Is Rick Porcello the Starting Pitcher Who Should Be Traded?

Basically everyone and their mother assumes that Rick Porcello, the 23 year old sinkerballer, is on the trade block – this is a big wooden stump that renegades and castaways and albatross contracts get placed on every month or so – and it makes complete sense if you’re a team who is operating on a year to year basis.

The signing of Anibal Sanchez to a five year deal (and a club option for 2018) worth $80M has basically been viewed as smart given the Venezuelan’s consistency over the last three season, his age through the contract, and his recent ability to stay healthy. I would agree with all these things, although I was surprised they went after him, and I’d much rather have a fourth quality starting pitcher for the 2013 than two somewhat wildcard arms in Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.

This has, of course, led to speculation that Porcello is not long for the Tigers organization given that Smyly is left handed, has a better strikeout rate, and is significantly cheaper over the course of the next half decade or so. Porcello could possibly make $3-$5M in arbitration this winter, which is an expensive investment for a fifth/sixth starter, but not so expensive that he absolutely has to be traded. Many also see the Tigers organization souring a bit on Porcello since he has not exactly dominated as many thought he would, although none of this is due to Porcello’s lack of talent. Porcello is a ground ball pitcher, a pitcher who compares similarly to Tim Hudson rather than Justin Verlander, and given the lack of range that is splayed across the Comerica Park infield dirt Porcello, gives up a fair amount (and then some) of base hits.

This is a rather unique situation since there is an extremely justified belief that Porcello will be a much for effective pitcher playing with a good infield defense. Again, a quick look at Tim Hudson, who has pitched exclusively for the Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves – two historically excellent defensive teams – makes sense. I don’t like to comp players, but the broad range we’re dealing with is justifiable here.

Basically, this means that the Tigers know Porcello is worth more to a team such as the Braves, or the Pirates, or the Red Sox, or Nationals, or Mariners. This means that Porcello should garner more talent from teams (not specifically those above) because talent is not doubted. Environment is. Whether this actually has an effect on trade negotiations remains to be seen, but knowing Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila, the Tigers will hold out until they get what they want.

But, this is assuming that they even should trade him. Patrick Kennedy at Bless You Boys looked at this today and made all the necessary points for keeping Porcello on the club.

Now, I don’t need to know that the Tigers only have six major league ready pitchers in their organization to want to keep Porcello (though that’s a pretty obvious reason to me). But if I were a person who believed that the Tigers needed to upgrade the back end of the bullpen or short stop or left field (which are all positions of need) why do I assume that Rick Porcello is the pitcher who needs to be traded?

First off, the next time the Tigers will absolutely have to deal with a member of their starting rotation in terms of Free Agency will be after the 2014 season, when Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer both become pending Free Agents, and after the 2015 season when Doug Fister follows suit. That means the rotation will look the same for at least two more seasons, which is a good thing considering who will be pitching.

If the Tigers were to hang onto their six starting pitchers they keep their options open down the line.

Doug Fister’s health is a bit of a concern, given his 161 innings in 2012. Max Scherzer’s arm could literally fall off in the next year, and furthermore he could elect not to sign an extension if he does remain healthy, being a Scott Boras client and all. What happens in a team swoops in on Scherzer next year and offers an amazing position prospect? Speculation is a dangerous and often pointless game, but so is jumping off and trading a very talented 23 year old sinkerballer with no history of injury and improving year to year seasons in regards to his K/BB  ratio (2.21/ 2.26/ 2.43), ground ball rate (50.3/51.4/53.2), and HR allotment (1.00/.89/.82).

I’m all for trading excess so that we will see the best team together, but I’m also all for remaining bullish and seeing if a better option comes to the table when there isn’t an altogether great need for anything at the moment and that’s the position the Tigers find themselves in now.

  • Trade Mr. Porcello

    TRADE HIM TRADE HIM TRADE HIM!!!!!!! HE SUCKSSSSS!!!!!

  • 84 Lives!!!

    I would like to make a Rebuttal to this article:

    I see a few reasons that trading Porcello might work:

    1) The Return in a Trade: Infield Defense would be the most likely winner, with an outside chance at a game-breaker (like Garcia + Porcello + others for Mike Stanton); but I will call that a much more unlikely option and go with a much better shortstop in return for Porcello. I don’t think a part-time outfielder (like Bourjos) or a closer is a good enough return for Porcello, so I won’t go there. I hope we don’t settle for that, I wion’t be thrilled with that type of trade at all. But if we can get an Asdrubal Cabrera or a Elvis Andrus in return for Porcello, I’ll call that a win for the Tigers, on multiple fronts (position player > starting pitcher, good infield defense a big plus over Peralta, plus those guys are younger/ less expensive than Peralta so that is two more plusses…). It may even take a 3rd team to pull off that type of trade: but my summary of this point is that a trade for a defensive shortstop with some batting skills is a plus for the Tigers. I won’t argue who is the right SS to get, or if they’re even available… Only that if Dave D can pull off that type of trade, I’m all for it…

    2) The expendability of a replaced player: if we get Cabrera/ Andrus for Porcello, we ALSO are then able to trade Peralta for something of value. And that might just be a Triple-A Major League ready starter. Not a superstar by any means, but hopefully someone who could be good enough to be a 5th starter (in a pinch). I’m not certain what Peralta’s value is; however, I believe several teams were quite interested in him at the Winter Meetings. If nothing else, any return we get for him should add to minor league depth.

    3) Over-rating of 6th starter: I’m not going to argue that a 6th starter is unimportant, because he is. What I am going to state here is that I think the Tigers will be fine with 6th starter options Crosby, Wilk, Below, and maybe a couple others. I still have hopes for Crosby to be a MLB-caliber starter. IF one of our starters gets injured AND none of these guys are capable of filling in with replacement-level starts, THEN I think Dombrowski will trade for a 5th starter at the deadline, as he has done previously, to get us into the playoffs. That might not work (Jarrod Washburn); but I think we have to take our chances on our existing 5 starters, our 6th starter candidates, and Dave D’s capabilities of filling holes (as best he can) when necessary, as long as we also get strong plusses from #’s 1 and 2 above… At least it seems worth it to me… and the weakness in our 6th starter capabilities seems to me to be over-valued compared to the above as well…

    4) Salary relief. Not a critical issue to me based on Illitch’s willingness to spend cash… But I also think every penny we save from here on out gives us that much more flexibility, just in case it IS needed… Subtract Porcello, Boesch, and possibly Peralta (and add back the cost of whichever player we get back…) and that might drop us back below $150 million for the year… Maybe even below $145MM. In the future we are hoping Garcia, Castellanos and Crosby are able to take over some positions (for Hunter, Martinez, and possibly Scherzer?) to keep us out of Salary-Tax hell, and allow us to keep Verlander & Miggy…

    Those are my points for trading Porcello. If anyone has any additional points, please go ahead and add them…

    And… I’d jump up & down if we got either Andrus or Cabrera for Porcello!!!

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