Much like ordering more McNuggets than you can actually eat, having six legitimate starting pitchers on your roster is a good problem to have in MLB. Now, ladies and gentlemen, Drew Smyly is the embodiment of the Detroit Tigers bonus McNuggets. Yes, akin to McNuggets, Smyly is the tasty gem of crispy white meat on the team, but, like with extra nuggies, do we want to try and trade him for, say, the baseball equivalent of a McFlurry, the much sought after closer.
Smyly can be a tough read. Are we talking about last April’s Smyly who only gave up three runs in 22 innings of work? Or, are you going to get last June’s Smyly who gave up 13 runs over just 13.2 innings of work in three starts? Since Smyly is still just 23, it becomes a guessing game for any team out there, including the Tigers. Are you going to get the dominant Smyly or the floundering Smyly? Are you going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, Michael Jordan the basketball player or Michael Jordan the baseball player, O.J. Simpson the running back or O.J. Simpson the person?
If no trade takes place involving Smyly or Rick Porcello in the next month, then Tiger’s Spring Training will undoubtedly become a competition with no definitive prize between the two. The prize could be performing well enough to be traded. The prize could be the fifth spot in the pitching rotation. Perhaps the prize is just a pat on the back from manager Jim Leyland and a free tug of his magical mustache (they say it brings good luck). Regardless, we’re about to either see some moves being made from the Tigers’ front office, or we’re being set up to watch two legitimate starting pitchers competing for the last spot in an already deep rotation.
Wait, Justin, why don’t the Tigers just use Smyly out of the bullpen? The same reason you don’t use old motor oil and bacon scraps to fertilize your lawn—it’s not the use those items were intended for. Smyly is not a relief pitcher; he is a starting pitcher who can throw 90 pitches every five days. Yes, we used him in a few playoff games last year for an inning or two and he was effective. Overall though, he is worth more to any team, including the Tigers, as a starter, not a relief pitcher.
Frankly, his future in Detroit could come down to how well Bruce Rondon performs. If Rondon shows that he can be Kyra Sedgwick-esque as the closer then the Tigers may not see the need to replace Rondon and let Smyly progress a little longer before making a decision about his future. However, if Rondon, much like TNT, shows a proclivity for unnecessary drama, well, then Detroit may be a little more urgent to try to trade Smyly for a more reliable closer.