Evaluating the Trade Market: Starting Pitching

For all the complaints about the Tigers’ offense over the first few months of the season, it looks as if starting pitching may be atop the Tigers’ shopping list for the second year in a row. Last year, they pried Doug Fister away from Seattle, a move which, at least for 2011, turned out better than they ever could’ve imagined.

This year’s issues stem from Fister’s health issues and occasionally startling hittability, Max Scherzer’s infuriating inconsistency, Rick Porcello’s inability to put it all together, and Drew Smyly’s DL stints and rookie-ness. There’s definitely room to upgrade.

The good news for the Tigers is that, unlike the second base pool, the market for starting pitchers is a deep one. The Tigers will have options if they do choose to pursue a rotation upgrade, some of them very good ones. Let’s take a look…

Cole Hamels, Phillies

The obvious one. The Phillies aren’t selling yet, and they’re apparently inclined to offer Hamels a long-term contract. But if he turns them down and the Phils have another bad week, Hamels may well move.

Hamels, of course, is a free agent after the season and is going to get a ton of money from someone. He is probably a top ten starter in baseball. And he would certainly cost both Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner and probably more – with no guarantee he’ll be a Tiger next year. Don’t expect this to happen – Texas has a better pool of prospects to send Philadelphia anyway.

Zack Greinke, Brewers

Like Hamels, Greinke is a free agent after this year, and like Hamels, Greinke’s team would like to keep him, but financial realities may limit those ambitions. Greinke has shown flashes of the pitcher who dominated the American League three years ago and has also had puzzling stretches of inconsistency – and like it or not, he still faces questions about his makeup. He’s skipping his next start in a bizarrely-timed move the Brewers say is meant to “recharge his batteries,” and his value isn’t exactly at an all-time high. Greinke has always been a favorite of mine, though, and I’d welcome him – but again, he’d still cost top prospects and there’s no guarantee that he’d return next year (although I think he’d be easier to sign than Hamels).

Ryan Dempster, Cubs

Yet another rental, but perhaps a more amenable one, as Dempster is 35. He’s also having a season way better than anyone could’ve expected, with a 1.86 ERA. It’s not sustainable, of course, and he’s already got one DL stint under his belt this year. That said, he’s certainly not a bad pitcher, but his value is at an all-time high and the Cubs are aggressively working to move him accordingly. He’d be an upgrade, but the likely regression scares me a bit. Also worth noting he has veto power over any deal.

Matt Garza, Cubs

The other Cubs pitcher. Garza’s a bit the reverse in that he’s given up a ton of homers (blame Wrigley). He’s also going to cost more because he’s 28 years old and under club control for another year. Garza has always been a favorite of mine, though he’s on his third organization (remember, the Twins hate pitchers who strike people out). We’ll see if the Cubs move him. The Tigers were linked to him last winter, with Jacob Turner at the heart of those discussions.

James Shields, Rays

In retrospect, perhaps the Rays should’ve moved Shields last year when he was having a brilliant season. Or maybe not – they could still get an impressive haul for him and he’s still got a couple years of club control left too – but he’s had his struggles this year, even though his K/BB is pretty stable from where it was last year. He’s a workhorse, though, and could certainly solidify the rotation. What the Rays’ asking price would be, however, remains to be seen.

Anibal Sanchez, Marlins

The Marlins aren’t your conventional sellers – they just invested a lot of money into their team and even if it still looks like they’re out of it come July 31, they’re still unlikely to blow it all up. Sanchez, a free agent after this year, could be a name the Marlins are willing to throw out there. Like Shields, his ERA is a bit high, but his peripherals are very similar to last season’s. Another guy I’ve always liked – but again, Miami might not even want to move him. He also has a history of shoulder injuries.

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Trade rumors are nothing new for 33-year-old Rodriguez, who has basically been tossed about every single July for the last few years. Rodriguez is putting together a solid season, but his contract remains a big stumbling block for any team looking to acquire him – he’s due $13 million next year and has a $13 million option for 2014 that becomes a player option if he’s dealt. It’s the reason I was not inclined to support a move for him last year, and the same reasons stand this year.

Those are the big names. There may be other pitchers shopped, but a lot of them really wouldn’t be big upgrades (just say no to Jason Vargas) or are so wildly inconsistent that they might implode (looking at you, Francisco Liriano). If the Tigers are going to go for a starter, it would be in their best interest to land a quality one – even if it isn’t one of the big time aces. They have no shortage of options.

  • KalineCountry

    Any opinion on Tigers trying for Brandon McCarthy?

    • Josh Worn

      That would be a welcome addition, though I’m not entirely sure what the Tigers could offer them

    • verlander

      My opinion is “F YEAH, I LOVE MCCARTHY.”

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  • kevine640

    I think the Tiger’s have some issues with pitching.
    If you look beyond Turner, Crosby, and Smyly – Detroit does not have significant prospects above … low A-ball. I leave off Oliver because he has moved to the word of “fringe” and Wilk.
    So looking at their rotation
    Verlander – Best picture in the American League, and likely, in all of baseball.
    Fister – When he is on, he is a solid #2 … the problem is that there is a fine-line between a *Very Good* Fister, and a Doug Fister that is throwing batting practice. The line is a couple mph on his fastball and a couple of inches of movement. If he loses his good stuff, I thik Fister will struggle to remain in the majors.
    Scherzer – 2 pitches that are very good and one that is above average. When Scherzer has his mechanics locked in he can unhittable. The problem is that he has a violent delivery and his mechanics are frequently out-of-whack. In the end, he is a hard guy to depend on, but I think Detroit values him more than another team.
    Porcello – I think he has the chance to be a very good pitcher… on a team with a strong infield defense playing in the National League. I just don’t think he will put it together with Detroit. The depth of the American League line-ups seem to keep him from getting in a groove, and the the Tiger’s infield defense extends innings and causes him to put too much pressure on pitching perfectly. I think he needs to be traded.
    Smyly – I think he is under-rated. Once he learns to consistenly pitch lower in the zone I think he will do well. His fastball will hit 94 – he has a nice cutter, curveball, and change-up, all to go with pretty good command. I see don’t see any reason why he can’t be successful in the majors.
    Turner – I am worried that Turner has never dominated his competition at any level. If a guy is going to be a frontline pitcher (or hitter) you would expect that at least a couple of levels where he would have dominated (See Verlander’s stats in AA or Castellanos in Lakeland) He looks like Porcello but with a better curve and less command. I would have no issues with him being traded.
    Crosby – Command… if it develops then he could be pretty good. If not… he is CJ Nitowski
    Oliver – His days of being considered a prospect are probably over. He reminds of Andrew Miller… another guy that the Tiger’s, sadly, rushed to the majors. I doubt that he has much trade value at this point.
    Wilk – Maybe a spot starter or a long-man, but he doesn’t have the stuff to be in rotation full-time.
    The question is… who is next on the list as a potential starter… anyone in Toledo? Erie? Lakeland? After this group the picking are very thin.

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