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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.