Trade rumors swirl in baseball like wind during a tornado. Most of the speculation doesn't actually transpire. Yet, it is a reasonable premise the Tigers, despite an upside that is often ignored by impatient fanbase, might trade right-handed starting pitcher Rick Porcello. They have six starting pitchers and only five spots. Drew Smyly did well last season as a rookie. Porcello mostly struggled. Smyly is left-handed, and would be the only lefty in the Tigers' rotation. Porcello doesn't seem like a good fit for the bullpen, and at 24, it would be holding back his growth.
|Johnson (right) would put Tigers over the top|
There have been two trade scenarios involving the Baltimore Orioles and Porcello fans and media have been discussing lately. The first has Porcello as part of a deal for shortstop J.J. Hardy, the other has Porcello moving for closer Jim Johnson.
I wouldn't trade Porcello for Hardy. I would for Johnson.
Hardy would be an upgrade defensively at shortstop for Jhonny Peralta, whose lack of range is often maddening. Hardy and Peralta are similar players offensively, although I don't know if Hardy's numbers would fall playing home games at Comerica Park compared to the bandbox in Baltimore. They are at essentially the same stage of their respective careers. Do I think it would be an upgrade to have Hardy? Yes, but not dramatically. Also, the most under-publicized prospect in the Tigers' minor league system compared to what the front office actually thinks about its players is shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who will likely find himself at Double-A at some point this season after a breakout season at Class A West Michigan in 2012. The Tigers are viewing Peralta as a one-year gap, and if Suarez doesn't develop, then they will look elsewhere. It's a scenario that would make dealing Porcello for at this point unwise.
|Porcello: Upside too often overlooked|
Johnson, on the other hand, did have 51 saves last season. Closers, by nature, are iffy to project season-to-season, but Johnson had a good track record as a minor league starter (I like that with closers because it means at some point they had to learn how to pitch rather than just throw or over-rely on a certain plus "out" pitch). Johnson has performed well the last two seasons, is in his prime, and would likely serve as the final piece to put the Tigers, already on paper the best team in the American League even with a huge question mark at closer, over the top.
But why would the Orioles, who fancy themselves as contenders, do it. It seems like the AL East is wide open. The O's should be going for it, too, after making the playoffs last year.