Tigers Shopping Robertson

According to former Free Press and current Fox Sports Reporter Jon Paul Morosi, the Tigers are actively shopping LH Nate Robertson, one of their potential starting pitchers.

Morosi divulged this information when discussing the Tigers in a series of tweets last night. Al Beaton of Bless You Boys presents them all together in a nice little package for you this morning, but the money quotes are found in the second and third tweets by Morosi.

“Three people have told me today that the Tigers are shopping Nate Robertson. Would have to eat money in order to move him.”

“And if the Tigers are willing to trade Robertson, you wonder if they are convinced that Dontrelle Willis belongs in the majors.”

If you are Dave Dombrowski, why would you be shopping the guy who has been the best of your three potential starters during camp instead of one of the other two? The answer is fairly simple; Dombrowski feels this is his best chance to maximize the return.

At $10MM this season, Robertson makes fewer dollars than either Jeremy Bonderman ($12.5MM) or Dontrelle Willis ($12MM), but that’s certainly not the only factor. Robertson is also the surest bet to be effective this season, making him more attractive to other clubs. He’s older than either of the other two, by about five years, but he doesn’t come with the same question marks.

If we assume that Dombrowski is prepared to eat a significant portion of Robertson’s contract, as he likely would have to in order to make a trade, he can probably find a willing trade partner and maybe even bring a useful piece back in the exchange.

Dealing Willis would be nearly impossible, as Dombrowski would have to pick up almost all of the salary in order to get even a low level prospect in return. Bonderman doesn’t come with quite as much baggage, but he hasn’t pitched effectively, or much at all, in two years, and his ST performance hasn’t shown other clubs he’s ready to be a full-time starter. Again, a trade of Bonderman would mean eating more salary to get any kind of prospect back.

So, you try to trade Robertson simply because he is the most attractive of the three. He is the safest bet to be a reliable starter, he has the fewest questions coming into the season, and he has shown the best results of the bunch. In short, it would cost the Tigers less to get rid of him, and they can expect a greater return.

It’s a no-brainer from the Tigers standpoint.

But that is only true if the Tigers feel that both Bonderman and Willis are in fact ready to begin the season in the starting rotation, and if the Tigers feel they have an adequate back-up plan should either or both remaining starters fail.

Any scenario in which Robertson is not a Tiger means that Eddie Bonine becomes a starter-in-waiting. At the first injury, he steps into the rotation, not a bad guy to have for that role. Remember also that Armando Galarraga is hanging out in Toledo. If he can get right, he becomes another option at the big league level, as does a healthy Zach Miner, who could be a viable choice by mid-May.

That’s important too because the April schedule includes more off-days than other months. The Tigers fifth starter would only be needed twice in the first 14 games, so even if both pitchers fail to earn their keep, Detroit has enough arms needed to make up the difference.

I had been hoping that there was a way that all three pitchers could make the club by using Bonderman in the bullpen. I was against the idea of flat-out releasing one of the pitchers, simply because you are paying them anyway. But if Dombrowski can get a prospect or two in return for Roberston and say, half of his salary, this would be the a fine way to fix the problem facing the Tigers.

Of course, as Big Al pointed out, it’s a problem Dombrowski himself created when he signed all those big contract extensions three and four years ago.

Tags: Dave Dombrowski Dontrelle Willis Jeremy Bonderman Nate Robertson

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