Sep 15, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) pitches in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe and Anibal Sanchez all struggled at times last season. Here are three hypothetical trades involving the veteran trio that would benefit the Tigers.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila and the rest of the front office are looking to change how the team does business.
The era of the Tigers spending on prominent free agents is over.
With Detroit seeking to become more financially sustainable over the long haul, the team’s biggest contracts have become obvious trade candidates.
The Tigers do have a handful of players on significant contracts who they could trade while keeping their contender status.
That handful of players consists of pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe and Anibal Sanchez.
According to Spotrac, Pelfrey will earn $8 million next season, while Lowe will take home $5.5 million.
Rounding out the list is Sanchez, who will make $16 million next season. The starter has a club option for 2018 for the same salary. His employers can buy him out for $5 million.
Signed last offseason to provide rotation stability, Pelfrey struggled in Detroit. The veteran eventually fell behind young starters Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris in the rotation pecking order after simply allowing too many base runners.
Of all starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, Pelfrey posted the highest WHIP and second highest SIERA.
The former Twin ended the year with a 4-10 record. He also posted a 0.4 WAR, a 5.07 ERA and just 4.35 strikeouts per nine frames over 119 innings pitched.
Like Pelfrey, Lowe was signed to bring stability. Originally thought to be a setup reliever to Francisco Rodriguez, the veteran reliever turned in the highest ERA of all qualified relievers.
What’s more, his 2.19 home runs allowed per nine innings ranked only behind Brett Oberholtzer in terms of being the highest-rate in baseball.
Similarly, Sanchez also struggled mightily in 2016.
Despite the occasional strong start, the former American League leader in ERA had a rough go of things from a statistical standpoint.
The veteran ranked in the bottom 30 of all starters with at least 130 innings pitched in a number of statistical categories.
Sanchez owned the second-highest ERA, the fourth-highest home runs allowed per nine innings, the fourth-highest FIP and the 11th-highest WHIP. He also owned the 13th-worst xFIP and the 26th-highest SIERA.
Pelfrey, Lowe and Sanchez’ collective struggles make it hard to deal the trio, especially considering their respectively large contracts.
While the Detroit Tigers may not be able to save any money by dealing the three, they could flip either of them for another player on a similar, short-term contract.
Jul 29, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple Exposure Image) Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) pitches in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers Trade Reliever Mark Lowe to Colorado for Reliever Jake McGee
Acquired in an offseason trade that saw outfielder Corey Dickerson head the other way, Jake McGee didn’t have the best debut season in Colorado.
Over 45.2 innings with the Rockies, the former Tampa Bay relief ace notched a -0.3 WAR, a 4.73 ERA, a 4.77 xFIP and a 5.29 xFIP. His SIERA sat at 4.22, while the left-hander registered a career-high 11 hits allowed per nine innings.
What’s more, McGee saw his strikeouts per nine frames rate drop to a career-low 7.5.
According to Spotrac, the 30-year-old will make $5.9 million in 2017 before hitting free agency.
Considering Lowe will make $5.5 million next year, the salaries nearly match up on two relievers who have had success in the past.
McGee’s Potential Role With the Detroit Tigers
From 2012 to 2015, McGee pitched to a sparkling 2.58 ERA and a 2.31 FIP in 226.2 relief innings for the Rays.
What’s more, he fanned 11.4 batters per nine innings. The lefty could thrive away from the launch pad of a stadium that is Coors Field.
In Detroit, the ex-Tampa bay hurler would slot in as one of Francisco Rodriguez’ top setup men.
Similar to how the Tigers would be looking for a rebound from McGee in new surroundings, Lowe could also find success in a change of scenery.
The ex-Mariner is only one season removed from turning in a 1.96 ERA and 10 strikeouts per nine innings for Seattle and Toronto in 2015.
Jun 10, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) throws to first base against the New York Yankees during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers Trade Starter Mike Pelfrey to Pittsburgh for Reliever Antonio Bastardo
Mike Pelfrey could be buried on the depth chart by the time Opening Day rolls around.
Ideally, the Detroit Tigers rotation should feature Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.
The Pirates have shown a tendency to employ ground-ball pitchers before, making Pelfrey a perfect fit.
Additionally, the ex-Met could find success in returning to the National League where he’ll face pitchers more often.
In return for Pelfrey, Detroit would get a potential bullpen piece in Antonio Bastardo.
Bastardo’s Potential Role With the Detroit Tigers
The eight-year veteran is on an expiring deal and is just a season removed from a strong three-year run. In 164 innings with both the Pirates and Phillies, Bastardo posted a 3.15 FIP coming out of the bullpen.
However, 2016 was a struggle.
The left-hander pitched to a 4.52 ERA and a 4.67 FIP in 67.2 frames split between New York and Pittsburgh.
Considering his strikeout per nine inning rate was still a solid 9.8 last season, there’s still plenty of potential for a bounce back.
The former Phillies reliever likely wouldn’t be one of Detroit’s top bullpen options. However, he could take up a role pitching in the seventh inning, or earlier in games.
Per Spotrac, Bastardo will make $6.5 million, meaning the Bucs won’t be taking on too much money with Pelfrey’s $8 million salary.
Detroit could also take on first baseman John Jaso and his $4 million (according to Spotrac) expiring deal in hopes of flipping him for younger, cheaper pieces.
Jaso compiled a 111 wRC+ and a .353 on-base percentage in 132 games last season.
Aug 7, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) and New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) during the game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers Trade Starter Anibal Sanchez to the Mets for Center Fielder Curtis Granderson