It's the trade rumbling of the off-season so far: Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Based purely on baseball value would I do it if I were the Tigers? Absolutely. It was pretty clear how valuable Cespedes was to the Athletics last season in comparison to a starting pitcher as their season collapsed after trading him to Boston. And that starting pitcher, Jon Lester, is better than Porcello.
|Rick Porcello: A lot of hits, not many K's|
My view on Porcello has changed in large degree because the game has changed. While he's relatively young (he won't turn 26 until two days after Christmas), has won a lot of games in the major leagues and has excellent competitive character, I don't see Porcello becoming a genuine No. 1 or No.2 starter in this era because he doesn't miss enough bats.
We've been raised with the idea of pitching to contact. Even at youth games, you will hear, "Let your fielders do it." Ah, but the notion of pitching to contact is not ideal. It puts the margin of error and probability into the equation. While striking out hitters may drive up pitch counts, it does lead to more consistency. It's impossible to get a seeing-eye single when a hitter K's.
Porcello is an interesting case. He was drafted because of his big-time arm strength, and a fastball that did run into the upper 90s at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, but in order to make MLB sooner, he developed a two-seam (sinking) fastball that has become his bread and butter offering. Too often, when he gets into trouble, he hasn't been able to put hitters away with a strikeout. He will have long streaks of tremendous pitching, but it eventually it becomes his undoing. It limits his upside. Porcello still has a 95 mph four-seam fastball, and has been at his best when he uses it to change the eye-level of hitters and get strikeouts. But it hasn't been that often. He allows a lot of hits per inning, but doesn't strikeout that many. His defensive independent pitching numbers are those of No.3 starter, not of a one or two. It's also why his ERA is high.
I know, people say the same thing about Doug Fister, and they are very similar scenarios except for the age factor. Fister actually did better in Washington than Detroit last year, despite pitching more to contact and rising fielding independent statistics. Why? He had much better defense behind him. Also, he was still a three starter for the Nationals. Not a 1 or 2.
I didn't have an issue with the Tigers trading Fister given their starting pitching depth and holes elsewhere. The problem was getting virtually nothing back in return.
|Yoenis Cespedes: Worth a long-term deal?|
Velocity is up among pitchers since 2000 (some say as much as two miles per hour), perhaps because they are being taught better fundamentals at an early age, and arms being better taken care of. You just don't see as many funky pitching motions as you used to. Hence, there are more pitchers throwing harder than ever in the pool. If you look at the bullpens of Baltimore and Kansas City in the playoffs, that was certainly the case. Combined with free swinging hitters, there are more pitches not put in play than ever. It's changed the game away from "pitch to contact" to "make them swing and miss and improve the odds."
It's driven down the value of a pitch-to-contact pitcher like Porcello from the standpoint of giving him a huge, multi-year contract, which would have been a no-brainer a few years ago.
Cespedes is not without his flaws, but he is plus defensively as a corner outfielder, has power and those lamenting about his career .263 batting average should note it is above the MLB average of last year, which was just .251. As a rookie he did have a sky-high OPS. He would help the Tigers.
The chances of this trade happening are very minimal, though. Clubs looking to move good pitchers or players a year before free agency aren't seeking to deal them for players with the same issue. The Tigers like Porcello, but at what cost? The Red Sox like Cespedes, but at what cost? Dealing for one year, rental players makes little sense. The idea is to get players with several years under club control in return for such premium talent.
My column. Why MSU vs. Baylor, as much as Ohio State vs. Alabama, carrying Big Ten's tattered football banner: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141208/pat-caputo-why-msu-vs-baylor-as-much-as-ohio-state-vs-alabama-carrying-tattered-big-ten-football-banner
My column. Sunday's win over Tampa Bay a sign there will be a different ending for the Lions in '14: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141207/pat-caputo-win-over-tampa-bay-tangible-sign-final-scene-could-be-very-different-for-detroit-lions-in-14