Rick Porcello is still young enough that he could hold some untapped potential. That doesn’t exactly mean trading for him would be the wisest decision, though.
Porcello has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski on Thursday denied sending out any proposals involving the right-hander, but he claimed that his “phone has been ringing a lot” and noted that Detroit would listen to offers. The number of scouts reportedly on hand for Porcello’s start on Wednesday only adds to the speculation, while also indicating that there is some interest across baseball.
The Padres and Rangers have reportedly been the teams most actively discussing a trade for Porcello, but they weren’t alone in having a look during the pitcher’s most recent minor league spring training start. The Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals and Orioles reportedly were among the other teams who scouted Porcello, although it’s unclear how much interest each of those teams has in pursuing a deal.
An earlier report indicated that the Red Sox are not currently pursuing Porcello, but they’ll likely be tossed around as potential suitors for a couple of reasons. First, manager John Farrell said recently that the Sox are seeking rotational depth, especially with Franklin Morales battling an injury that has him sidelined indefinitely. Second, Detroit is believed to be seeking bullpen help, and it just so happens that the pen looks to be an area of depth for Boston.
The original FOXSports.com report said that the Red Sox are reluctant to compromise their bullpen depth, but it also labeled the Sox as “another team with potential interest” and suggested that Boston could satisfy Detroit’s need for late-inning relief help by offering Andrew Bailey. Again, this is purely speculation, but the Red Sox should ensure it doesn’t go beyond just that.
Porcello, a first-round pick in 2007, put together a strong rookie campaign. He went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA while finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Since then, however, he has failed to take the next step, and he’s now looked at as a fourth or fifth starter on most clubs. In Detroit, Porcello has been competing with Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the team’s rotation.
Porcello holds a mediocre career stat line, having gone 48-42 with a 4.55 ERA in 120 career starts over four seasons, but because he is just 24, it’s understandable that some teams may consider giving Dombrowski a call, especially if the inquiring team severely needs rotational help. The Red Sox are in no such position, though, so dealing from an area of strength — like the bullpen — would only seem to lessen the overall quality of the ballclub.
Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington may want to add rotational depth, and last season proved that injuries can take their toll at any given moment, but the Red Sox would be better served pursuing a low-cost free agent that wouldn’t require them to part ways with any talent. The need for a sixth starter just isn’t glaring enough to consider dealing a guy like Bailey, who figures to be a key cog at the back end of Boston’s bullpen.
The Orioles proved last season that a strong bullpen can have a huge impact, as the O’s went 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning games. The Sox have a strong foundation in place — particularly at the back end, where Bailey and Koji Uehara will be setting up for Joel Hanrahan — so why mess with what could be a difference-maker without any significant gain?
The Red Sox still have Alfredo Aceves, who is currently being stretched out to serve as a spot starter, and promising, young hurlers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are just a phone call away. That should be enough to overcome any rotational mishaps, and it definitely should be enough for the Red Sox to refrain from considering a deal for Porcello, who comes with a mostly unimpressive track record.
As for the Tigers, they definitely need bullpen help. That being said, they’ll be kicking themselves if Porcello manages to tap into his potential after being dealt away for anything less than above-average talent. After all, he’s looked pretty good this spring, so there are reasons to be optimistic if you’re the Tigers.
Essentially, it boils down to a conflict over what Porcello is worth. A trade involving the righty would require each team involved to gamble, and after looking at the risk versus reward, it’s a gamble that will come only after a great deal of hesitancy.
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