By Evan Petzold
Tribune News Service
If the Detroit Tigers make a trade, they will only do so if the move improves the team this season or next. Stockpiling prospects and forcing trades to get rid of players with expiring contracts won’t happen this time around.
General manager Al Avila is approaching the July 30 trade deadline with authority.
“We’re trying to bring in more talented players,” Avila said Tuesday, speaking outside his team’s dugout. “Really, that’s where we’re at right now. We’re trying to get better. We’re not rebuilding anymore. We’re building.”
Entering Tuesday, the Tigers are 44-51 overall and 35-27 since May 8. They’re riding a four-game winning streak coming out of the All-Star break, putting them five games back of second-place Cleveland and 13½ games back of the first-place Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.
Detroit is 9½ games out of a spot in the wild card.
“At this point, we’re trying to get players,” Avila said. “We’re trying to get better. Right now, we have no pressure at all to make any trades. ... We’re on the upswing. We’re actually hoping to acquire players at some point, where and when it makes sense. We have no pressure to make any trades or move any salary. From a payroll perspective, we’re in a good shape.”
Avila’s tune sounds like what manager AJ Hinch said July 6, explaining opposing teams “have to come and pay for our guys if you’re going to come and get our guys.” The winning mindset — spelled out by Hinch and now Avila — is of the utmost importance moving forward.
But that doesn’t mean Avila isn’t listening.
Nor does it mean he isn’t talking.
“It’s kind of like the same as any other year in the sense that I’ve actually had a lot of preliminary talks over the last month with at least more than half the clubs,” Avila said. “They’re all preliminary, guys just checking in back and forth. I can’t really say there’s anything imminent happening at this point.”
Here are some of the players the Tigers could trade: first/second baseman Jonathan Schoop, left-handed reliever Gregory Soto, right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero and third baseman Jeimer Candelario. It’s unclear if there’s a market for righty reliever Michael Fulmer and lefty starter Matthew Boyd, who are still working through injuries.
Of course, other players might join the mix depending on the proposed offers.
“You can imagine how many good players are out there right now,” Avila said. “I think there’s more guys out there available right now than teams really looking at this point. We’ll see how that develops between now and the deadline.”
Among the possible trade candidates, Schoop is only player with an expiring contract worth mentioning — considering the Tigers probably won’t find teams interested in injured starter Jose Urena, inconsistent reliever Daniel Norris and veteran starter Wily Peralta.
In February, Schoop signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract to return to Detroit after his first year with the squad in 2020. Avila said the 29-year-old has “carried the club and allowed the young guys to develop,” which reaffirms the idea of keeping the winning culture alive throughout the final two months of the season.
Schoop is hitting .285 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs in 91 games. When asked if the Tigers will think about offering the veteran infielder a contract extension, Avila said, “Well, I wouldn’t get into any of that with you guys at this point, to tell you the truth. That’s a good question.”
Maybe, just maybe, the Tigers won’t do anything at the trade deadline.
Which sets them up for a busy offseason.
“There’s no pressure to trade anybody,” Avila said, “and there’s no need to trade anybody, unless we feel there’s a trade out there that’s going to make us better and make us winners next year, let’s say, or as we move along into the future.”