The Detroit Tigers have already made one major move this offseason with the signing outfielder Torii Hunter. The question Tigers fans are now asking themselves is what happens next. The Tigers still have needs: a closer, a shortstop with better range and possibly another outfielder.
A popular target for trade rumors is starting pitcher Rick Porcello. I think a big reason why many fans want to see Porcello dealt are the expectations fans had when Porcello was given a large bonus as a first-round pick in the 2007 draft. Many fans expected Porcello to turn into a front-line "ace" pitcher, not unlike another first-round pick from 2004, Justin Verlander.
Porcello will probably never be an "ace" for a team, but he is still a very valuable pitcher. For starters, Porcello is still a very young pitcher at just 23 years of age. Already he has been a major league starter for four years and has two 14-win seasons under his belt. He has been healthy and can be counted on to throw about 180 innings. He is also under contract through 2015.
In 2011, Porcello matched his fantastic rookie season (2009), when he went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA and an ERA+ of 114 (from baseball-reference.com) and had the lowest WHIP of his career at 1.336. One reason why Porcello has not been more successful is the lack of an elite defense behind him.
Porcello is a pitch-to-contact pitcher who does a good job of throwing strikes. Evidence of this can be seen by his walk rate declining to 2.25, good for 28th in all of baseball. However, what killed Porcello this past season was a major league worst 11.53 hits per nine innings.
So is there a chance the Tigers could shop Porcello, and if they do, can they actually get anything in return for him? I think the answer is yes, but the Tigers need to shop Porcello carefully.
One team the Tigers should contact is the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies have a very solid infield defense headlined by superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Their outfield defense is solid as well. The Rockies need pitching and more specifically, they need pitchers who either strike batters out or who force opponents to put balls on the ground.
What would the Tigers want in return? One option which seems like a nice fit with the Tigers would be outfielder Dexter Fowler. Fowler is a little below average as a defensive center fielder, but move him to left and it's easy to see him becoming a plus fielder.
There have been rumors about Fowler being offered in an attempt to land a veteran pitcher. Fowler makes sense for Detroit for two primary reasons. First, he is a switch-hitter who has shown improvement with his hitting approach and is probably going to be closer to a .280 hitter with 15-home run power and a little bit of speed (12 steals in 2012). Secondly, he is a young player who fits the need for a solid defender.
A one-for-one deal between the Tigers and Rockies is not likely. Several minor league players will most likely be included. I think the Tigers could include pitcher Casey Crosby and either outfielder Daniel Fields or Tyler Collins. The Rockies would probably be asked to include a prospect like shortstop Trevor Story. In order to get Story, the Tigers might have to include one of their young outfielders (Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch).
This would help Detroit both now and in the future. MLB.com projects Story to be major league ready in 2015. Currently, the Tigers could address shortstop until Story is ready by either re-signing Peralta for another year or signing Steven Drew to a two-year contract with a team option for a third. Fowler is an everyday outfielder and can man the outfield until either Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia is ready for everyday duty.
The Rockies would get a starter who can actually make it through six innings and who is still quite young and should be able to chew up some innings for a rotation that struggled to make it more than four innings per game last year. Porcello is better than his numbers indicate, and he will benefit from having a stronger defense behind him.
The Rockies also get a solid pitching prospect in Casey Crosby, who has gotten better each year after Tommy John surgery. Crosby struggled in three spot starts for Detroit this past year, but he is shown good progress with locating his pitches. He is also a strikeout pitcher, which is the type of pitcher the Rockies need.
Finally, adding a prospect with upside like Fields or Collins is a gamble for the Rockies, but if it pays off, it could give them an above-average outfielder with some speed and power. Also, if the Tigers included Boesch or Dirks, the Rockies would have either a sold bench bat or (in Dirk's case) a player who can defend all three outfield positions.
Before the Tigers make this deal, they will want to either re-sign Anibal Sanchez or have another pitcher to take Porcello's place in the rotation. The Rockies need pitching badly and may be willing to pay for that pitching. It behooves the Tigers to inquire and find out.