21 December 2012

Trade Target: Rick Porcello

Reports circling the internet tonight have linked the Orioles to DET SP Rick Porcello, who some have speculated might be on the move after DET resigned A. Sanchez this offseason. Duquette has been focused on trying to acquire a potential middle of the order bat, but several people close to the team have said it seems like he will make a trade at some point this offseason.

Why Porcello? For starters he's 6'5 200lbs, will be 24 this season even after 4 full years in the majors, and due to some creative subverting of the CBA is 1 day short of a 4th year of service time so he is under team control for 3 more seasons. While his stats show a near replacement level pitcher for his career, he has been durable making 31 starts each year, except for the one season the team sent him down for 4 starts to save the service time which he made 27 starts. He also has a Fangraphs career GB/FB ratio of 1.86 breaking the 2.0 threshold last year with a 2.36, and a career GB% of 52.3 where league average is somewhere around 44%. That aspect makes him enticing in HR friendly Camden Yards, and it sheds more light onto Porcello's numbers as he is reliant on a good infield defense to be the best that he can be, and DET has had a sub par defense for years. Getting him out of DET and to an improved Orioles infield should help his numbers alone, not even allowing for natural maturation as he is getting more experienced and closer to his prime years. Porcello's K/9 rate has been increasing every year, as has his K/BB rate, which is showing better pitching intelligence as he is learning the league and learning better habits.

Porcello throws one of his two fastballs almost 70% of the time, while scattering an equal number of sliders and changeups, and rarely throwing a curve. The problem with this mix is that his slider is very hittable, often hanging middle-in to RHB and it's his change with good sink that he most often gets batters to chase. If he would reduce the number of sliders thrown and go to more of a heavy FB/CH rotation he would be much more effective. Fortunately, BAL currently has a pitching philosophy that lends to a FB/CH/CV arsenal, so there is some potential to get him to change his patterns and use his best tools most often.

What would he cost? That is always a loaded question since actual value for a player isn't determined until he is actually traded. Many times a player is speculated to bring back a large haul to go for less than anticipated, so speculating is kind of a waste...but where is the fun in that? DET is a solid contending team with a future star 3B prospect in the wings, a couple mashers in the middle of the order and a fairly solid rotation after resigning Sanchez. The spot that stands out the most as potential for improvement is at the back end of the BP where the team has said it is comfortable starting with fireballing Rondon and his 100mph fastball to start the season, but one can't help but think that a solid experienced closer, allowing DET to apprentice Rondon as a set up man is a more desirable option. Speculation will naturally center on a deal of Jim Johnson for Porcello, which could make sense for both sides. The O's have players they could audition or move into that role (Arrieta, Hunter, O'Day, Strop) and DET has 6 SP for 5 spots in the rotation with Verlander, Sanchez, Smyly, Fister and Scherzer in addition to Porcello. With Johnson up for FA in 2 years and Porcello in 3 the service times and arbitration costs aren't too far off from each other, it seems like the framework of a deal could be in place.

The Orioles have also been linked to the Mariners possibly for Justin Smoak as a buy low candidate and to free agent Joe Saunders who pitched great down the stretch, but with inflated SP prices could demand quite a premium on the market right now.

Taking a chance that Porcello would break out a bit this year and stabilize the rotation further may be worth the risk of dealing a very solid closer who is getting too expensive for the team and will be looking at large raises in arbitration the next two seasons.


Matt P said...

The Tigers would need to offer more than Porcello for Jim Johnson.

Porcello may have some promise but he hasn't been good since 2009. It's true that his FIP/xFIP imply he's better than his ERA but after a certain point you need results. Frankly, he got hit hard last year which is why his BABIP was so high. It'll likely drop next year but that will result in his HR/9 going up. Given that he averages fewer than 6 innings per outing he really doesn't even eat innings.

At this point, I'm skeptical that he's better than Britton, Tillman or Gonzo and if so I don't know where he'd fit. Given that he's being traded because he doesn't fit on the Tigers, I'd have to think he's a buy low candidate.

If I'm the Os and the Tigers wanted JJ, I'd have to insist on Porcello and one of Garcia or Castellanos in return. Castellanos sorta was horrible in AA this year (even if he was solid in HiA) and is over-rated. I doubt the Tigers feel the same way though.

I suspect if the Tigers and Os do come to a deal that it will be a big one. Perhaps JJ, Patton and Hoes/Avery for Garcia, Porcello, Oliver and Crosby? Or maybe JJ, Reimold and Wright for the four listed above?

Jon Shepherd said...

Matt, I don't know if you are just scouting the number in Erie, but Castellanos looks like an amazing hitter. I would not get too wound up on what he did in AA as a 20 year old. Performance often lags behind the talent for high schoolers.

Also...you have an incredibly high opinion of Jim Johnson. Porcello+Castellanos? The response would be a dial tone. I have to contend that that would be an incredible misevaluation in terms of value.

Matt P said...

Just because the Os would have to insist on one of Garcia and Castellanos in return doesn't mean I think the Tigers would offer it. Certainly, the Orioles should take it if the Tigers do offer Porcello and Castellanos. Back to reality, the two trades I suggested are a better indicator of what I consider JJs value. You'll note that Castellanos wasn't listed in either because I don't really think they'll move him in a deal for JJ.

I don't know how familiar you are with the Tigers farm system but it's very top heavy. Aside from Castellanos, Garcia and Rondon there really isn't anything interesting there.

If you're not a fan of Porcello then the Tigers really don't have many interesting pieces. Aside from the aforementioned three, they have got a few very young guys with potential. They also have got a few guys who have talent but have failed miserably at the higher levels of the minors.

If you think that Jim Johnson's value is far higher then a fifth starter at best like Porcello then the Tigers don't have much to offer. If Porcello can't be a centerpiece (and he shouldn't) then the only guys who can be a centerpiece are Castellanos and Garcia (Rondon isn't going anywhere and is worth far more to the Tigers then the Os). Frankly, I think that Porcello's value is extremely low.

That doesn't mean the Tigers would trade Castellanos for JJ (although I think Garcia for JJ is possible) but it does mean that the Tigers and Orioles don't match up very well and a deal would require more pieces than just JJ and Porcello.

Certainly, Castellanos is young and it's certainly forgivable that he was horrible in AA. But a guy like Machado was very good at AA and was even younger. The fact that Castellanos didn't do as well as Machado indicates he's not an elite prospect.

Castellanos is certainly a top hundred guy. But people talk about him like he's top twenty when he probably should be top seventy. That's what I mean by over rated.

Jon Shepherd said...

Actually, I am pretty well versed and somewhat connected when it comes to the prospect world. Welcome to Camden Depot. So, yes, I am familiar with the Detroit system. I am unsure why you think someone has to be on par with Machado to be elite. Machado is a pretty unique player. I think you are getting a bit too caught up in age and comparing him to someone he probably should not be compared to if you want an even keeled view.