Trading Rick Porcello could be the key to Tigers returning to playoffs in 2012.
The Detroit Tigers made short work of the AL Central this past season, finishing the year 15 games up on its nearest competition. They eliminated the Buxom Bronx offense in the ALDS but were not up to the task that was the Texas Rangers (or, maybe, just Nelson Cruz) in the ensuing Championship Series.
Pitching wasn't necessarily their problem and won't be in the future. Justin Verlander and Doug Fister aren't going anywhere at the top of the rotation, as each are under team control for years to come. Max Scherzer showed that he does, in fact, have the stuff to dominate loaded lineups per his performance in the ALDS. And Jacob Turner is certainly the future of the rotation.
With those four arms set to occupy spots 1-3 and 5 in the rotation, respectively, Rick Porcello seems to be the No. 4 guy. But, can the Tigers get by with five right-handed arms in their rotation? With postseason foes Boston and New York, it would seem the Tigers need at least one lefty in their rotation to neutralize those threats.
That hole will most likely have to be filled via free agency, but that thought process also leaves Rick Porcello as the odd man out. With Kid Rick as trade bait, the Tigers could go a number of different ways in strengthening their team for a 2012 run.
First off, Porcello is only 23 years old. It's foolish to give up on the kid, but when there isn't room there isn't room. There will be plenty of teams eager to acquire this guy, and most of the suitors should come from the NL, as I believe his game best suits that type of baseball.
Here are five teams that should be interested in adding an arm like Porcello and what the Tigers would want in return in order to best suit their needs.
For as often as this guy is smiling, he would be great for any clubhouse.
But, the Reds have a $12 million team option for Phillips this upcoming season. If they choose to exercise this option and don't make a strong playoff push, the Reds may fear the possibility of getting nothing for him after the season. By that assumption, this trade probably wouldn't happen until the deadline, but would benefit both teams nonetheless.
In his career, Phillips has batted consistently regardless of where he hits within the first four spots. The Tigers are set in the middle, with Young, Cabrera, Martinez, Boesch, Peralta and Avila, so Phillips would most likely see time between the top two spots. Youngster Austin Jackson just hasn't done his job at the leadoff spot, and Brandon Phillips' stability would provide a lot of comfort for Jim Leyland who seemed to trot out a different lineup every game this postseason.
It's a possibility that the Reds could find the $12 million too expensive for a 30-year-old. If they decline this option and are unable to work out an extension, the Tigers could find themselves in the bidding war. This would be a best-case scenario as it would allow the Tigers to use Porcello in one of the following scenarios, while still landing Phillips.
The former first-round pick may stil have untapped potential.
The Pirates were 27th in team pitching after the All-Star break. If you want a reason for their second-half collapse, look no further than that.
On a positive note, that Pittsburgh offense is one of the up-and-comers for years to come. They are built well, and their farm system is, too. Even with all their success, nearly zero of it could be attributed to Pedro Alvarez.
Alvarez, who was once one of the most highly-touted prospects in the game, had a miserable year which saw him designated for assignment twice. Alvarez played in only 74 games, while striking 80 times on his way to a .191 batting average. Now, Tigers fans may get scared off by numbers such as those, as they are terrifyingly reminiscent of Brandon Inge, but, remember, Alvarez is only 24.
The Tigers have lacked serious power at the 3B position for nearly a decade. Not since Keith Brookens left has there been a consistent force at the hot corner. And when looking at successful teams around the league (Texas, New York, Boston, Tampa Bay) 3B is not a concern of theirs.
Make no mistake, this is a boom-or-bust move. But, depending on which extreme the results fall, it could be another notch on Dombrowski's belt.
Another Pirate youngster who could add some pop at the top for the Tigers.
There are a lot of middle of the lineup options for the Tigers around the league, but their biggest holes are in the top two spots of the order. Walker fits the two-hole pretty well.
Though most of his damage this past season was done in spots 3-5, Walker did post a .279 average batting second.
