Detroit Tigers rumors: interest in Porcello rises

The Detroit Tigers and Rick Porcello trade rumors are likely to crank into overdrive in the coming weeks. It’s kind of becoming the Tigers equivalent of what the Diamondbacks experienced with Justin Upton. The elongated nature of Upton’s trade talks probably won’t replicate in Detroit but Porcello’s name has been a hot topic ever since the Tigers overpaid for the return of Anibal Sanchez.

The end result of all of those Upton talks? He was traded. It’s very possible that Porcello will face a similar fate, and soon.

Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers

Rick Porcello

Several teams were on hand to witness his brilliant 4-inning start yesterday against the Astros. Kudos to the Tigers for making sure he got the start against the worst team in the big leagues. In spite of that advantage, Porcello looked better than ever.

He was only supposed to pitch 3 innings on Monday but was so efficient, and effective, that Leyland gave him a 4th inning in which he nearly struck out the side. I’m sure the bevy of scouts in attendance were grateful for the extra peek.

Porcello had it all working yesterday. The swing-back fastball, the diving sinker, a solid changeup, and (sound the trumpets) a really nice curveball. The one piece missing from the 24-year old’s repertoire over his first four seasons has been a solid breaking ball. This offseason he scrapped the flat slider he was battling in favor of the curve. So far, so good. And if he can work that pitch all season like he did yesterday, then this is a different pitcher folks.

Which brings us back to the trade talks. How heart-dropping would it be to see the Tigers finally move this guy on the brink of him figuring it out and taking that once expected step toward stardom?

Detroit is rolling with a starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and either Porcello or Drew Smyly. Both of the latter two have looked outstanding so far in spring training. Smyly is a lefty, which gives him an edge. Smyly has also been nothing short of an overachiever since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Tigers. He followed up his run as 2011 Tigers minor league pitcher of the year with a strong rookie campaign.

Some have hinted (including me) that the Tigers could look at Porcello as a Jim Johnson-type of closer and give Smyly the 5th spot. For a player of Porcello’s pedigree, a bullpen role other than closer might be considered a slap in the face and a career de-railer. Detroit will tread very carefully before making such a shift. With Bruce Rondon’s spring struggles being well-documented at this point, the Porcello-as-closer rumors are likely to gain steam.

One team in attendance for Monday’s Tigers game was the Texas Rangers. They’ve been indirectly linked to the Tigers’ quest to move the right-hander for a few months now. Consider the link now direct.

A reason why the Rangers seem like a good trade partner is because they have a lot of depth in their middle infield. 20-year old phenom Jurickson Profar is banging on the door but has nowhere to play thanks to Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler occupying his potential spots on the field. A huge camp by Profar might incline the Rangers (who just lost likely #5 starter Martin Perez to a broken arm) to ship Andrus to a team in need of a shortstop who likewise has a proven pitcher to trade away, ala the Tigers.

An Andrus-Porcello based trade would really be a rim-rocker at this point of the spring. Detroit would then have to trade Jhonny Peralta away as he would no longer have a home. The layers of complexity would be steep. Texas, understandably, isn’t dying to trade Andrus when the insurance policy is a 20-year old. If the Tigers don’t move Porcello to the closers role, and nobody from the existing cast of bullpen characters steps up and earns that spot, then it’s conceivable that he would be traded in a package for exactly that, a closer.

We’ve all seen GM Dave Dombrowski make some aggressive roster moves but never this late in the offseason game. Watching him observe Porcello during yesterday’s game had the feel of a GM who knew he had something substantial to offer another team. I don’t think he would trade a pitcher with Porcello’s ability, no matter how sketchy the track record has been, simply for a closer though. Bullpen arms come and go with little annual reliability. Porcello appears to have 10 more years of good baseball left in that right arm.

If hindsight is indeed 20/20, I wonder if Dombrowski would have signed Sanchez had he known Porcello would be this attractive in March. No Anibal Sanchez would have kept $80M in Mike Ilitch’s wallet and further laid this current problem of six starters battling for five spots to rest.

Does Dombrowski risk trading away a player with the oddest combination of youth, experience, a sluggish track record, but gobs of upside for the chance at a monumental defensive upgrade at shortstop or some package involving a closer? Stay tuned to this one as it could get interesting in a hurry.

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  • Steve

    Yes; make the trade!

  • Doug

    Another great take Joe, always enjoy reading. I must say I hadn’t even considered Porcello as a closer but that idea has merit. I think he could be successful in that role and goodness knows the Tigers are in need. I haven’t bought into any of the current options. If the Rangers were willing to trade Andrus for Rick however that is a no brainer. One of the best defensive shortstops in baseball with youth, pop and speed. I’m drooling over here.

    • Joe White

      Thanks Doug. There would certainly be more to it than an even swap. Andrus has more value by a pretty wide margin right now I’d say. The Tigers would have to sweeten the pot.

      • Doug

        Certainly Joe. Thanks for throwing cold reality on my enthusiasm. You’re right of course which begs the question, how much more? Wouldn’t want to give up Castellanos and beyond that can you speculate on other prospects the Rangers might be interested in? Maybe throwing in Brennan Boesch would get er done. That’s a joke. :-)

        • Joe White

          Anytime Doug! The Tigers have some moveable pieces. Texas is fairly well set on the infield but could use some outfield depth. If Boesch wasn’t hurt and had shown something by now he could’ve been a piece. Tyler Collins, Austin Schotts, Castellanos, and Garcia give the Tigers some OF depth that could be dealt.
          Or, Detroit may try to acquire a closer, which is an idea I don’t like.

