Detroit Tigers Should Pursue One of Marlins’ Surplus Starters
By Ben Rosener
The Detroit Tigers have already greatly improved a starting rotation that was in shambles towards the end of the 2015 season.
Last year, 12 pitchers started a game for the Tigers. Everyone from Randy Wolf to Alex Wilson took the ball at the beginning of the game.
Players like Wolf, Alfredo Simon and Kyle Lobstein are longer with the team, and have been replaced by the likes of Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey. Daniel Norris will also have a part to play before all is said and done. In other words, the rotation is a lot better than it was last season.
The fact that a dozen different pitchers made a start last season should be a massive indicator to the Tigers that depth is key, especially in the rotation.
Given the payroll situation, it would be ideal if the team acquired a young, controllable and cost-efficient starter. These are somewhat hard to come by.
Luckily for Detroit, Miami has a number of inexpensive rotation/swingmen type arms that could be appealing. As a team that’s rebuilding, the Fish could use all the help they can get. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Marlins trade a big league contributor for a mid-level prospect. General manager Al Avila is well versed in these kinds of deals seeing as he flipped Javier Betancourt to the Brewers for Francisco Rodriguez. Avila also shipped Gabe Speier (and Ian Krol) to Atlanta for Cameron Maybin.
Miami has a surplus of starters. Jose Fernandez will lead the rotation with the duo of Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart following him. After those three, the last eight spots could be filled by any two of Edwin Jackson, Brad Hand, Adam Conley, David Phelps and Justin Nicolino.
Jackson recently signed with the team, and is unlikely to be dealt, however Hand, Conley and Phelps should be the three Detroit targets.
Hand, a former second-round pick in 2008, owns a 4.71 career ERA. He posted a 5.30 ERA last season.
So why should the Tigers target him?
The left-handed pitcher is extremely versatile. Over the past three seasons, Hand has appeared in 77 games, including 30 starts and 47 relief appearances. Those 47 outings out of the bullpen also include 14 games finished. What’s more, his FIP over the past three seasons is 4.13, suggesting he’s better than his unsightly ERA would indicate.
Hand would be able to slot in as a member of the rotation or the bullpen, giving the team plenty of flexibility. He will also be 26 by the time the season ends, so Miami could opt for a younger option.
A 25-year-old rookie coming off a debut season in which he posted a 3.76 ERA in 67 innings (15 appearances, 11 starts), Conley may be hard to pry from the Fish.
However, the pitcher remains behind Fernandez, Koehler and Cosart in the rotation. With so many options, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Miami move any one of the team’s starters. Additionally, top prospect Kendrys Flores is knocking on the door. Another free agent signing could push Conley out of the rotation.
Like Hand, he has some experience pitching out of the bullpen. Opposing batters only hit .167 off Conley when he entered the game as a reliever.
The best option here is David Phelps.
The 29-year-old is one of the older pitchers in the rotation. Additionally, Phelps is just now getting into arbitration, meaning he’ll just keep getting more and more expensive the longer he pitches.
Miami could look to move him for more prospects to help accelerate the rebuilding process and save some cash. What’s more, the Marlins’ depth chart lists the former New York Yankee as “Questionable for Opening Day (right elbow).”
Even if he is unable to pitch by Opening Day, Detroit could ease Phelps back on to the Major League roster. The right-hander has pitched in over 50 games as a starter and reliever. Phelps owns a 4.36 ERA as a starting pitcher and a 4.02 ERA as a relief pitcher.
As he has for much of his career, Phelps would function as a swingman in Detroit. The former 14th-round pick could function as either a dependable reliever, or a starter that can ease the pressure on Norris or Matt Boyd while providing quality.
Next: 8 Untouchable Detroit Prospects
The Detroit Tigers rotation is much, much, much improved compared to the state it was in at the onset of the offseason. Zimmermann and Pelfrey will help, but the team could use more depth. Any one of Brad Hand, Adam Conley or David Phelps would provide depth, and excellent depth at that.