The only problem is that at 112 K's he doesn't fit the preferred profile as a top-end hitter. Detroit's biggest concern is eliminating as many opportunities for other teams to pitch around batting champ Miguel Cabrera, and that is best done by having men on base ahead of him.
Walker's average dipped a bit from a year ago, but at 26, he has loads of time to morph into a very dangerous hitter. With Walker batting in the hole, the Tigers could give Jackson one more shot at the leadoff spot while moving Boesch toward the back end of the lineup in order to provide some length and turnover.
Unheralded Turner may prove indespensible for the Tigers.
Tigers fans have hurled rocks at GM Dave Dobrowski ever since he let Placido Polanco go via free agency. Since his departure, there has been a revolving door at second base. Jim Leyland even went as far as to say Polanco was his favorite player that he's ever coached, so his importance really needs no further evidence.
Polanco was the perfect two-hitter: patient, smart, effective and clutch. Polanco took a lot of pitches, got on base, and if there were ever a situation that needed a particular outcome (man on third less than two outs), Polanco seemed to provide. These are the things a top of the order infielder needs to do.
Turner isn't a big name, and many of you won't even know who he is—including the fantasy gurus located in living rooms across the country—but he is the kind of player the Tigers need at the top of their order.
The Mets are in shambles. It's hard to take what a player did on that team and consider it their peak abilities. Turner, on the outside, batted only .260 this past season with 51 RBI in 117 games. Those aren't gaudy, and they certainly are not flashy. But, neither were Polanco's. In his career with Detroit their rock-steady second baseman reached 70 RBI only once, double-digit HRs only once and 100 Rs only once. But, that kind of stuff wasn't his job.
If you dig deeper with Turner you will see that he batted .333 with runners on, .350 with RISP and a lofty .364 with RISP and two outs. Those are numbers that win games. Even more impressive, in a very Polanco-like way, Turner had 19 RBI in 21 chances with a man on third and less than two outs. Those are runs you have to have in baseball, and Turner delivers.
Most of this was done in the two-hole, and if the Tigers can find a way to pair Turner with this next cat at the top of their order, there will be a completely different story in next year's playoffs.
Jemile Weeks is the cure for the Tigers leadoff woes.
This guy is legit. Weeks is another player built in the mold of Polanco. Take a look at these lines:
Man on third, Less than two outs: 12 PA, 12 RBIs (100 percent conversion rate)
Men on, two outs: .378 BA
RISP: .395 BA
RISP, two outs: .391 BA
Seen Moneyball yet? These are the kinds of players Billy Beane loves, which may make it tough to pry him from Oakland but definitely worth the shot.
If there's one thing the A's value more than the value-brand player itself, it's pitching. Porcello seems like the type of pitcher the A's would love: tall, pitches to contact, lots of upside.
Weeks is young, and some Tigers fans may fall ill to the thought of another leadoff man who opened eyes with a .300 average and lots of potential (a la Austin Jackson), but the peripherals for Weeks lead to a high ceiling as opposed to a low floor in Jackson's case.
Jackson struck out 170 times on his way to that .300 average during his rookie season in '10. That is not a parallel you want to see at a lineup position that demands the ability to consistently get on base. During their rookie seasons, Jackson struck out 100 more times than Weeks in only 200 more ABs. That's an alarming difference.
Strikeouts are big for a number of reasons. Though Jackson's and Week's OPS are very similar for their rookie seasons, the lack of strikeouts in Weeks box scores shows that he is more often moving runners along and keeping the game moving. As well as getting hits to the tune of a .300 average Weeks is still putting the ball in play and making things happen; those are the kinds of things you need a leadoff man to do, and the Tigers haven't had that in a while.
The acquisition of Weeks would allow Jackson to move down to the ninth spot, thus, relieving him of some pressure and lengthening the Tigers lineup. Find a way to get both him and Justin Turner, and the Tigers may find themselves with the deepest lineup in baseball.