  • Jon

    Is there any chance of a three team deal in which Porcello ends up in Texas, Andrus in Detroit, and Peralta to a third party with a bullpen/closer to trade away? Maybe just wishful thinking, or maybe I just think too highly of Rick Porcello.

    • Joe White

      It’s possible but to get Texas to move Andrus to one of the AL’s best teams is going to take a heckuva package.

      • Jon

        Yeah that is definitely true, and I would not be trading away too many top prospects if I were the tigers (not too many left). I would probably hang on to Rick unless there was a third team that could sweeten the pot for the Rangers to cut ties with Andrus. I just don’t really see the need to trade away a good young arm otherwise. Thanks for your reply Joe!

        • Joe White

          Agreed 100% Jon.

  • Greg

    Porcello for Andrus ain’t going to happen. But if Porcello is a totally different pitcher with the curve and is waiting to bust out, then the Tigers need to keep him because they can control him for a while and he will be cost effective for a while. Now this might sound crazy but if the Tigers are really interested in getting Andrus, they should offer Scherzer for him. Max goes to free agency after the 2014 season if my memory serves me correct. His agent is Scott Boras, who doesn’t give and hometown discounts and ALWAYS takes his first time, and very good players to the free agent market. The Tigers will lose Max, especially with Verlander’s contract expiring at the same and JV saying he’d like to be a $200 million pitcher. Now my question is this? Would you rather pay Scherzer and possibly not afford Verlander or would you want to pay JV and have Andrus as the Tiger SS? Now is the perfect time to trade Max because his value is at his highest. Trade Scherzer for Andrus! If the Tigers don’t and only trade Porcello, to say Texas, then they will probably net a former KC closer Joakim Soria, who is rehabbing until May (Coke and be the closer in April), and Texas’ 3rd best prospect, SS Luis Sardinas, who will eventually cause a logjam at the position for Texas.

  • BobWhite

    Never liked the Sanchez signing, to much money for a .500 pitcher. Always wanted Porcello for the starting rotation. He is going to be good. Could he be a closer, I do not know.

  • Waggs

    Why doesn’t St.Louis jump in and make this a three way trade. Pheralta would go to the Cardinals. Porcello to the Rangers and Andrus to Detroit or vice versa the shortstop’s if prospect race occurs.

  • Joe White

    I like the thought process Greg. Personally, I’d rather get one more year out of Max before we consider moving him though.

    • Greg

      You got to give up something to get something. Even if Max goes out and repeats last year or does better, his value goes down because he’s a Boras client. If I’m Texas, I’d want Max for at least 2 years if I’m going to give up Andrus. Another thought is what happens if Max regresses back to the mediocre style he has been? Scherzer’s value is at its peak right now for the Tigers. Anyway, with today’s news of Detroit looking to trade for a closer, my second scenario looks more like a probability: Porcello for Soria and Sardinas.

      • Joe White

        Definitely possible and I hear you on the 2 years v. 1 with Max but the Tigers want to win now and I think they see Max as a huge part of that road map.

        • Greg

          They do see Max as a big part, but if Porcello keeps having successful outings this spring, it makes Rick easier to slot into the rotation, remember its JV, Fister, Scherzer, Sanchez and Smyly. If you trade Scherzer, it’s not that big a difference of JV, Fister, Sanchez, Porcello and Smyly. Max has only one good season and that seperates him and Sanchez at this time. I believe they signed Anibel to that contract with the anticipation that they might lose Scherzer or maybe even JV. So why not make any Scherzer loss into your advantage now when you have control of it and better your team defensively while not hurting your rotation.

          • Joe White

            To claim that Porcello is a close equivalent to Max after 8 spring innings is a big leap at this point. I hope that curveball was legit. If it is he is a whole different pitcher and your plan would make a lot of sense.

          • Greg

            Joe the logic is Sanchez as your third starter instead of Scherzer and Porcello as your fourth starter. The comparison is between Max and Anibel, not Porcello. I’d slot Sanchez into to the 3rd slot just to have Andrus at SS. Scherzer only has had one good season and has had problems before, not unlike Porcello. I’ll take the position player any day over a pitcher, who has had only one good season so far and who would probably make Porcello a better pitcher.

  • Steven

    sorry to be an obnoxious troll but shouldn’t it be, ‘interest in porcello peaking’ or ‘at a peak’. or if you are adamant on using the word pique, ‘porcello has piqued rangers interest’. really not trying to be a douche and maybe I’ve got it wrong but thought it may be helpful to mention it. also, thanks for the article.

    • Joe White

      Huh. I think you’re right. I’ve let it stay out like this all day so I guess I’ll embrace my mistake. No worries about pointing it out. Much appreciated.

  • itsfun

    I think you are right. I would not let Rick Porcello go for anything less than a all star type shortstop. If pitching depth is as important as all the “experts” say, then getting an all star and even a closer is not to much to ask. Remember the Tigers lost a lot of starts last year because of injuries to other starters. This a team that wants to win the world series, keeping pitching depth may be a very good idea. If Porcello stays with Detroit, I would play Danny Worth at Shortstop when he pitches.

  • clyde

    Could you possibly mean “piquing” interest??

    Peaking is an entirely different concept.

    • Joe White

      Yes.We went over this yesterday.