The Detroit Tigers have signaled the start of a full-fledged rebuild after trading long-time ace Justin Verlander. ASSOCIATED PRESS
In the span of just a few hours, the Detroit Tigers managed to unload more than $130 million worth of salary, while simultaneously hitting the reset button on the franchise.
By shipping outfielder Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels and long-time ace Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros, the Tigers have signaled its the end of an era in Detroit.
Since 2009, the Tigers have been one of Major League Baseball’s mainstays. The team collected four straight years of AL Central titles between 2011 and 2014, flourishing on the talents of homegrown stars like Verlander and acquired stars like Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer.
Verlander collected the pitching Triple Crown in 2011, winning 24 games with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts along with a dominant no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. The next year, Cabrera won the first batting Triple Crown since 1967 as he hit .340 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
During their four straight seasons of postseason play, the Tigers had middling success, getting as far as the World Series in 2012, where they were swept by the San Francisco Giants. But Detroit kept turning up, serving as a thorn in the side of perennial contenders like the New York Yankees.
Since 2014, however, the Tigers had shown signs of wavering. The lineups had started to thin out and 2015 brought the Detroit’s first last-place finish since 2008 as the team was ravaged by injuries to nearly all of its star players — Verlander, Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and beyond. But the Tigers slingshotted back into second place in 2016 thanks to healthy lineup and weak competition in the division.
But 2017 showcased a complete regression for the Tigers. The team is sitting at 16 games under .500, and are 18 games back in the AL Central. Long-time star and one-time Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has been hitting a pedestrian .252 with only 57 RBIs. Verlander, a pitching Triple Crown winner himself in 2011, has been having a decent season with a 3.82 ERA, 176 strikeouts, and 1.28 WHIP, but this a far cry for his Cy Young runner-up season a year ago.
Making matters worse, the Tigers had the MLB’s second-highest payroll entering 2017 at $199 million, while also having the seventh-oldest team with an average age hovering between 29 and 30. Such factors will invariably weigh down a ballclub.
And so, Tigers GM Al Avila seems to have decided now is the right time to hit the reset button this edition of the Detroit Tigers. Avila admitted as much in a recent apology letter to Tigers’ season ticket holders, offering a candid explanation of the team’s transition into a new era of “homegrown” talent.
Tell me why the Tigers sent my family a letter apologizing for being awful this year pic.twitter.com/6epoFAj3Jp— Erika MacArthur (@MacarthurErika) August 30, 2017
For Tigers fans, it would seem that the next few years will be difficult. Expect several more seasons of hovering around the bottom of the AL Central as the team attempts to recover from the repercussions of a decade-long championship chase.
But the future is bright. The Tigers have acquired a number of promising prospects in return for Verlander and Upton. The team seems to be moving to improve its wayward farm system (which has been routinely ranked around the worst in the MLB).
Things are going to get worse before they get better for the Tigers, but these trades are a step in the right direction for a ballclub that needs an overhaul.