DETROIT TIGERS: Matt Moore signing could pay off at the Trade Deadline
By Tom Hayward
The Detroit Tigers signed Matt Moore last month. While relatively unknown to most fans, the signing could prove to be a good move by the team.
When I’m bored at work, I constantly check MLB trade rumors like I check a refrigerator: frequently, and with disappointing results. In November, the fridge is almost always empty and usually doesn’t fill up until the Winter Meetings, or in the case of last year, February. Even with this knowledge, I’m always checking, because you never know, right? Around the end of November, I saw an article about the Tigers acquiring Matt Moore. Like 95% of Tiger fans, I have never heard of him, so I did my research.
At first, I was absolutely puzzled on why the Tigers would sign this guy. 6.79 ERA, 1.66 WHIP and a below average strikeout rate in 2018 is enough to make Tigers fans “miss” the days of Mike Maroth. The underlying stats (5.25 FIP, 11.3 hits per nine innings) do not suggest that Moore has gotten unlucky. He was simply really, really bad last season. I don’t even think Rod Allen could come up with a compliment for Mr. Moore. Sorry, too soon?
According to the Detroit Free Press, Moore signed with the Tigers “for a chance to compete for a spot in the starting rotation.” It’s a smart move on his part, and on the Tigers. Let’s face it, while the Tigers wait for their studs to gain seasoning in the minors, this rotation is going to be absolutely brutal. After Michael Fulmer, who might as well have “fragile, handle with care” written all over him at this point, this is going to be a rotation full of nobodies. The rotation is so bad that Jordan Zimmerman (!!) might get the home opening day nod for the SECOND year in a row.
Even though Moore was brutal last season, he has had success in the major leagues. In 2013, Moore went 17-4 with the Tampa Bay Rays, while averaging around a strikeout an inning, with his ERA hovering just a shade over 3. So what happened in the last five years? In April 2014, Moore was experiencing the dreaded “pitcher’s elbow” which almost always leads to Tommy John surgery. Moore hasn’t been the same pitcher after the surgery, as his ERA hasn’t been below 4.00 in any season.
With the injury history and ineffectiveness, the Tigers are certainly taking a gamble by signing Moore. However, it’s only a small, calculated risk as he is on the books for 1 year, 2.5 million dollars. If he doesn’t work out, no big deal, as the Tigers will almost certainly designate him for assignment in August of a lost season when one of their young pitching studs could be ready to get called up. If Pitching Coach Rick Anderson is able to work his magic on Moore, then this could be an amazing July trade chip for the Tigers.
Last season, Al Avila signed veterans Leonys Martin, Mike Fiers, and Francisco Liriano, hoping one of them would get the Tigers hitting prospects at the trade deadline from a contending team. Martin and Fiers played relatively well for the Tigers, and both were traded for prospects. In fact, the Tigers were able to snag Willi Castro, a top-ten prospect, from Cleveland. Castro plays shortstop and has the tools to actually stick there at the major league level. Liriano struggled after a hot April, and the Tigers were stuck with him.
Going into 2019, a year where the Tigers are projected to possibly finish even worse than the last two years, Al Avila appears to be following the same blueprint as last offseason, which is sign veterans to cheap short-term contracts, and hope for the best at the trade deadline.
Pitching is an always a hot commodity at the trade deadline, especially in today’s game of baseball, where most of the teams making deals are all but guaranteed to win their division, and are simply trying to acquire depth to strengthen their postseason roster.
Left-handed pitching, especially ones that can start and relieve games, are perhaps the hottest commodities at the deadline. Gone are the days where teams 4 or 5 games back in the division will sell the whole farm to acquire a power hitter that can carry a pretender to the postseason.
You know who can start and pitch from the bullpen? Matt Moore. Moore has started most of his career, but in the second half of last season, Moore moved to the bullpen. This experience will be valuable to potential suitors, especially if Moore rights the ship in 2019. Here’s hoping he does!