Detroit Tigers Should Trade for Matt Moore


The Detroit Tigers need starting pitching help, and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore may be the answer. The former All Star missed most of the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but seems to be in the clear after making 12 starts in 2015.

The results weren’t pretty last year. Moore entered the season with a career 3.53 ERA and 339 strikeouts in 347 innings pitched, but struggled for new Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. Moore posted a 5.43 ERA in 63 innings. He won only three of his 12 starts and allowed 40 runs on 74 hits.

These numbers don’t exactly paint a picture of an appealing trade candidate, but Moore was coming off surgery and an extremely long layoff. In his last full season before sustaining the injury, he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 143 punch outs in only 150.1 innings of action. The pitcher finished ninth in Cy Young voting ahead of James Shields and earned a place at the All Star Game.

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Moore seemed to be turning a corner and was tabbed as Tampa Bay’s future ace thanks to his results and potential. Because of those factors, the Rays signed him to a long-term contract extension. The contract calls for Moore to be paid $5 million in 2016. After that, the team has a series of options. For 2017, his employers have a $7 million team option with a $2.5 million buyout. For 2018 the buyout decreases to on $1 million, but the team option increases to $9 million. Prior to the 2019 season, the contract calls for the exercising of a $10 million team option or a $750,000 buyout.

Tampa Bay has a long history of dealing pitchers before they become expensive. From Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza to David Price and James Shields, the team has shown a reluctance to keep pitchers with potential for large contracts. However, with Moore that contract is already in place.

A salary of $5 million isn’t exorbitant for a starting pitcher, especially one with Moore’s history. But the Rays may feel that his contract is too rich for the team’s blood. Tampa Bay has an entire five-man rotation penciled in ahead of Moore with Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Erasmo Ramirez on the team’s roster. Additionally, top starting pitching prospect Blake Snell is on the verge of breaking into the big leagues after impressing at the Triple-A level. In other words, $5 million may simply be too much money for a small-market team’s sixth or seventh starting pitcher.

This makes Moore the perfect buy-low trade target for the Tigers.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “Even after dealing RHP Nathan Karns to Seattle, the Rays could still trade another starting pitcher.” Topkin goes on to identify Drew Smyly and Matt Moore as players who could potentially be moved.

Like the move to acquire Francisco Rodriguez, a deal to acquire Moore would be cheaper in terms of salary than signing a free agent like Scott Kazmir or Mike Leake.

While a move for Moore is risky given that he just returned from a major injury, the pitcher is only 26-years-old and presents a better option than every Detroit starter not named Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez or Daniel Norris.

What Tampa Bay would want in return is unclear. The team doesn’t have any glaring needs. Shortstop is perhaps the most unstable position, but the Rays just acquired Brad Miller from the Mariners. They will likely use a combination of the former Seattle shortstop, Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin to keep the position warm for ex-Detroit prospect Wily Adames.

If the cost is reasonable, Matt Moore is the perfect buy-low candidate for the Tigers. At best, he finds something akin to his 2013 form and gives the team a monumental boost. At worst, he’ll be an upgrade to the team’s incumbent group of pitchers filling out the back of the rotation. Either way, Detroit would be acquiring a quality pitcher on a comparatively reasonable contract.

Next: Tigers Reportedly Interested in Brad Boxberger

Al Avila and Brad Ausmus need all the starting pitching that they can get their hands on and Moore has a chance to make an impact. The Detroit Tigers should move quickly to acquire Tampa Bay’s once future ace.