March 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

Kurt Mensching

Trading Rick Porcello wouldn't make any sense for Tigers now

A groundball pitcher with a better curveball, Rick Porcello stands to benefit from the Tigers' improved defense. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

If thereís a player on the Tigersí roster more often tied to trade rumors than Rick Porcello, itís hard to think of one. Seemingly since the day Porcello signed with Detroit, trade talk has followed him.

For a period of time, it even made some sense. Or so it seemed at the time. Move a young Porcello for a veteran that could help get the team into the playoffs and allow it to do a little something when it arrived? Why not?

Today, however, that time has passed. No more should discussion of a Porcello trade should take place, not for the win-now, playoff-bound Tigers.

It came as a bit of a surprise when Nick Cafardoís Sunday baseball notes column in the Boston Globe contained this bit of foolís gold: ďThe Tigers are said to be willing to listen to offers on (Porcello), according major league sources. Porcello is once again at the back end of the Tiger rotation. While still young and promising, the Tigers need more consistency in the rotation.Ē

Itís worth noting Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski quickly denied the rumor, though a quick run through any logic behind such a move makes the denial needless.

Thereís just no way trading Porcello would make sense for the Tigers.

And this consistency stuff? Itís hard to see how trading the 24-year-old veteran of five baseball campaigns adds to consistency in Detroitís rotation.

Surely solutions from within should not be expected to replace Porcello, whose ERA improved for the fourth consecutive season, to 4.32, while the future-predicting Fielding Independent Pitching stat fell for a fifth consecutive season, to 3.53.

Thereís reason to believe Porcello is prepped to make the biggest step forward in his career. Relying more on a curveball that led his strikeout rate to a career-best 19.3 percent in 2013 and now with a much-improved infield defense behind him to help corral the ground balls he so frequently induces, Porcello may finally get his ERA into the 3s this season.

For a player at the back of the rotation, following behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, that would make Detroitís rotation pretty fearsome.

But if you trade him, then what? Some combination of rookie left-handers Jose Alvarez, Kyle Lobstein and Robbie Ray? That doesnít sound like more consistency. It sounds like a big risk.

A trade would certainly have to be a cost-cutting measure, but thereís no indication the Tigers actually need to cut costs at this point.

Letís pretend itís the opposite. Maybe we are to believe the Tigers would trade Porcello then pursue a contract with Ervin Santana, which would require them to give up a draft pick as well as a rumored $14 million for a one-year contract. For comparison, Porcello agreed to an $8.5 million deal for 2014.

True, Santanaís coming off a 3.24 ERA season with the Royals, and that sounds pretty good. But a deeper look at his statistics makes you wonder why heíd be preferable to Porcello. The Tigers starter actually had a higher strikeout rate than Santanaís 18.7 percent and a lower rate of walks issued, 5.7 percent vs. Santanaís 5.9 percent. Santana outpitched his 3.93 FIP, again a figure worse than Porcelloís, and has regularly posted worse FIPs than Porcello in past seasons.

So, no. You donít trade the better pitcher, then pay more for the worse one.

You donít trade Porcello for prospects. You donít trade Porcello for outfield depth. You donít trade Porcello, period.

The time for that has has long passed.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com

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