Detroit Tigers: Is Hanging On To Rick Porcello The Right Move?

By Thom Tsang
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

After all the hoopla around Detroit Tigers hurler Rick Porcello and his availability this spring, it’s almost anti-climatic that the team simply decided to take the Occam’s Razor approach and simply hang on to him as the team’s No. 5 starter headed into the 2013 season.

That’s not good news for Drew Smyly, who is now the newest member of the Tigers’ bullpen, but is it good for Detroit?

The prevailing thought is that no team has blown Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski away with an offer to date. Of course, that could always change tomorrow, but pitching — especially young pitching — is at a premium, and as long as nobody is ponying up good pieces, Detroit is better at having Porcello around, even if he blows up in April.

But as far as whether the team should actively try to move him? I’m imagine so.

In fact, the lack of any real traction as far as actual names are concerned when it comes to Porcello trade rumors has been surprising, given that the Tigers could have a lot more to gain by moving the 24-year old, at least in the short term goal of trying to win a championship in 2013.

There are lots of things that Porcello is good at, but his best skill is his ability to generate lots of ground balls (53.2 percent in 2012).

That’s to say that he’s just not in the best position to success with the Tigers, whose infield isn’t exactly built for smothering defense. It’s not much of a surprise that Porcello’s .344 BABIP in 2012 was easily the highest among all five projected 2013 starters, given the team’s infield and the fact that that no one else in the rotation has a GB/FB ratio close to his 2.36.

Porcello’s pitching profile and skill set would be much more attractive to a number of other teams that are not the Tigers, and those teams (like the San Diego Padres) could have a number of pieces (like closer Huston Street) that could be used to build a useful package for the Tigers .

This will continue to be the case until Detroit puts together an infield that doesn’t have Miguel Cabrera playing the hot corner, or until Porcello’s profile changes.

That said, the latter is the caveat that’s stopping the team from pursuing a move, isn’t it? There’s been plenty of hype around Porcello’s spring success due to the righty throwing his slider less (3.84 runs below average per 100 pitches in 2012) and focusing more on his curveball (0.65 runs above average per 100).

He is just 24 after all, and if he’s truly transforming himself to less of a ground ball pitcher and more of a strikeout guy, Detroit will only regret trading him now before they get a chance to see it in regular-season action.

So, maybe there is a point to why the team is hanging on after all … at least for now.

I still think that the Tigers should pursue trade opportunities while the value is high and they have a suitable replacement; until something gives, though, it’s likely a story that will be around all season long.

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