The Detroit Tigers are willing to trade Tarik Skubal
Trade rumors have been circulating on Twitter for a few weeks now, but Tuesday afternoon brought confirmation the Detroit Tigers are in fact willing to trade their best (only?) starting pitcher, Tarik Skubal. Ken Rosenthal dropped the bomb on Twitter:
The article ($) goes on to explain these rumors are coming from other teams, who report the Tigers have made almost everyone on the team available. This is most likely just the Detroit Tigers doing their due diligence to see if someone blows them away with a deal, and we put this one firmly in the “Believe it When We See it” bucket.
But the rumors are out there now, so we might as well look at what the Detroit Tigers could potentially get in a Tarik Skubal trade. It’s harder than it seems.
We can do the usual WAR-related projections and arbitration guesses, but Skubal’s current three-year ZiPS (approximately 6 WAR) doesn’t capture his improvement this year. He’s not the same pitcher he was through last season, having traded a small amount of strikeouts for an increase in ground balls and a huge, game-changing drop in home runs.
What about recent real-world examples? Well, that’s tough too. Skubal is 25, with 294 career innings, a 2.98 FIP and 24.7% strikeout rate this year, and four-plus years of team control remaining. He’s really good, and there are reasons we put the odds of him being traded at just 5%.
We found some examples of teams trading struggling young pitchers with that much team control remaining (Nick Pivetta), and even some examples of teams trading young successful pitchers (Michael Pineda, Alex Wood, Travis Wood).
But we could only find two trades involving pitchers with the same mix of early performance, front-line potential, and team control as Tarik Skubal. Both happened more than a decade ago.
Detroit Tigers fans might remember the Max Scherzer trade. It was a three-team deal, which makes it a bit harder to drill down what Scherzer’s actual value was. But that Mat Latos trade?
"Mat Latos – December 17, 2011: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Cincinnati Reds for Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Edinson Volquez."
That’s probably the kind of return the Detroit Tigers are looking for. Is it realistic? Probably not…but then it wasn’t really realistic at the time, either.
- Yonder Alonso was Cincinnati’s first-round pick in 2008 (7th overall), and at the time he was 24 with an .833 OPS through 69 career big-league games. He was a top-50 prospect.
- Brad Boxberger was the Reds’ supplemental first-round pick in 2009 (43rd overall) and at the time he was 23, having just compiled a 2.03 ERA with10 saves and 93 strikeouts against 28 walks in 62 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
- Yasmani Grandal was Cincinnati’s first rounder in 2010 (12th overall) and at the time he was 22, coming off a season in which he made it to Triple-A and batted .305 with 14 home runs while catching 90 games. He was a top-100 prospect.
- Edinson Volquez was a 28-year-old former All-Star whose plus stuff was hampered by poor control. He was a back-end starter, but he started for San Diego’s on opening day in both 2011 and 2012.
That’s a massive haul. Two top-100 prospects, a MLB-ready high-leverage reliever, and a veteran back-of-the-rotation arm. Now that we have some idea what the Tigers might be looking for, let’s make some fake trades.