situation is similar to Justin Verlander in a number of ways.
Both players are franchise icons bound for the Hall of Fame. What’s more, the two veterans are on hefty contracts that eat up significant salaries. It also would be difficult to sell it to the fans if either standout was dealt.
Lastly, just like Verlander, Cabrera proved that he isn’t slowing down. The slugger finished among the league’s elite in slugging percentage (fifth), wRC+ (sixth), wOBA (seventh), RBI (ninth), batting average (ninth), on-base percentage (10th), home runs (11th) and ISO (19th).
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Cabrera
Even in the off chance that Verlander is dealt, the Detroit Tigers are set for the future in the rotation with Fulmer, Boyd and Norris.
It is a slightly different story in terms of the batting order.
J.D. Martinez is slated to hit free agency following 2017, while Justin Upton can opt out of his deal following the same season.
What’s more, Victor Martinez will be 38 by the time Opening Day rolls around. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is 34, isn’t getting younger either.
In other words, Detroit really only has Cabrera Nick Castellanos as sure things in the future where the lineup is concerned.
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris (44) against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
While Michael Fulmer’s emergence was one of the top storyline’s of Detroit’s season, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris burst on to the scene as well.
Boyd logged the most innings of the pair, racking up 97.1 innings for the Tigers. The Washington native posted a 6-5 record and a 0.9 WAR while striking out 7.58 batters per nine frames.
In 56.1 innings from July 9th to September 6th, the right-hander pitched to a 2.56 ERA and 52 strikeouts.
His performances, as well as those of Norris, helped make up for the struggles of veterans Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez.
Speaking of Norris, the former Blue Jay posted turned in another season complete with a sub-four ERA. In 69.1 innings, the left-hander posted a 3.38 ERA while striking out 71. That was good for 9.22 punch outs per nine frames.
Norris’ strikeout numbers are even more impressive considering he only walked 22 batters.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Boyd and Norris
Simply put, the duo are the future of Detroit’s rotation. Along with Fulmer, the Tigers young starters will only get better.
Apr 28, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
#2 Nick Castellanos
Age: 24 Position: Third Baseman Controllable Through: 2019 2016 Stat of Note: 119 wRC+
It may seem like he’s been in the league for years, but Nick Castellanos is just 24. He’ll enter his fourth season as a Major League regular next year.
After hitting .257 and averaging 70 RBI, 46 runs scored, 32 doubles, 13 home runs and five triples per year in 2014 and 2015, Castellanos enjoyed a breakout year in 2016.
The third baseman’s campaign was limited by injury to just 110 games, but he set a career high with 18 home runs and 54 runs. Castellanos also contributed 58 RBI, 25 doubles, four triples and a stolen base.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Castellanos
Along with Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos is the future of the Detroit Tigers lineup—at least where current starters are concerned. Christin Stewart will eventually bat in the middle of the order, but the team could stand to lose a number of impact bats over the coming seasons.
J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez could all conceivably leave via free agency or retire in the next handful of years.
The Tigers will need Castellanos to help do the heavy lifting in future years.
Aug 14, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (32) reacts to winning a complete game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Detroit Tigers won 7-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
#1 Michael Fulmer
Age: 23 Position: Starting Pitcher Controllable Through: 2021 2016 Stat of Note: 3.0 WAR
The 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer is the kind of young player teams envision acquiring as the centerpiece of a blockbuster.
Detroit brought in the starter in just that—a blockbuster.
Fulmer came to Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes trade and looks to headline the Tigers rotation for years to come.
In 159 innings, the former Mets farmhand turned in a stellar 3.0 WAR while striking out 7.47 batters per nine innings. Fulmer also contributed a 10.4 swinging strike percentage while allowing just 0.91 home runs per nine frames.
All in all, the 23-year-old posted a sparkling 3.06 ERA.
In winning the award for the American League’s top rookie, Fulmer beat out New York Yankees backstop Gary Sanchez and Cleveland center fielder Tyler Naquin.
Why the Detroit Tigers Won’t Trade Fulmer
A future, and current, ace, Fulmer simply won’t be dealt.
The potential return for Fulmer in any trade would be unquestionably high, but given the young starter’s upside, he won’t be changing uniforms any time soon.