By: Will Burchfield
The Tigers are in no rush to cash in their most valuable trade chip.
In fact, barring a great offer, GM Al Avila said the team is likely to retain Justin Wilson through the 2017 season.
The left-handed reliever is in the midst of a career year and is controllable through 2018.
“He’s a great pitcher, so we’re gonna expect a pretty good return. If not, then hey, he’s gonna be a Detroit Tiger, because we don’t really have to make a trade if we don’t see the right fit,” Avila told MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM on Thursday.
Wilson, 29, has a 2.75 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and 12.5 K/9 over 38 appearances this year. He’s owed just $2.7 million, or about $950,000 over the final two months of the season.
Unsurprisingly, a number of teams have come calling — and not just playoff contenders.
“He’s been a guy that we’ve received a lot of interest from clubs, no doubt. He’s a power left-handed reliever,” said Avila. “Even if you’re not in contention, even if you’re just a team that’s rebuilding, everybody would like to have that kind of left-hander in their bullpen, believe me. And if you’re in contention he’s the type of guy that can help you win those kind of games.
“Obviously he’s a guy that people like and people would want. But in saying that, we have one more year of control on him so we see good value there.”
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At last year’s trade deadline, the Yankees dealt a pair of hard-throwing left-handed relievers in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller — the former was just a two-month rental — and received a treasure chest of prospects.
Avila doesn’t expect quite the same return for Wilson, who isn’t as proven — or as dominant — as the aforementioned duo, but he believes it should be close. Wilson is arguably the most valuable reliever on the market at the moment.
“We’re not gonna say [like] Chapman and Miller, but quite frankly once you get past Chapman and Miller when you compare it to last year, he’s a great pitcher,” said Avila.
And the GM, knowing Wilson is under team control through 2018, is in no hurry to move him.
“Unlike with J.D. (Martinez) where after the last couple of months he’s a free agent, Justin Wilson will not be. He’ll be a Detroit Tiger, so we’ll see how that plays out,” Avila said.
A host of teams are reportedly pursuing Wilson, including the Astros, Red Sox, Brewers, Nationals, Dodgers and Rays.
In regard to the Rays, it appears the Tigers’ asking price is too high.
The Nationals, meanwhile, are reportedly unwilling to move any of their top three prospects in exchange for Wilson. If Avila means what he says, that’s a deal-breaker.
There have been rumblings of Wilson being packaged with Justin Verlander in a deal with the Astros, but Verlander would have to approve the trade first. There would also be financial complications given Verlander’s salary.