Over the past few weeks, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello has become one of the two hottest trade candidates in MLB (the other being Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton). It appears that half of major league baseball is interested in him and rightfully so.
As I have stated many times before, the Tigers would be making a huge mistake trading a 24-year-old starting pitcher who hasn't even hit his prime. Porcello could fill most team's No. 4 or No. 5 pitching slot now with a chance to develop into a No. 2 pitcher if he can improve his secondary pitches, especially his slider.
Jon Paul Morosi from Fox Sports reported that the Baltimore Orioles wouldn't trade Tigers trade target, shortstop J.J. Hardy, but they would consider trading their closer Jim Johnson.
The Baltimore Orioles aren’t interested in trading shortstop J.J. Hardy to Detroit for starter Rick Porcello.
They may be more willing to trade closer Jim Johnson.
Morosi goes on to detail all the reasons why the trade would work for Baltimore: strong infield defense, Porcello would be under team control longer, and cheap closer options on the free agent market.
All the reasons why it works for Baltimore are why this trade would be horrible from the Tigers point of view.
Sure Johnson, 29, had a good season last year collecting 51 saves to lead MLB but he only had 41 strikeouts and a 2.73 K/BB ratio. It is troubling that Johnson's K/BB ratio has decreased over the past few years, which would put added stress on the Tigers defense since he's not a strikeout pitcher.
Johnson could rely on the Orioles defense but may not be so lucky in Detroit.
I believe that a starting pitcher is a lot more valuable than a closer, and chances are Johnson won't have the same success he had in 2012. With low-risk options like Brian Wilson on the market, I don't know why the Tigers would trade Porcello for a closer who could have equal to lesser success. There are only a few reliable closers who are successful year after year that I would consider trading for, and Johnson is not in that category.
In my eyes, I see Jim Johnson as last year's Jose Valverde. Great success the year before but not as lucky the following year. If the Tigers had traded Valverde before the 2012 season there would have been several teams interested in him, but this offseason he's still looking for a team.
Also troubling to me is that in five games in the playoffs against the New York Yankees, Johnson had one loss, a blown save and a 8.44 ERA. For a team like the Tigers that have World Series aspirations, this could make for a disaster in a repeat of last year's closer by committee in the playoffs.
I'm coming to terms with the fact that Porcello will more than likely be traded before the season begins. But it would be an even bigger mistake if the Tigers trade him for only a closer who hasn't proven to be elite.