Tigers Not Done Looking for Upgrades

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According to Jon Paul Morosi, the Detroit Tigers still have an interest in adding a veteran starting pitcher. Morosi’s source names former Cardinals, Giants, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Marlins right hander Brad Penny as a possible target.

Penny pitched to a 3.23 ERA in nine starts with St. Louis last season before missing the rest of the year with an upper back strain. As Morosi points out, there is a history between penny and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who traded for the pitcher in 1999. Penny struggle in 2009 while pitching in Boston, posting a 5.61 ERA and 1.534 WHIP in 24 starts, his only action in the American League.

It isn’t surprising that Detroit is interested in adding another arm. Detroit has been linked to Cubs lefty Tom Gorzelanny and recent A’s signee Brandon McCarthy at earlier times this offseason. Morosi also mentioned that Dombrowsi tried to work a deal for Toronto’s Shaun Marcum before he was dealt to Milwaukee as well.

Penny is exactly the type of pitcher the Tigers should be looking at right now. He’s had a great deal of success in his career, despite his rough stint in Boston. He has dealt with injuries over the past few seasons, but when healthy, he’s shown the ability to get batter out consistently. He has a very good sinker and does well in limiting walks.

What I don’t want to see is Armando Galarraga going into camp with basically no competition for the fifth starter’s role. That’s not an indictment on Galarraga, I just feel that if there’s a chance to upgrade, it’s something the Tigers should look to explore, whether it be with penny or another similar pitcher. If things work out that Galarraga is pitching better than his competitors, then he should be the number five man, if not Galarraga can shift into a long relief role where he would effectively replace Eddie Bonine from last year’s staff.

I also realize that durability concerns with Penny would be there, but Galarraga provides depth should there be a need for him to start. As far as the concerns over Penny’s lack of success in the American League, I would be hesitant to chalk that up to having to face the daunting AL East lineups. Afterall, the Red Sox have had one of the better offensive clubs in recent years, and obviously Penny didn’t face them. The 2009 Orioles and Blue Jays were not tremendous offensive clubs and more than the Royals and Indians will be this year. It’s the White Sox and Twins, both very good lineups, that would scare me a bit. The AL Central isn’t quite the same as facing the NL West or NL Central minus St. Louis.

Still, on a one year, incentive-laden deal, Penny would be a good gamble for the Tigers. If he returns to form, he’s a better number five than most clubs can offer. if not, it the team’s in no worse shape than they are now. It shouldn’t cost much to find out.

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