If the Detroit Tigers are hell-bent on adding a starting pitcher at the trade deadline we need to take a look at the available names and break it down.
The starting pitching market has turned into the Big 3 (sound familiar Michiganders?) and the rest of the pack. So first, the Big 3:
Cole Hamels – Hamels would fill a variety of needs for the Tigers. He’s a dominant lefty, a proven postseason performer, and would be the ideal #2 behind Justin Verlander. However, he is a free agent at the end of the season and will require $20M/year from his next employer. That and the fact that he will require a substantial prospect haul in return to the Phillies (insert obligatory Nick Castellanos comment here) makes him an extreme long shot to join the Tigers.
Matt Garza – Garza has an arbitration year waiting for him next in 2013, which keeps him under a team’s control through next season at around $10-12M. This isn’t a bad price for a guy who chews up innings, is also known as a big game pitcher, and has prior American League success. Of the Big 3, Garza might require the lightest package in return. The Cubs are in full-on rebuilding mode and know that the powerful righty can net them some pieces. He will almost certainly be moved at the deadline and the Tigers have expressed interest in acquiring him. Castellanos won’t be involved, but don’t be surprised if some of the bigger names in the system would move in this deal.
Zack Greinke – Greinke would like to go somewhere that is interested in signing him long-term. St. Louis has been widely rumored as one of his top pursuers since Chris Carpenter has now been declared out for the season. Detroit probably wouldn’t be more than a 3-month hotel stay for Greinke as the Tigers already have three $20M/year players on the roster and don’t seem to be interested in adding a 4th and vaulting their payroll up toward the $150M range. Don’t count this one completely out though. The Tigers sell out Comerica Park on a regular basis and despite them liking you to believe that they are a medium market team, the numbers simply don’t bear that out. GM Dave Dombrowski and Owner Mike Ilitch have surprised us all before.
After the Big 3 come names like Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano, and Wandy Rodriguez, to name a few.
Dempster is an aging National League lifer in the last year of his deal. His transition to a new league and less than powerful arsenal might not play out too well in the junior circuit. I would hate for the Tigers to be the team to find this out the hard way. Does anyone else think it was far from a coincidence that he landed on the DL during interleague play? His numbers were rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up. Well played Theo Epstein. Recommendation: pass.
Liriano is a pitcher all too familiar to the Tigers as he pitches in the AL Central for the Twins. He is also in the final year of his contract. One thing that has plagued both Liriano and the Tigers pitching staff at times is the inability to throw strikes. Liriano is the ultimate evil temptress. He can look like Cliff Lee one day and Andy Oliver the next. Recommendation: don’t walk, run!
Rodriguez is also a National League lifer but has more upside than Dempster. Wandy is signed through 2013 at $13.5M so he would be around for more than a year if acquired and at a somewhat reasonable price. At 33, he is older than you might think and does have a lifetime ERA north of 4.00. Recommendation: proceed with extreme caution.
Other names will surface as July presses onward and some will remain unknown until the deal pops, sort of like Doug Fister a year ago.
Oddly enough, the once untouchable Fister is one of the main reasons why the Tigers feel they need more pitching depth. He has been on the DL twice this season and hasn’t looked good lately. Rick Porcello just gave up 12 hits to the Twins and Max Scherzer has been erratic and is now nursing a leg injury. Meanwhile, rookie Drew Smyly has been getting roughed up in recent outings.
Starting pitching looked like an extreme strength at the onset of 2012 but is starting to provide cause for concern.
Most fans are eyeballing a 2nd base upgrade (talked more about here) and an outfield acquisition with power and a sense of the strike zone (ie, not Delmon Young). In the end however, the biggest impact change might come by way of the starting rotation.