It's not difficult to unscramble the 2014 Detroit Tigers. They're a good hitting club with a big-name rotation and a horrible bullpen (4.37 ERA). You love watching them hit. You flinch when they try to close out games.
Okay, they're working on that last part.
General Manager Dave Dombrowski knew he needed additions for the back end, so he made a splashy trade Wednesday evening. The Tigers shipped two promising young pitchers, Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, to Texas. In return, Detroit acquired veteran reliever Joakim Soria. The deal becomes official when all three players pass their physicals.
It's a logical win-now move for the Tigers, adding a shutdown reliever in Soria (2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.5 K/BB, 17-for-19 on saves). His fantasy owners might be less than thrilled, however. Dombrowski told Jason Beck of MLB.com that Joe Nathan will remain the Detroit closer.
Nathan's terrible season (5.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) had a lot to do with Detroit making this deal, though the club has also struggled to find outs in the seventh inning. Nathan somehow has 20 saves in 25 chances, outlining how misleading the stat can be. The Soria move makes it clear to everyone - Nathan's working on a short leash. I wouldn't drop either Detroit reliever right now; let's give this situation some time to breathe, see where it goes.
The Rangers have some options with respect to their Soria replacement, but it looks like they're going to play the experience card. Neftali Feliz, who just returned to the big club this month, is the first man up. "We'll give him a shot, he is the only one with [closer] experience," Rangers manager Ron Washington told MLB.com. "It will show if he can or he can't."
If Feliz encounters any problems - remember, he had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and has just 15 MLB innings since - Shawn Tolleson and Neal Cotts become relievers of interest. Tolleson has the better numbers of that pair (3.28/1.14) and is right-handed, but Cotts (3.35/1.40) has been working in heavier leverage roles. Cotts is also getting mentioned in trade rumors; contenders are always looking for another lefty.
Bottom line, it looks like we're playing the waiting game in Detroit, and it looks like we're adding Feliz (20 percent) where we can. If you need to go deeper, Tolleson (one percent) and Cotts (three percent) are widely available.
• Everyone groks the hell that is pitching in Colorado, so it's no surprise to see a star struggle there, even someone on Stephen Strasburg's level. The Rockies knocked Strasburg around on Wednesday (5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K) en route to a 6-4 victory. Keep doing what you're doing, Blackmon, Rutledge and Dickerson.
Nonetheless, we should talk a little more about Washington's ace. I'm without a Strasburg share this year, and it's oddly comforting to be sitting this one out. His 3.67 ERA and 1.26 WHIP are not what anyone expected in March. And consider how mightily Strasburg is struggling on the road (5.09 ERA, notable dip in strikeouts). This was a problem last year, too (1.73 ERA at home, 4.50 ERA away from DC). Is this just a statistical fluke, or is there something to the trend? Sometimes all we have is questions, and no good answers.
Strasburg's velocity hasn't fallen apart, but it has dropped some over the last three seasons (95.7, 95.3, 94.5). He's allowing more homers than ever, and the line drive clip is also raised this year. If I were shuffling pitchers right this second, I'd have Strasburg at $21, not a penny more. And I'd be fine if that wasn't enough to land him.
• Name brands die hard, so Ryan Howard remains rostered in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Let's start chiseling away at that number. Howard is in the midst of a mediocre season (.224/.305/.377, though he does have 15 homers) and the Phillies no longer view him as a daily starter. Heck, there's even been speculation that the Phillies might cut Howard outright, no matter that he's carrying three more years on a bloated contract.
"I know what Ryan Howard can do. I think it's also important to see what other guys can do," manager Ryne Sandberg told MLB.com. Darin Ruf picked up Wednesday's start at first base, and prospect Maikel Franco could arrive from Triple-A at some point (though he's in the midst of a poor season).
The Philles are one of the more interesting teams at the deadline. Jon Papelbon could be worth something to a contender, which would likely push fireballer Ken Giles into a closing role. Marlon Byrd is having a nifty spike at the end of his career, but the Phillies can't view the 36-year-old outfielder as a future cornerstone. Seattle and Cincinnati could use outfield help.