COMMENTARY | The Detroit Tigers have backed up the Brink's truck over the last few seasons to bring in top talent, with the goal of winning a World Series. Even after a spend-happy offseason that saw Anibal Sanchez and Torii Hunter join the Tigers' clubhouse, the team was still incomplete.
While the there are some problems up the middle, with a potential season-ending suspension for Jhonny Peralta looming on the horizon and troubles finding an everyday left fielder, the Tigers have no greater concern than the bullpen.
Let's take stock. The Tigers have a setup man in Joaquin Benoit, and a middle reliever in Drew Smyly. Other than that, they have only unreliable arms (Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and rookies Darin Downs, Luke Putkonen and Bruce Rondon).
Here is how the Tigers find a closer and a 7th-inning man:
I know it is frowned upon to trade within the division, but the AL (Comedy) Central seems to be out of reach for the slumping-all-season White Sox. Various rumors in the Twittersphere have already linked the Tigers to the White Sox in a deal that would have Crain wearing an Old English D sometime in July, in exchange for star outfield and third base prospect Nick Castellanos. It is a natural move!
Crain has a 4.2 strikeout-to-walk rate, a 1.06 WHIP, and a microscopic 0.52 ERA in 34.2 innings. He could potentially be the closer for a team in desperate need of one.
Charlie Furbush and Oliver Perez - Seattle Mariners
The Tigers traded Furbush to get Doug Fister in 2011, but Mr. Dombrowski may want to try to bring him back to the Motor City. He has almost doubled his strikeout rate in the last two years since his conversion to reliever and makes an interesting target. He went from striking out 7.0 batters per nine innings (K/9) in 2011 to a 13.3 K/9 thus far in 2013. He has struck out a third of all batters faced.
On the other hand, he is walking 5.0 batters per nine innings (BB/9), which is twice as high as you would like it, but with that high of a strikeout rate, he may look like a steadier Alburquerque.
The veteran Perez has always been a strikeout pitcher but has a career-high 12.4 K/9. He is also sporting a career-high flyball rate, but that is due most to a career-high pop-up rate. He could be an interesting play in the spacious confines of Comerica Park.
Jim Henderson - Milwaukee Brewers
Henderson, the official reliever of Sklarbro Country, makes an intriguing target for the Tigers. This is his first full year in the majors, and he has pitched very well. His combination of high strikeouts and low walks would make him a valuable 7th-inning guy in Motown.
Since the Brewers have essentially been out of the playoffs since mid-May, with the 2nd-worst record in the NL, they have no real reason to hang on to the 29-year-old Canadian righty. The Brewers seem to be enjoying Francisco Rodriguez as their closer, so why not deal Henderson to the Tigers?
Whomever the Tigers make a play at, they will likely have to listen to every trade partner ask about the aforementioned Castellanos, and outfielders Avisail García and Austin Schotts.
The Tigers usually make a move before the trade deadline. Sometimes it works (Fister, 2011), and sometimes it blows up in their face (Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn, 2009). If they want to be popping champagne at the end of October, this is one Dombrowski needs to get right.
Kyle Schafer has been a sportswriter for seven years, writing for The Michigan Journal, and is a "fantasy connoisseur." Follow him on Twitter at @Kylers85.
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