A somewhat rocky six-year relationship ended on Thursday when the Detroit Tigers gave Rick Porcello the ultimate “it’s not you, it’s me” line as the team shipped him to the Boston Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier.
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The cliché of “this deal is good for both sides” gets thrown around too much and I apologize for the fact that this article will throw it around once again because, at least in this case, it’s true.
Porcello gives the Red Sox something they need: starting pitching. The haul in return gives the Tigers something they need: another outfielder and increased speed and defense.
Porcello was a highly sought-after commodity when the Tigers selected him in the first round (27th overall) of the 2007 MLB Draft. It didn’t take the New Jersey-native long to make it to the major leagues, reaching about a year and a half later as a 20-year old in 2009. Rick was inconsistent in his first major league season, however inconsistent is usually good for a rookie pitcher because it means the pros are usually outweighing the cons enough to keep him out of the minors.
Porcello won 14 games that year and started the infamous 2009 163rd game in Minnesota. He pitched well in that game with remarkable poise for a guy just a few months out of his teenage years.
Then the inconsistency reared its ugly head. Through his first four seasons, Porcello alternated seasons of 14-9 and 10-12. Even in the seasons with 14 wins, his ERA was uncomfortable high (3.96 in ’09, 4.75 in ’11). This led the Tigers to never really fully embrace Rick.
During his time here (2009-14), the Tigers made the playoffs in four of the six seasons, yet the team trusted him for just 16.1 postseason innings throughout those four years. In the eight games he appeared during the playoffs, each one resulted in a loss for Detroit. That is not necessarily his fault since he was being used out of the bullpen 2011-13, but he wasn’t trusted enough for his first start until Game 4 of the 2014 ALDS against Baltimore–a game that would never happen.
Additionally, Porcello was the subject of trade rumors seemingly every year, but his high ERA of 4.51 usually scared off suitors. It can’t be comfortable for a player to always be wondering where he may be pitching during each off-season or wondering if he will be dealt at each trading deadline.
Porcello had a great first half for the Tigers in 2014 but fell apart down the stretch, winning just one game in August and September. That’s part of the inconsistent label that has plagued him.
But remember, Porcello has basically experienced on the job training for years and is still (as unbelievable as it seems) just 25 years old. Max Scherzer and Doug Fister are examples of starting pitchers that didn’t come into their own until their late-20’s and often a change of scenery (Max from Arizona, Fister from Seattle) is what jumpstarted their careers.
Then, of course, you have the examples of Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth. Each of those former Tigers debuted at a young age and couldn’t live up to expectations, even on competitive Tigers teams later in their careers.
No one knows what path Porcello will follow. I wish him nothing but success as he is a classy guy and seemed to take things in stride. Rick Porcello has all the tools to succeed and has been given the chance to hit a reset button on his career. The next steps he takes is is on him.