DREW SHARP: Detroit Tigers made right move to stand pat

The trade deadline passed Monday. And the Detroit Tigers passed as well.

With the asking price too high and available resources too scarce for the one significant piece they dearly needed — another top-of-the-rotation anchor — they opted instead for trusting that improved health will make the difference in the back end of the starting rotation in the closing 57 games.

Though boring and passive, “standing pat” was nonetheless the right decision.

If general manager Al Avila couldn’t go big and bold (acquiring elite starting pitchers Chris Sale or Chris Archer), it made little sense overpaying for mediocrity that wouldn’t upgrade what the Tigers already possessed. It would have excited the masses happily dizzied over successive three-game series sweeps against good teams like Boston and Houston.

But baseball’s trade deadline has become more about perception than reality. Any trade before the clock runs out grows in importance because, at least, the buyer made a move. They made a statement. If the public thinks the team is serious about its playoff chances, they’re more inclined to buy more tickets in the season’s final two months.

Avila is asking his players and Tigers fans to trust the moves he made in the off-season going forward in the regular season. And he thinks that once starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris and slugger J.D. Martinez soon return from the disabled list, they will be better acquisitions than anything they could’ve gotten prior to the trade deadline.

It won’t help them beat Cleveland in the American League Central. The Indians added a quality closer in former Tigers’ first-round draft pick Andrew Miller and bench depth in outfielder Brandon Guyer. They already have the game’s best starting rotation.

The Tigers are competing for the one-game wild card. That’s not an advantageous position, placing even more emphasis on the depth at the top of your starting rotation. But in his first trade deadline as a general manager, Avila couldn’t project an air of panic. Scared that if he does nothing, his ambivalence is portrayed within the vacuous social media platforms as a sign of weakness. Or worse, an indication that he’s overwhelmed by the challenge of steering an ownership vision that still fervently believes this core remains capable of winning a World Series.

The fallacy was that the Tigers merely required rotation depth — a No.3 or No.4 starter rounding out the rough edges in the bottom half of the staff. But when they acquired Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez in deadline moves in 2011 and 2012, respectively, they already had a Cy Young worthy ace in Justin Verlander and a still developing Max Scherzer gradually growing into the role of dominating ace.

The middle of the Tigers’ rotation isn’t the issue going forward.

It’s the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

In the No. 1 spot, Verlander has decisively silenced the critics who adamantly declared at this same time a year ago that his days of dominance were done, relegated to nothing more than a $28-million-a-year, middle-of-the-rotation starter.

But there’s no guarantee that No. 2 starter Zimmermann can remain both effective and healthy battling neck and groin injuries. And while rookie Michael Fulmer’s poise and tenacity belie his 23 years, it’s asking an awful lot of a pitcher that has never thrown more than 125 innings in a season to successfully assume the responsibilities of a dominating No. 2 starter in a potentially tight September playoff chase.

If both do well this month, the Tigers can still add another piece to the bottom of the rotation in a trade should that piece clear waivers in September. It’s dumb to appease the masses by making a minor deal solely for the sake of making a deal. That’s faux change. It wouldn’t make the Tigers any better adding Hector Santiago or Jeremy Hellickson — especially if the cost was a top-five organizational prospect — if Zimmerman can’t return to the level that made him the American League’s April pitcher of the month.

Standing pat was a concession the Tigers didn’t have the minor leaguers or the additional payroll flexibility for something big and bold. They’re not a better team once the trade deadline passed — they’re trusting that the money already spent will be good enough to keep them alive in the playoff chase.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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