Detroit Tigers: Five Trade Targets for Fifth Starter

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2012

Detroit Tigers: Five Trade Targets for Fifth Starter

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    The Detroit Tigers went into this spring with the intention of filling their missing rotation spot with one of a handful of young, internal candidates.

    However, none of the internal candidates separated themselves from the rest, and in fact four of these candidates flamed out and are no longer in the running.

    The two remaining candidates, Duane Below and Drew Smyly, also have knocks against them.

    Below has struggled with his control, and in his most recent appearance was wilder than a coed on spring break.

    Smyly has looked solid and, most importantly, has thrown a lot of strikes (65 of his 88 pitches). But he only has four appearances, which is only one more than some of the other candidates who have been out of the running for weeks.

    So, with less than a week left before the team heads north, the Tigers are in a precarious position.

    On the one hand, they probably need another starter, and one from outside the organization.

    On the other hand, they do have some time. Given the off-days in the schedule, the fifth starter likely won't see his first appearance until April 14, giving the Tigers two full weeks to swing a trade.

    Here are five potential fifth starter candidates.

Matt Garza, RHP (Chicago Cubs)

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    Ideally, the Detroit Tigers would like their fifth starter to be a left-hander, but that isn't absolutely necessary given the fact that they could bring three southpaws north out of the bullpen.

    Garza is talented and is still young pitcher who has a one-year deal for just more than $9 million.

    The Cubs are a mess, but they are intent on rebuilding the right way. Garza is someone whom they will need to deal in order to restock their farm system. In Detroit, Garza could eat up a lot of innings and give the Tigers one of the youngest and most talented rotations in the majors.

    So, what would it cost them?

    Probably at least one of their catching prospects would go as well as one or two of their mid-level pitching prospects.

    Obviously, Jacob Turner isn't an option, and I think that Casey Crosby also should be off the table. But Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk or even Drew Smyly could be options.

Clayton Richard, LHP (San Diego Padres)

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    Clayton Richard is probably familiar to Tigers fans, not because he is a very solid pitcher for San Diego, but rather because he played football for University of Michigan.

    Richard has pretty good stuff and would fill the Tigers' desire to have a lefty in the rotation. He also would not come as too expensive since he is on the books for only $2.7 million this year.

    Additionally, Richard's stock is low right now, as he is having a terrible spring and is coming off a shoulder injury. But he is only 28, and two years ago, he went 200-plus innings with a sub-4 ERA.

    Richard also wouldn't cost the Tigers a ton; perhaps only one or two mid-level pitching prospects.

Jeff Karstens, RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)

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    Jeff Karstens is probably not someone the Pirates are in a hurry to deal, but he also isn't someone they are building around.

    Karstens had been largely disappointing up until last year when he had a 3.38 ERA in 26 starts. He is someone who relies primarily on off-speed pitches, as only 54 percent of his pitches last year were fastballs (courtesy of ESPN's "Inside Edge"). Karstens doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he can pitch a lot of innings.

    So, why would the Pirates deal him?

    Pittsburgh doesn't fully know if he has figured it out yet, and at 29, he isn't exactly a pup anymore. He also isn't expensive, earning only about $3 million this year.

    I could see the Tigers getting Karstens for relatively cheap, perhaps for mid-level options in the minors. Like so many other teams, the Pirates need a young catcher.

Brandon McCarthy, RHP (Oakland A's)

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    Brandon McCarthy is a similar talent to Garza and Karstens, albeit a hard-throwing one.

    McCarthy bounced around the league before catching on with Oakland last year, and he had a very good year. McCarthy finished the season with a 3.32 ERA and only 25 walks in more than 170 innings.

    So, why would Oakland trade him?

    Realistically, the A's have no shot at winning their division with the revamped Angels and the overly strong Rangers as foes. They also have a very young corps of pitchers, and McCarthy really doesn't fit that group, as he is going to turn 29 this year. He has a relatively cheap contract ($4.2 million this year), and his stock will never be higher than it is right now.

    That being said, McCarthy could be one of the more expensive options on this list, potentially costing upwards of three or four solid minor leaguers.

    But McCarthy really could be worth it if he replicates last year's numbers.

John Lannan, LHP (Washington Nationals)

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    John Lannan is probably the costliest of the guys on this list since he is the youngest (27).

    But Lannan fits the Tigers in that he can pitch a lot of innings, he is a left-hander and he doesn't make a ton of money ($5 million for this year).

    Personally, I don't think Lannan is as good of a fit as the other four on this list, and he has the most potential to bomb in Detroit.

    First, he allowed more than 70 walks last year and nearly 200 hits. Secondly, he probably would cost the Tigers too much. However, his name has been mentioned quite a bit regarding Detroit.