Justin Verlander

Tackling the trade deadline: Detroit Tigers

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Over the next few days, I’m going to look at the needs of some contenders as we approach the July 31 trade deadline.

Detroit Tigers
First-half record: 49-43
Standings: Leading Indians by 1/2 game, White Sox by 5 games in AL Central

Needs

Starting pitcher: Cy Young contender Justin Verlander is the only Tigers starter with an ERA under 4.50, and the team recently sent Phil Coke back to the bullpen.  Coke’s replacement, Charlie Furbush, has responded by giving up 12 runs — seven earned — in 7 1/3 innings while losing both of his starts.  Since Rick Porcello is a tough guy to rely on and Brad Penny is a big-time injury risk, the Tigers need to add someone who can start Game 2 or 3 of a postseason series.

Second base: The Tigers have Ryan Raburn for pop, Ramon Santiago for defense and Danny Worth for… well, I’m not sure what he’s for… but they’ve been hurting for an everyday second baseman for a couple of years now.  The plan is for Carlos Guillen to see time at the position if he can make it back from knee surgery, but he’s a terrible bet to stay healthy while playing second base.  The Tigers should go get a real second baseman and see if Guillen can contribute as an alternative to Brandon Inge at third.

Outfield: I don’t see a real need here, largely because I’m a believer in rookie Andy Dirks.  Still, there have been whispers that the Tigers will try to acquire an outfielder to help pick up some slack if they don’t think they can count on Magglio Ordonez.  Ordonez has hit .284 since coming off the DL last month, but it’s come with just four extra-base hits in 67 at-bats and he’s turned into quite a liability defensively because of his leg problems.

Target

Wandy Rodriguez (LHP Astros): Owed $10 million next year, $13 million in 2013, Rodriguez comes with plenty of risk.  That’s especially the case because his $13 million option for 2014 turns into a player option in the event of a trade.  Still, it’d be a gamble worth taking.  He’d certainly provide a different look from Verlander and Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation, and his excellent strikeout rate suggests that he’d hold up just fine in the AL.

Proposed deal

Rodriguez and 2B Jeff Keppinger for Porcello and LHP Casey Crosby

Astros fans wouldn’t be too happy with this one, but I think Porcello would have a bright future in the National League and come close to approximating Rodriguez’s success for the next three years.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for him in Detroit.  The Tigers would have a better chance of making an October run with Rodriguez slotted into their rotation, and Keppinger would be an upgrade at second base.

The way I see it, either top prospect Jacob Turner or Porcello will have to go for the Tigers to land a big upgrade this summer and Porcello is likely the one they’d move first.

Josh Hamilton has knee surgery, out 2-3 months

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.

As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:

That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.