The 2020 major league trade deadline is rapidly approaching at the end of August. As expected, the Yankees are out in front of the American League East and in the mix for the best record in baseball. Brian Cashman will always be looking to improve his roster, and the Detroit Tigers are one of the few teams drifting out of contention and clearly still rebuilding.
In the process of a deep rebuild, the Tigers are coming off the worst record in baseball in 2019. The team is in full transition mode as they called up two of their top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal this week for their major league debuts. Lets take a look at how the Yankees and the Tigers match up as trade partners.
One name that the Yankees will consider is a familiar face in Austin Romine. Signed by Detroit for one-year and $4.15 million in the offseason, the Yankees could explore bringing him back if they view him as an upgrade over Kyle Higashioka — who is currently on the injured list.
Romine is off to a good start with Detroit, producing a 116 OPS+ after 13 games and matching his career WAR. In September the Yankees will have 24 games in 24 days, putting a premium on their depth and guaranteeing that the back-up catcher will see plenty of action.
In the past the Yankees have been linked to trade rumors involving both left-handed pitcher Matthew Boyd, and right-hander Michael Fulmer. The Tigers were reported to have asked for Gleyber Torres in return for Boyd last July as the trade deadline approached.
Since that point, Boyd has lost the magic of his strong start to 2019. If the Yankees are still interested the asking price will be a little different this season as Boyd has a 10.24 ERA with a 47% hard hit rate for the ball put in play against him. It is possible that the Yankees still see a player who requires only a small tweak to become effective again.
Fulmer won the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year award, finishing ahead of Gary Sanchez. He is now coming back from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the 2019 season. So far, he is showing that he is not back to his 2016-2017 form where he posted a combined 6.7 fWAR.
Known as a ground ball pitcher who produced a 49% ground ball rate while at his best, Fulmer is struggling to keep the ball on the ground so far this season. It is unlikely that the Tigers will sell low on Fulmer, and they will hope that he bounces back stronger next season further removed from Tommy John.
Brian Cashman loves to put together a strong bullpen that can shorten games and give Aaron Boone the maximum amount of weapons to match up with opponents in October. Tommy Kahnle’s injury earlier this season put a dent in the Yankees bullpen, but it is still a strength of the team.
The Tigers have several relief pitchers off to strong starts, but the best players like Gregory Soto and John Schreiber are pre-arbitration and under team control for years to come driving their price up. Daniel Norris and Buck Farmer are veteran arms working out of the Detroit bullpen who could be available.
Farmer is coming off his best season in 2019, and has been solid early on before going on the 10-day IL. Farmer is not a high-leverage option, but more of a slight upgrade over some of the members of the team currently riding the Scranton Shuttle.
Norris has worked as a starter for much of his career, but never met the expectations put on him when he was a top prospect. It’s possible that in a shorter relief role, the lefty could carve out a spot at the back of the Yankees bullpen.
The Tigers are not a perfect match for the Yankees in the trade market. The rotation pieces that the Yankees have shown interest in over the years are struggling and unlikely to serve as upgrades on the Yankees roster. The most likely scenario is a reunion with back-up catcher Austin Romine, who could help the Yankees back-up position if the team is worried about the combination of Kyle Higashioka and Erik Kratz.