Porcello has won 48 games before his 24th birthday, but may be squeezed out of Tigers rotation. Image: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers Would be Wise to Hold Tight to Surplus Starters


The rumors began almost immediately.

As soon as reports surfaced that the Detroit Tigers had reached an agreement to re-sign right hander Anibal Sanchez, it seemed everyone and their brother had called the Tigers to ask about the availability of Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly.

With Sanchez in tow, the Tigers boast perhaps the best starting rotation in the American League, or certainly one among the best. They also have now six established starting pitchers and only have use for five of them. Given that scenario, as well as Porcello’s escalating salary through arbitration, it seemed natural that Detroit would look to move the four-year veteran.

Porcello won’t be 24 until later this month and has increased his strikeout rate in each of the past two years. He’s a ground ball pitcher who has not gotten much support from a shoddy Tigers infield defense that allows far more base hits than most clubs. Heck, far more than nearly any club.

Smyly, a left hander, made the team out of Spring Training last year, despite having just one season of professional experience. He acquitted himself nicely to the major leagues, posting a 4-3 record and 3.99 ERA. Both Smyly and Porcello pitched effectively out of the bullpen during the post-season, but Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski views each as a starter.

Ordinarily, when you have a situation like this, it’s natural to think that Porcello, given his salary and that Smyly would be the sole southpaw in the rotation, should be on the move. The Tigers, however, have spent the past six months getting rid of virtually every bit of rotation depth they had.

Top prospect Jacob Turner, who made three starts for the Tigers last season, was traded away in the deal that brought Sanchez to Detroit. Left hander Andy Oliver was traded to Pittsburgh, righty Thad Weber was claimed by the Padres, and southpaw Adam Wilk was released today so he could go pitch in Korea.

All of a sudden, a franchise that had a few decent options should they need a spot starter is down to left handers Casey Crosby, sitting in the minor leagues, or swingman Duane Below.

It may not be the most financially prudent thing to do, but holding on to both Porcello and Smyly may ultimately be the wiser move for a team looking to bring home their first World Series title since 1984. Having a guy like Porcello to step in should one of the other starters go down would likely be a much more effective option that turning to Crosby or Below for any length of time.

Of course, if a trade of either starting pitcher can bring back an upgrade to Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, it would have to be explored. Otherwise, the Tigers are probably better off keeping them both.

After all, you can never have too much pitching.

Tags: Detroit Tigers Drew Smyly Rick Porcello