Forging relationships is something that organically happens in the game of baseball. When you spend seven months of the year with a group of individuals, you automatically become joined at the hip.
Mike Fiers is no different. The right-hander was dealt with the Oakland Athletics on Monday ending a short-lived tenure with the Tigers, but an impactful one nonetheless. Fiers pitched well in his brief Tigers career, posting an impressive 3.48 ERA in 21 starts. It’s no secret that the Tigers are trying to spin veteran pieces for young talent to expedite a rebuild that is in full force.
While Fiers will welcome the opportunity to be thrust into the nerve-rattling pressure of a pennant race, he will miss the people he called teammates for the last seven months. Fiers will add depth to an A’s rotation that has been gutted by injuries. He was the Tigers most consistent pitcher in 2018, but the lure of the postseason is strong for a major league player. Fiers was left off the Astros playoff roster last year, despite the fact that he led the Astros in starts and innings pitched, so he will welcome this opportunity. Still, leaving the Tigers and the relationships he has built will be bittersweet.
“I have to turn the page to a different team, but at the same time I’ll never forget these guys,” Fiers said. “You’ve played for these guys all year, but now you want to go and compete for them (A’s). It’s a team that wants you to pitch for them and pitch in a playoff race.”
With the Tigers rebuilding, Fiers had to realize that he was the equivalent of click bait. Pitch well enough and someone would come calling for his services. It appeared that Fiers was going to be dealt right before the July 31st non-waiver deadline, but a deal never materialized. Yet, as we have learned many times over, the July 31st deadline is merely a suggestion and the month of August is when many juicy deals are consummated. Take the Justin Verlander trade last August for instance. It’s foolish to think that a player is safe if he is not dealt by the July 31st deadline. Most players, if not all, are passed through waivers in August, and once a player clears, teams are unencumbered in their quest to make a trade.
Baseball is a business, and the business at hand for the Tigers right now is to get as many young prospects in the organization as possible. As callous as it sounds, Fiers was simply a piece to help the rebuild. His veteran leadership will be missed, but the hope is that the two prospects the Tigers will eventually receive will have a chance to play at the major league level one day.
While Fiers came to compete every single day, it was evident that the Tigers could not hang in the race, especially after an 11-game losing streak in June. Veterans like Leonys Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Fiers became prime targets for teams looking for veteran help. All three knew a trade was not only possible but imminent.“We were in the race at one point and then we had a bad stretch of games and it’s tough,” Fiers said. “You never go into a season thinking you’re not going to win. It’s never the case with me and if you see yourself in that way, you’d probably never be in the big leagues.”
The Tigers were able to spin Fiers and Martin and now the organization will welcome three new prospects. The quality of those prospects will be determined in the coming years, but early indications are that shortstop Willi Castro, acquired in the Martin trade, is highly regarded.
This time last year the Tigers had significantly more value to offer other teams. Names like J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, and Justin Verlander brought back a more robust package of prospects. However, General Manager Al Avila still deserves credit for signing veterans last off-season specifically for this time of the year. Avila knew the timeline of a rebuild is measured in years, not months, and replenishing the minor league system one prospect at a time will get the organization one step closer to competing.