At least according to the numbers, Rick Porcello turned in one of the best outings of the spring so far Monday, striking out six in four scoreless innings against the Astros. The watchers were likely pretty impressed, too.
The Tigers are weighing whether Drew Smyly’s emergence as a rotation option has made Porcello expendable. The truth is that they don’t get as much from Porcello as another team might; the groundballs he so frequently generates too often skip past Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Give him another set of infielders and he probably would have finished with ERAs in the low-4.00s the last couple of years. Instead, he’s come in at 4.92, 4.75 and 4.59 since a stronger rookie season in 2009.
However, there is a problem in trading Porcello; especially after moving Justin Turner last summer, they’d have very little rotation depth beyond their top five with Porcello gone. Rule 5 pick Kyle Lobstein, veteran Shawn Hill, prospect Casey Crosby and relief candidate Duane Below are their next best options and none inspire much confidence. For that reason, the ideal Porcello trade might be similar to the one the A’s pulled off with the Diamondbacks last year, when they got Jarrod Parker in return for Trevor Cahill.
Alternatively, the Tigers could trade Porcello for a closer candidate. However, there don’t appear to be any teams looking to move established closers at this time. The Cubs’ Carlos Marmol is very much available, but he’s hardly a safe choice to close for a contender these days. Perhaps the best fit would be with Colorado and Rafael Betancourt. The Rockies could certainly use another starter with upside, and while Betancourt isn’t a big name, he’s an excellent reliever.
For now, the Tigers might as well take a wait and see approach and keep their six starters until the end of the spring in case one gets hurt. They’ll also have a better handle on their bullpen by the final week of the month.