FT. MYERS, Fla. — The teams interested in acquiring right-hander Rick Porcello continue to wonder if the Tigers actually will trade him.
The Rangers and Padres are the teams most active on Porcello, according to major-league sources. The Orioles also have scouted Porcello, but the Red Sox – another team with potential interest – are not currently pursuing him, sources say.
The Tigers, rather than move Porcello, might prefer to keep him and retain depth in their rotation. They then could make lefty Drew Smyly a long reliever or starter at Triple A.
One thing is clear: The Tigers will not trade Porcello unless they receive a strong return.
The Padres made an “aggressive” offer for Porcello last week, only to be rejected, according to a source.
Talks with the Rangers do not appear to be at an advanced stage, but the names of two Texas prospects - shortstop Leury Garcia and right-hander Nicholas Tepesch – apparently are on the Tigers’ wish list. The Tigers also would want a third player added to that package, but the Rangers would be reluctant to move even Tepesch in a Porcello deal, sources say.
The Red Sox, seeking to add rotation depth, could satisfy the Tigers’ desire for late-inning relief help by offering right-hander Andrew Bailey. The salaries of the two pitchers nearly line up – Porcello will earn $5.1 million this season, Bailey $4.1 million. The Sox, however, are reluctant to compromise the depth of their bullpen, which is one of the team’s strengths.
The Tigers, who also seek to add a right-handed hitting outfielder, have discussed re-acquiring Casper Wells from the Mariners, according to a source. The Orioles could offer Nolan Reimold in addition to a reliever, but are not inclined to move on Porcello, preferring to go with their younger starting pitchers instead, a source said.
Financial motives could drive a Porcello trade even more than the Tigers’ lack of a proven closer, given the recent progress of rookie right-hander Bruce Rondon in Grapefruit League games.
Porcello is under club control for three more seasons, and likely will earn in the range of $22 million during that period, depending upon how he performs.
Critics of Porcello point to his low strikeout rate and his ERA-plus, which has been below-average the past two seasons. But many of his numbers – strikeout rate, walk rate, home-run rate, fielding-independent pitching (FIP) – are trending in the right direction. And because Porcello is a groundball pitcher, his performance likely would improve if he pitched in front of a better infield defense than the Tigers’.
— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi