What do the Tigers Really NEED From a SP?
By Sam Genson
This past few weeks have seen a lot of names thrown around in the quest to add another arm to the Tigers rotation. I won’t list them all for fear of leaving someone out. While not the subject of this post, it is interesting that Wandy Rodriguez of the Houston Astros has not been mentioned except in passing…or remarking how it is weird that he hasn’t been mentioned. One factor I am paying special attention in looking at these guys has been whether or not they will contribute past this year, which affects the price the Tigers should pay for said pitchers.
I feel strongly that the Tigers need to be looking at a pitcher who can contribute beyond this year.
My feelings have nothing to do with Brad Penny’s blowup yesterday and everything to do with insurance. Next year the Tigers go into the season with 3 rotation spots assured (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello) and the 4th spot basically assumed to be Jacob Turner (unless he is traded). The 5th spot is fully up in the air…hmm, that seems familiar. The Tigers have been very lucky this year in regards to Starting Pitcher injuries, the only injury being to Phil Coke (when he was a SP) costing him 2 starts.
There have been some trade rumors that involve Jacob Turner being dealt and while that does fill the 5th spot in the rotation for this year, it also leaves the Tigers in relatively the same situation we would already be in to start the 2012 season. Yes, Jacob Turner is an unknown but to a degree so is any pitcher. From that standpoint, what you are looking for is someone who can step in to fill the void this year while also helping us next year. Trading for a front of the rotation starter who is under control for 2012 will most likely cost the Tigers Turner – as such they are trading expected performance now for expected performance down the road as Turner is projected to be a #2 SP. If they trade for a back of the rotation option, it may cost us a higher level prospect, but the Tigers would be able to hold onto Turner, in theory solidifying the rotation for next year.
This enters the crux of the discussion – what qualities do the Tigers really need in a starting pitcher given the rotation they have this year and project to have next year? The Tigers have an ace in Verlander. This goes beyond being a #1 – Verlander is among the best of the best (as you already know if you are reading this). Scherzer and Porcello both have the ability to minimize a lineup to allow a sub-optimal performance from the Tigers offense secure the win. However, they flash that ability at different rates, making Scherzer our #2 and Porcello our #3. Turner, by all reports has the ceiling of a #2 (so, something along the season lines of Scherzer) but will serve as a #4. Given that 2012 will be his rookie year, you can expect that talent/ability to pop up but you can also expect him to get hit hard by teams and be under a pitch count limit, making bullpen limiting performances a rarity. This means that in 2012, the #5 pitcher needs to be an innings eater. We basically need this pitcher to be consistently average – be counted on to throw 6+ innings every start and keep the Tigers in games.
I got a bit of myself there thinking of 2012, but the description of the type of pitcher we need as a #5 in 2012 is really what we need right now too. The Tigers starters 1-3 match up with most any other team in the AL playoff race. Brad Penny has been average-ish and has functioned in the role of what you would want from a 5th SP. So, while I appreciate those who want to bring another star into the Tigers rotation through a trade, I don’t actually feel it is needed. The Tigers have a maddeningly inconsistent bullpen and rather than continue to try and fit the puzzle pieces together correctly there, I would rather we just removed that variable from the game as much as possible.
The Tigers have one of the better offenses in the American League, so while it would be nice to have a pitcher capable of shutting down an opponent every game, it would be a luxury we would have to pay for. I would rather have a pitcher who can make a solid start allowing 3-4 runs over 6+ innings and giving the offense a chance to win the game. While losing a 3-2 ballgame is frustrating, losing a game 13-6 is quite a bit worse.
If I had any say in the trade discussion, I would hold on to Jacob Turner and fill the rotation with a complimentary piece – a pitcher who can fill a need this year and next. If we don’ do that, I fear we will be back here next year, having the exact same discussion.