Report: Tigers prepared to be sellers, make David Price and Yoenis Cespedes available

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The Tigers beat the Mariners on Monday night to improve to 46-46 on the year. While they are 10 games behind the Royals for first place in the American League Central, they are just four back in the Wild Card race. Still, with slugger Miguel Cabrera expected to miss at least another month with a calf strain and the starting rotation vulnerable, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski is prepared to face the upcoming July 31 non-waiver trade deadline from the unfamiliar position of a seller.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today was told by “several people inside and outside the organization familiar with their strategy” that the Tigers plan to make impending free agents David Price and Yoenis Cespedes available. Dombrowski wouldn’t go quite that far when reached for comment by Nightengale, but he didn’t exactly deny it either.

“At this point,” Dombrowski said, “our focus is trying to win right now. We’re trying to do everything we can to qualify for the playoffs. Things can turn dramatically over a 10-game period. But you have to play well, at some point, on a consistent basis.

“We’re at a point where we have to do what’s best in our heart for the franchise.

And what’s “best in our heart for the franchise” might be an infusion of young talent. Baseball America had the Tigers ranked No. 30 (as in, dead-last) in their organizational rankings over the winter. Moving Price and Cespedes, even though they would just be rentals, could get them moving in the right direction for the long-term.

Price, 29, has a 2.32 ERA and 127/26 K/BB ratio in 132 innings over 19 starts this season. He could be the most sought-after starting pitcher on the market, which is saying a lot considering that Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, and James Shields are also expected to be available.

Cespedes, 29, is batting .289/.314/.482 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI over 92 games this season. Other high-profile outfielders expected to be available for trade this month include Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, and Carlos Gomez.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.