Tigers ponder potential trades prior to Deadline

Price set to start against Rays as Detroit decides to be buyer or seller

Tigers ponder potential trades prior to Deadline

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tigers' clubhouse was closed for about 15 minutes after Monday's 5-2 loss to the Rays. One by one, Detroit officials walked in, raising speculation something major was going down.

In the end, nothing did. No bags were packed, no hugs exchanged.

"There was nothing going on," manager Brad Ausmus said of the postgame clubhouse. "And I wouldn't say if there was."

So ended a day that included Tigers officials meeting to discuss potential trades, but still no clear indication of whether the team will buy or sell heading toward Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

At the same time, David Price had one final day of preparation for what could be his final start as a Tiger on Tuesday night against his old team at Tropicana Field, where he was waiting out the trade market a year ago before Tampa Bay dealt him to Detroit.

Price returns to Tampa

Before Monday's loss, Price said he believes the Tigers can still have a say in which way the team goes.

"From what I've heard, it's in our hands," Price said. "If we can finish these next four games strong. The Tigers are never sellers. They're always trying to add pieces to get to that postseason and beyond, and we have a very talented group in this clubhouse, and we all know that. If we can just play the baseball that we're capable of playing, we'll be playing baseball in October."

Still, if Price learned anything from last year's Trade Deadline, it's to be ready. He went from preparing for a Deadline deal to being led to believe he'd stick around, to being traded in the final minutes to Detroit, a team he never expected.

"You have to be ready for anything," Price said. "There's no telling where you could end up. Hopefully we can win these next three games or however many there are until the Trade Deadline and try to put something together."

Monday's loss dropped the Tigers three games under .500 for the first time since July 2012. They're 12 1/2 games behind Kansas City in the AL Central, and 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL Wild Card spot. With three games left before the Trade Deadline, the best case the Tigers can make now is break-even.

Several scouts were on hand for Monday's series opener, from buying and selling teams alike, and more are expected for Price's start Tuesday. They had ideas on what the Tigers could do, but no answers.

At the same time, Detroit has continued to scout potential Major League targets, with a Tigers evaluator spotted watching the Reds in the last few days. Cincinnati traded Johnny Cueto on Sunday, but it still has Mike Leake reportedly available for the right place.

The Reds have been spotted scouting games involving Tigers Minor League teams multiple times this month, including Double-A Erie's squad Monday night at Reading.

One Major League executive who has been in contact with the Tigers said Monday afternoon they still haven't set a path, and they might wait until Wednesday or even Thursday to do so. That would leave just hours to make a move ahead of Friday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline. Tigers officials are scheduled to continue meeting in Florida this series, then fly with the team to Baltimore.

One factor that could play into a decision is the health of Miguel Cabrera, who has missed the last four weeks with a strained left calf. He took batting practice again Monday and has been taking ground balls at first base, leading Ausmus to believe he could be back within the next couple weeks.

"What was the timetable, six to eight weeks? I'm optimistic he'll be on the short side of that," Ausmus said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.