March 5, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tom Gage and Lynn Henning

The great debate: Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello's trade value

Lakeland, Fla. — Teams are asking about Rick Porcello.

Based on how he pitched Monday, six strikeouts in four shutout innings, they might start calling twice — instead of just once.

Plus the area at Joker Marchant Stadium where scouts sit for games was full for Porcello's start against the Houston Astros.

But what could the Tigers get for him if they decide to trade him? A closer? A shortstop? Neither?

Tom Gage and Lynn Henning, the News' baseball writers covering the Tigers in Lakeland, have differing opinions on that.

Gage thinks the Tigers aren't going to get as much as they hope. Henning thinks the opposite. That's not uncommon, though.

From Gage's chianti to Henning's cabernet, from Gage's country to Henning's jazz, and from Gage's "Gladiator" to Henning's "Fargo" (as favorite movies), they don't agree on much.

Don't get them started on politics, either.

So how do they disagree on Porcello's value?

Gage: I see a good, young, still-promising pitcher who already has four years of major-league experience but one who has alternated 10-win seasons with 14-win seasons.

If I'm the Texas Rangers, and I'm interested in Porcello, I'm low-balling because of his 10-win seasons — one of which was last year, by the way.

Henning: What I'm seeing this spring is fairly dramatic: fastball and two-seamers at 92-94 mph. Good change-up and a curveball he trusts, minus the slider hitters hammered last season. Throw in his 185-inning track record and I think the Tigers get a nice return in a probable package deal: a shortstop, or a closer (Andrew Bailey?) and a player in return.

G: That much? Wow. I guess a good game against a traveling band of Astros just doesn't do much for me. I don't see the Tigers getting anywhere near that much, Lynn. I see the Tigers having to throw in a player, maybe even a Brennan Boesch, to get something they can really use in return.

But you're right on this: Junking that slider is a good idea.

H: He was always a bit in-between with that slider and curve. It's clear — even more so to opposing hitters — that he's better off with this new repertoire when his sinker is behaving and his velocity is back. I think he's developing more into the pitcher they thought they were getting six years ago.

G: But, slider or no slider, interested teams will still be wary of the number of hits Porcello allowed (the most in the American League last season).

The Tigers are in a good spot, however. They have the luxury of a young starting pitcher teams will line up to acquire. With the report that the Rangers asked about him Monday, they might already be lining up.

So this question needs to be asked without further ado: Is Porcello going to be traded?

H: Percentages almost guarantee it. The only thing that would change that scenario, in my view, would be if a starter gets hurt, or, if they become so desperate in their search for a closer that Porcello ends up as an appealing option there. But I still see a trade.

G: I don't, but not because the Tigers are unwilling to trade Porcello. They'd do that without blinking an eye, but only if they get what they want in return. And I just don't see him being the kind of pitcher yet to land a fulltime closer or shortstop.

This should be in your wheelhouse as a topic, though: If Porcello by himself can't get the Tigers what they want, could a deal involving more players, such as a 3-for-2 (Porcello, Boesch, prospect) be in the works?

H: It'll be a package deal no matter how this plays out. The Tigers have multiple trade chips: outfielders, catching prospects, and pitchers, beginning with Porcello. The outfield situation is less flush than it was because of injuries.

But I can see them dealing Avisail Garcia, or Brennan Boesch or even Tyler Collins, as well as a catcher: Curt Casali or James McCann. It's difficult to believe they'd part with Nick Castellanos.

G: Especially, as Jim Leyland joked, with Castellanos' father being a "lung doctor."

Bottom line: You see a trade coming definitely, with Porcello commanding something big in return? I see the Tigers biding their time until something better comes along. Is that a correct summation of our opinions?

H: Pretty much. Dombrowski is sitting with a nice poker hand. Just depends when he gets his offer, and more directly, how soon he sorts out this closer issue. Porcello looms either way — as trade bait or as a remote closer candidate — in this semi-predictable drama at Tigertown.

Twitter: @tom_gage

Twitter: @lynn_henning

Rick Porcello had six strikeouts in four shutout innings Monday. / Robin Buckson/Detroit News