Option 3: The Detroit Tigers examine the current free-agent market for starting pitching
If the Detroit Tigers aren’t comfortable with their internal options and are against giving up prospects in a trade, they could examine some of the arms that are still available on the open market.
This option is particularly tough to project. There’s a reason each arm out there is not currently in the majors. Maybe they couldn’t get the money they wanted, or they weren’t open to a minor-league deal, or their performance has fallen off, or maybe they’re dealing with an injury. Perhaps they just aren’t interested in playing anymore.
All these possibilities make naming names very difficult, but I’ll do my best. Rick Porcello was a fan favorite a couple of years ago as someone who might return, but the fact Porcello was never signed in 2021 and again was passed on in 2022 says he falls somewhere in the ‘can’t play’ or ‘doesn’t want to play’ categories.
Brett Anderson would be an interesting addition; he’s 34 but gave the Brewers 96 innings of 4.22 ERA/4.39 FIP baseball in 2021. Since 2018, Anderson has averaged just 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched, but has also averaged over a hit per inning in each season over that same timeframe.
JA Happ would fit a similar mold, but at 39, it is unclear if he wants to pitch anymore. Some other names that pitched in the big leagues in 2021 that would be possibilities include Mike Fiers, Tommy Milone, Ervin Santana, Trevor Cahill, and Scott Kazmir.
Aside from the potential performance roller coaster that could come from any of these names, the logistics are less-than-ideal as well. All of these arms would require a Spring Training of sorts in the minor leagues for a certain period before they’d be able to contribute. By the time they would be ready to help, they could have lost four or five turns in the rotation already. For this reason, option three only makes sense if it is combined with option one.
In other words, these names should represent minor league depth and not a realistic fix to their rotation issues. And asking any of these longtime MLB vets to take a step back in their career just for a possible big-league role is a difficult sell.
Considering how volatile the trade market can be at this stage and how difficult it might be to convince a veteran to accept a minor league assignment, it probably makes sense for the Detroit Tigers to stand pat with what they have. If they can hold on through the spring and still feel they have a shot at the postseason come July, they’ll have all sorts of options beyond Montas to swing a trade. But that’s another piece for another day.