In 6 days, the Detroit Tigers’ Rick Porcello will turn 24 years old. He already has 4 full season of MLB service under his belt. He plays for a team suddenly with one too many starters and an infield defense that doesn’t suit his skill set as a pitcher. Add it all up and Porcello is being shopped hard by the Tigers and might have a new home by the time the ball drops in New York City.
Despite a career ERA of 4.55 and WHIP of 1.42, Porcello is an extremely attractive trade target for teams looking to fill a hole in their rotation. It’s not every day that you find a pitcher who is as young as Porcello with a resume full of big game experience as he has. Porcello is also under team control through 2015, which adds even more to his allure.
With Anibal Sanchez re-joining the Tigers last week via a 5-year free agent deal, Detroit had to consider their 2013 rotation members. Locked in stone are Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer. That leaves one spot to be doled out between Porcello and Drew Smyly.
The Tigers, quite simply, prefer Smyly. The 23-year old lefty had a strong rookie season. He pitched in 23 games, 18 of those being starts, and went 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Most impressive were the 94 K’s in 99.1 innings pitched.
The Tigers’ front office favors strikeout pitchers and Porcello just doesn’t have the knack. Consider that the Big 4 in Detroit’s rotation punched out 774 hitters in 2012 covering just 783.1 innings of work. Porcello struck out a mere 107 in 176.1 innings.
Smyly is not only a lefty that the rotation could desperately use, but fits neatly into the strikeout/inning type of pitcher the Tigers covet.
What is interesting is that the Tigers usually proceed very quietly when it comes to their operations in the trade and free agent market. However, no secret is being made of the fact that Porcello is on the block.
Three teams have already stepped up to the buffet: Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego.
Seattle is a very common trading partner with Dave Dombrowski and has also inquired into Brennan Boesch’s availability, so I would give them the edge in working out a deal.
Detroit wants another strong bullpen arm as well as a right-handed hitting outfielder. Some recent trades involving other teams seem to indicate that the Tigers can name a fairly stout price for Porcello. Seattle themselves just traded 29-year old lefty starter Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales’ impact bat.
If a fairly average 29-year old can net Morales then Detroit should absolutely expect a difference maker in the bullpen and a complimentary bat for the outfield.
Some players from the 3 teams mentioned that fit the bill include:
Outfield: Casper Wells (Seattle), Chris Denorfia (San Diego), Jesus Guzman (San Diego), Nolan Reimold (Baltimore)
Reliever: Pedro Strop (Baltimore), Miguel Gonzalez (Baltimore), Brad Brach (San Diego), Brad Boxberger (San Diego), Stephen Pryor (Seattle)
The trap in trading Porcello is that it really thins out the ‘next in line’ department. To think that Detroit’s starting 5 will all make 30+ starts is simply naïve. There is almost zero depth left in the Tigers’ system as guys like Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, and Adam Wilk are no longer around.
That’s what makes a starter/reliever combo guy like Miguel Gonzalez an attractive option.
Don’t be surprised to see Boesch moved in whatever deal Porcello leaves in. All that’s left now are the details.
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