Yesterday, the offseason got a bit more expensive for the Detroit Tigers when Rick Porcello decided to opt out of his current contract (which was signed after he was drafted) and become arbitration eligible for the next 4 seasons.
That’s the good news; that being that the team has another pitcher under control for that length of time.
It seems to me though, that Porcello has done some underachieving in his time with the Tigers. Drafted out of high school, he hasn’t shown the dominance that fans have come to expect with his high draft status, and his hefty rookie contract that he signed back in late 2007. Yes, he won 14 games as a rookie, and 14 games last season, but he had himself the dreaded sophomore slump during the 2010 season, in which he won only 10 games and dropped 12. As each season goes by, his runs allowed goes up, but then again, so is his K/9 ratio, albeit he’s not proven to be a strikeout pitcher, but a “ground ball” pitcher.
But his 2011 season was a rather roller coaster season. Peaking in July, where he went a perfect 5-0, his June and August months were awful, posting ERA’s near 7 in both months. Porcello did finish well in September, but one should wonder if the inconsistency is worthy of the soon-to-be inflated paycheck he may be in for as arbitration season begins.
And that brings us to said arbitration season. Porcello opting out of his current deal brings up a few options for the Tigers. They can agree upon a contract before an arbitrator even gets to make a decision, or vice versa; or the Tigers could opt to sign Porcello to a long-term deal, thus avoiding such arbitration headaches each of the next 4 years, as they did with Justin Verlander.
The Tigers shouldn’t do that with Porcello though. At least not yet. Rick is only 23 years old, and with his potential, no one should completely give up on him just yet. That said, the Tigers should/will likely cut their losses on an arbitration number, knowing that they’ll probably slightly have to over pay for his services next season, and play it by ear. The easy solution is, sign him to a long-term deal IF he has a solid 2012. Except that’s a big if, one that Tigers fans hope pan out.
But what IF that doesn’t happen? Can the Tigers trade Porcello, and his 3 more years of team control and get actual value back? That’s to be seen. And who’s to say the Tigers won’t juggle Rick and his arbitration years, each year as it plays out. Hard to predict Dave Dombrowski nowadays, but in the end the Tigers shouldn’t wait to see for to much longer if Porcello is their man for the future. He’s not been a total bust for the franchise, but he’s not been the next big thing either. 2012 will need to be the ultimate coming out party for Porcello. Imagine though, the possibilities of this rotation, if there were nothing but solid seasons from the likes of Fister, Scherzer (another arbitration case) and Porcello.
Dombrowski will give Porcello his raise, which is my guess vs an actual arbitrator decision. But for this upcoming season, that should be it. Tigers fans don’t want a repeat of contracts like Jeremy Bonderman or Nate Robertson… in this case, there’s no reason to put all your eggs in one basket. At least not yet.
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