Detroit Tigers Getting Close Look At Tampa Bay Rays' Trade Chips This Weekend

By Brad Faber
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon, the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays will play the third game of a four-game series, which is currently tied at one game a piece. The Tigers brass could very easily be paying extra close attention to this series, as many are expecting the last-place Rays to be sellers at the trading deadline, and they might have a piece or two that could help the Tigers out.

The Tigers are pretty well set on position players, but one guy who might catch their eye is the versatile Ben Zobrist. During his nine-year MLB career, Zobrist has done everything except pitch and catch, and the fact that he is a switch-hitter could help balance a heavily right-handed Tigers’ lineup. There is an awful lot of youth on the left side of the Tigers’ infield, so it would make sense to platoon the veteran Zobrist with Eugenio Suarez at shortstop.

The Tigers could also consider looking to former Tiger Matt Joyce for a left-handed bat if recovering outfielder Andy Dirks encounters a setback or struggles upon his return. The Rays also have another solid left-handed hitting outfielder in David DeJesus, whose name had been appearing in trade rumors, but he is currently on the disabled list.   

Obviously, the biggest name that the Rays have been rumored to be shopping is 2012 American League Cy Young winner David Price, who will go head-to-head with Rick Porcello tomorrow night. It would truly be surprising to see the Tigers throw their hat into that ring though, as starting pitching is not their issue at the moment.

The Tigers’ biggest need, of course, remains the bullpen. The Tigers saw a guy last night in Jake McGee, who would look excellent in their pen. McGee, a 27-year-old left-handed reliever, has a 1.17 ERA, an 0.81 WHIP, four saves and 44 strikeouts in 38.1 innings pitched. McGee would not only give the Tigers a sturdy left-handed bullpen arm, which they could currently use with Ian Krol on the DL, but also a guy who can close games and help lighten Joe Nathan‘s workload.

Another Rays reliever who might make sense for the Tigers is Juan Carlos Oviedo. Oviedo is pitching in the big leagues for the first time since 2011, and he is having a very solid year, posting a 3-3 record and a 2.48 ERA through 29 innings thus far. He also has closing experience, and he might make sense for the Tigers as a low-risk rental piece due to the fact that he will be a free agent after 2014.

There are a few other Rays relievers whose names have been swirling around on the rumor mill as well, such as Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour. Peralta could conceivably be a fit for the Tigers, even though he is 38 years old and has an ERA approaching 4.00, but Balfour seems very, very unlikely. The Rays signed Balfour to a two-year, $12 million contract this offseason after he recorded a 38 save season with the Oakland Athletics in 2013, but he has struggled to the tune of a 5.18 ERA and has been taken out of the closer’s role. There was also the confrontation between Balfour and Victor Martinez last fall in the 2013 ALDS, which left a sour taste about Balfour in the mouths of many Tigers fans.

At any rate, however, the Rays do have a few players who would look good in the Old English D. The Rays may not have the big fire sale this month that some have predicted, but it would hardly be shocking to see them move a piece or two, and it will be interesting to see if any of them wind up in the Motor City. This series is a great opportunity for the Tigers to get an up close and personal look at some of the players they might be interested in trading for in the coming weeks.

Brad Faber is a Detroit Tigers writer for Follow him on Twitter @Brad_Faber, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on LinkedIn or Google.

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