Porcello potential trade bait

December 14, 2012

DETROIT – So, what’s next for the Tigers?

Re-signing No. 4 starter Anibal Sanchez for five years at $80 million has created a starter surplus.

Left-hander Drew Smyly edges Rick Porcello for the No. 5 spot because he pitched better last year and would give the rotation a much-needed southpaw. So, trade rumors about Porcello made the rounds Friday afternoon. The Rangers, Pirates, Padres and Rockies were mentioned as possible destinations.

Trades never tend to be simple, one-for-one swaps. So, let’s look at what else the Tigers have to offer and what they need.

They also have an excess of corner outfielders with Brennan Boesch likely to be moved and the Mariners reportedly interested. Teams are much more interested, though, in high-profile corner outfield prospects Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos, also a third baseman.

Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski will look to trade Jhonny Peralta should he be able to upgrade the shortstop position.

Dombrowski has said repeatedly that he is not closer shopping for Christmas. He sounds intent on giving rookie flame-thrower Bruce Rondon a shot, saying he can “mix and match” with Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke if need be.

It's hard to buy that.

And the continued need for a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon in left with Andy Dirks persists.

Taking all of this into account, there are four teams that make the most sense as trade partners for the Tigers. I seem them as the Pirates, Rangers, Indians and Angels — in that order.

Pirates: GM Neal Huntington is exploring trade options for All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan after re-signing setup man and ex-Tiger Jason Grilli with the belief he can close. Pittsburgh is in dire need of back-end rotation starters and corner outfielders.

If I were Huntington, I would take Porcello and Boesch for Hanrahan. Porcello could very well be a No. 3 starter for the Pirates, and Boesch is an improvement in either left or right.

Boesch is just two years removed from a rookie season in which he nearly made the All-Star team, while Porcello has won 48 games and is only 23.

Hanrahan, 31, converted 36 of 40 saves and was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. The 5.4 walks per nine innings were high, though he had better control in 2011 while posting 40 saves.

However, Hanrahan is in his final year before free agency. Huntington knows there’s a good chance he will lose him after the coming season, and he’s also due a nice raise via arbitration over the $4.1 million he made in 2012. That contract uncertainty also works against finding compatible suitors.

Though, if the Tigers can groom Rondon this season, perhaps one year of Hanrahan is enough.

Winning a World Series without a dependable closer is virtually impossible, and Detroit wouldn’t have reached the Series this season if Coke had not made his surprising postseason turnaround.

Rangers: This is the most fun club to propose trades with because obtaining a shortstop such as Elvis Andrus would mean more than even the significant free-agent signing of right fielder Torii Hunter.

But the Rangers have bigger fish to fry right now. They are attempting to work a trade with the Diamondbacks for outfielder Justin Upton that could involve Andrus, and had been working on a deal with the Mets for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey that appears to have fallen apart.

And the Rangers might make more sense for the Tigers than the Tigers do for the Rangers.

The Rangers want to play Jurickson Profar, one of the game’s top prospects, at shortstop and move Andrus to second base. Ian Kinsler, a fixture at second, would move to first. Infielder Michael Young already has been dealt to clear the log-jam somewhat.

But the Rangers don’t need Peralta in the package. Would Porcello, Boesch and either Castellanos or Garcia be enough? I don’t think so. Andrus is an All-Star, a major contributor. Texas now has the need for a center fielder with Josh Hamilton gone to the Angels and likely would want Austin Jackson. This is where the Tigers would back off. Though, Porcello would work as part of a package with Texas.

Indians: They have been shopping shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who would be a defensive upgrade on Peralta, and word is that closer Chris Perez (39 saves) is available. Both would be attractive to the Tigers, and the Indians needs are so numerous that something could be worked out. However, intra-division trades are rare.

Angels: They have Hamilton and Mike Trout set in right and center, but also have three starter-quality outfielders with only one other opening. They are stuck with Vernon Wells ($42 million for 2013-14) and likely will hold onto power-hitting Mark Trumbo in left.

However, center fielder Peter Bourjos hits right-handed and could match up well with Dirks and sew up the big left field at Comerica. And don’t rule out Trumbo coming in trade.

Enjoy the possibilities.