Oct 5, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Rick Porcello (21) enters the game against the Oakland Athletics during the ninth inning in game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Detroit Tigers 1-0 with a walk off win. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the Tigers for the last 12 months or so. A year ago we were inundated with rumors that the Tigers were looking to deal Porcello, but ultimately nothing came of it and he had a fine year at the back of the Detroit rotation.
This year, however, it seems more likely that a trade eventually gets done. Scherzer, a top Cy Young candidate, is entering his final year of team control and could be the key piece in a potential trade that could help to restock the Tigers’ farm system. Porcello, who has two years of team control remaining, likely improved his trade stock by showing marked improvement in 2013.
With Drew Smyly ready and available to move into the rotation and, a payroll that’s ever rising, and two pitchers who are at-or-near peak value, the time to trade a starting pitcher may be here.
I’m guessing, though, that it’s not Scherzer who gets dealt this offseason. With a projected $13.6 million pricetag and only the one year of control remaining, the proposed return packages likely won’t be what the Tigers are seeking. They’re trying to position themselves for another run at the World Series, so trading a pitcher of Scherzer’s caliber is out of the question if the return isn’t everything you hoped it would be.
The truth is that Scherzer and Porcello might fetch surprisingly similar returns. Scherzer is projected to be a 4.2 win player in 2014 by the early Steamer Projections. If that’s the case, and if we peg the dollars-to-WAR ratio at $6 million, then Max’s 2014 season carries a surplus value of $11.6 million (plus the value of a 2015 first round compensation pick).
Porcello’s 2014 Steamer Projection is for 3.2 WAR, so let’s say he’s projected to be worth 6 WAR over the next two years. If that’s the case, and if he earns $20 million in arbitration the next two years (probably on the high side), then his remaining team control years would carry $16 million in surplus value.
Those numbers are estimates – and fairly rough at that – but I think it shows that it’s at least possible that Porcello would fetch a similar package to Scherzer (depending on how you value the draft pick, exact performance projections, and exact dollars-to-WAR conversion). And trading Porcello wouldn’t have near the impact on the team’s chances in 2014 than trading Scherzer would.
If I was in charge of the Tigers my current inclination would be to (1) trade Porcello for a decent prospect package, (2) move Drew Smyly to the rotation, and (3) let Scherzer walk after 2014 and collect the compensation draft pick.