At this point it is not looking like top prospect Bruce Rondon will be closing for the Detroit Tigers at any point in the near future. The Tigers have shot down any rumors that they will bring back Jose Valverde and former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is most likely not an option. So Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski is going to have to make a trade.
The best chip that Dombrowski will have to trade is starting pitcher Rick Porcello. Many teams had scouts in attendance on Monday as Porcello started against the Houston Astros. One of teams in attendance was the Seattle Mariners.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen did a very good job establishing himself as an MLB closer last season, with a 2.51 ERA and 29 saves in 73 appearances. Wilhelmsen is 29 years old, so he is probably not a long-term solution, but he would make a lot of sense for the Tigers until Rondon is ready to close.
The Mariners have plenty of pitching depth throughout their entire organization and would be able to replace Wilhelmsen pretty easily. Top prospects Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor are two options, both made their MLB debuts in 2012 and feature fastballs that can touch triple digits. The Mariners could also consider LHP Charlie Furbush, who was acquired from the Tigers for Doug Fister.
We know that Wilhelmsen we be a great fit for Detroit, but Porcello would also be a great fit for the Mariners. Behind Felix Hernandez and Joe Saunders, the Mariners rotation has minimal experience and with top prospects like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker not ready to pitch in the major leagues, Porcello would make sense for this rotation.
Porcello is only 24 years old and is under team control until 2016, but he has four full seasons of experience in the Tigers rotation, with a career record of 48-42 with a 4.55 ERA. Porcello is an extreme groundball pitcher and has been punished by the Tigers poor infield defense, but if he were to pitch with a talented Mariners infield behind him, he would see his ERA get substantially lower.
A trade like this makes sense for both teams in both the short and long term. The Tigers would get a chance to develop Rondon, but still have an above average closer. The Mariners would get a veteran starter in Porcello to give their rotation the experience that its need.