2013 Boston Red Sox: Could Team Pursue a Trade for Pitcher Rick Porcello?

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2013 Boston Red Sox: Could Team Pursue a Trade for Pitcher Rick Porcello?
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Could Anibal Sanchez's return to Detroit push Porcello to a team like the Red Sox?

Even though the Boston Red Sox seemingly have a full rotation with the recent addition of free-agent Ryan Dempster, the team may not be done in their pursuit of starting pitching.

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote that Boston could be one of the teams interested in Detroit Tigers right-handed starter Rick Porcello if he were made available on the trade market:

Amazing how much Porcello’s stock has dropped, from a phenom to a pitcher who couldn't fit the Tigers’ postseason rotation. GMs have told me the Tigers have been receptive to trade talk on PorcelloPorcello is only 23, so he has appeal as a pitcher who has yet to reach his prime. The Rangers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Padres, and Phillies are possibilities.

The Tigers may be open to trading Porcello now that recently re-signed Anibal Sanchez joins an already-stocked rotation. Detroit has Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Sanchez and highly regarded young lefty Drew Smyly set as starters, potentially making Porcello the odd man out.

Could the Red Sox consider reshuffling their rotation and go after Porcello?

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Despite being a four-year vet, Porcello is still as young as many pitching prospects.

Currently, Boston has Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Dempster and John Lackey slotted for their rotation. Left-hander Franklin Morales could also be given a look, as he pitched fairly well in a six-week run as a starter last season.

Both Lackey and Morales are returning from arm injuries, so their availability and effectiveness may not be fully known until spring training starts.

Porcello was a Tigers’ 2007 first-round draft pick out of high school. He pitched just 24 minor league games before being summoned to Detroit. Despite his draft position, he has never developed into a star, going 48-42 with a 4.55 ERA in four major league seasons.

Porcello has posted double-digit win totals every year he has been in the majors, but doesn't strike out many batters (5.0 per nine innings for his career) and has never thrown a complete game.

However, there are also signs that Porcello, who will pitch all of next season at the age of 24, has steadily improved.

Porcello’s home runs allowed per nine innings have gone down each season he has been in the majors, while his strikeouts per nine innings have gone up every year. Additionally, he has lowered his ERA in each of the past three years.

Advanced stats from FanGraphs.com show other ways Porcello has improved.

Porcello’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has gone from 4.77 as a rookie, to a career-best 3.91 in 2012. FanGraphs.com says this stat “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

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FIP of 4.00 is considered average, and a mark of 3.75 is above average. Such metrics suggest Porcello may have suffered because of his team's defense, but is trending in a positive direction.

Porcello shares in the responsibility of being hittable. He led the AL with 226 hits allowed last season, and has allowed an average of 10.4 per nine innings for his career.

The slider appears to be a prime culprit for Porcello's inconsistency. FanGraphs indicates that his wSL (Slider runs above average) has been worth -26.5 runs below average for his career, and an abysmal -17.3 last season.

Porcello’s pitch values for his low-90’s fastball, changeup and curve have remained about league-average since he entered the majors. Since he won’t be eligible for free agency until 2016, any number of teams, including the Red Sox, may see him as an intriguing project.

Although Boston may not appear to have an open rotation spot for Porcello right now, that could change.

The Red Sox could determine they need insurance for Lackey or Morales. Adding Porcello could also allow a young cost-controlled pitcher like Doubront to be used as trade bait for a hitter.

Boston is looking to add talent at a reasonable cost to improve last 2012's 69-win debacle of a team. Since Porcello fits this strategy, he’s a player worth watching as the winter progresses.

Statistics via BaseballReference

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