Following the hiring of ex-Astros manager AJ Hinch, Detroit Tigers fans have been dreaming of one day reuniting with hall-of-fame starter Justin Verlander. However, former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello may be the ex-Tiger due for a reunion even sooner.
Detroit Tigers fans will remember Porcello as the promising youngster that bust onto the scene in 2009 at the ripe age of 20, finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. He went on to spend the first six seasons of his career with the team. Though he struggled with inconsistency and often failed to live up to the large expectations he created for himself, he was a big part of arguably one of the best starting pitching staffs ever assembled in 2013.
Porcello, now 31, enters free agency following an up-and-down campaign with the New York Mets. He is unlikely to be back with the Mets after struggling to the tune of 1-7 with a 5.64 ERA, his second consecutive season of a 5.50 or higher ERA.
Despite his high ERA, the underlying statistics show that Porcello actually performed much better than expected. His 3.33 FIP ranked in the top 20 in all of baseball and his 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings was the second-highest mark of his entire career.
Porcello has some room for growth based on his pitch selection, as well. In 2020, he threw his sinker 41 percent of the time, the highest mark of his career, while seemingly abandoning his four-seam fastball. This is a bit confusing, as his fastball has been the better pitch over the last several seasons. Mixing in his four-seamer more could lead to better results next season.
For a Detroit Tigers pitching staff that has talent but lacks consistency and stability, Porcello is a natural fit. The coronavirus-shortened 2020 season marked the first time in Porcello’s twelve-year career that he did not eclipse 27 starts in a season. He simply takes the ball every five days and competes with admirable professionalism. This is meaningful for a Tigers team that has seen Ivan Nova, Matt Moore, and Tyson Ross, all starters signed in the past two seasons to shore up their rotation, miss significant time due to injury.
At this point in his career, Rick Porcello will almost certainly never match his output from his peak Red Sox days, where he won the Cy Young Award in 2016. That being said, there are signs that he is still capable of carving out a back-of-the-rotation role over the next few seasons. Tigers fans will be following closely this offseason to see if a reunion is in the cards.