Despite the fact that Justin Verlander is currently in the midst of his worst season since 2008, the Detroit Tigers‘ pitching rotation has been rather impressive in 2014. Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello are all having outstanding seasons, helping Tigers starters post a very respectable 3.84 ERA overall. That said, they should not rule out adding another arm to the rotation for the stretch run and the playoffs.
The big issue this season has obviously been the bullpen, and there has been a lot of talk about how the Tigers may attempt to shore it up by trading for someone such as Joakim Soria or former Tiger Joaquin Benoit. However, if they could get another starter, they could move current fifth starter Drew Smyly back to the bullpen, which is a role that he flourished in just a season ago.
Furthermore, barring the possibility that the Tigers could include Smyly as part of a trade package before the deadline, he will almost certainly be pitching out of the bullpen in the postseason if the Tigers are fortunate enough to get there once again. So why not let him get reacclimated to that role sooner rather than later?
Over the past several weeks, there has been a lot of talk about how the Tampa Bay Rays might be shopping 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price. Recently, another front-of-the-rotation lefty out of the AL East has joined him in trade rumors: none other than Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox have woefully underperformed after winning the World Series last fall, but Lester is currently having one of his finest seasons to date and he is set to become a free agent this winter. There has also been talk that the Red Sox are still trying to retain him, but if they decide to make him available, one could see the Tigers as a fit.
Even though there is a risk that he would only be a rental piece for the remainder of 2014, his history of postseason dominance is well worth taking into consideration. Perhaps the Tigers could re-sign him, too, and have better luck with him than they did with Scherzer. After all, the six-year, $144 million deal the Tigers offered Scherzer might have looked rather enticing to Lester, who was reportedly only offered a four-year, $70 million deal by the Red Sox.
Price, on the other hand, remains under team control through 2015, and he may be more likely to be traded than Lester. Price is having another outstanding season, currently leading the league in strikeouts and innings pitched.
If available, either one of them would help bolster the Tigers’ starting rotation to say the very least. Porcello, however, would likely be the odd man out and become the long man out of the bullpen during the playoffs, which would be unfortunate for him given how well he has pitched this season.
The biggest drawback, of course, would be the package of talent that would be required to land Price or Lester, and the Tigers may not have enough to spare. Names such as Hernan Perez, Tyler Collins, Robbie Ray, Steven Moya and Devon Travis would be liable to come up. One could also see the fine young arms the Tigers currently have pitching for their Class-A teams drawing interest as well. The Rays or Red Sox might also ask about a current big leaguer, maybe someone such as Austin Jackson.
The simple fact remains, however, that 2014 could be the best chance that the Tigers have to win it all for quite a while. Many believe Scherzer will leave via free agency this winter, and Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter will hit the free agent market as well. There is also the question of whether Verlander will ever return to dominance, and Miguel Cabrera will already be 32 years old next spring.
It may not make sense for the Tigers, but they should at least kick the tires and carefully assess the risks and rewards of trading for Price or Lester and decide if it would be worth it. The Oakland Athletics already made a big splash by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, and maybe the Tigers would be wise to make a corresponding move.