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.