Orlando, Fla. — Tigers general manager Al Avila was about as transparent as anyone in his position could be.
“Yeah, we need pitching help,” he said during the general managers’ meetings Monday. “Probably one, maybe two starting pitchers. You can never have enough pitching. But take a look around. There are 29 other teams here and they are all looking for starting pitching and bullpen help.”
The Tigers, in full rebuild-austerity mode, aren’t in the bidding for top-shelf starters like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Nor are they likely to get in on second-tier guys like Alex Cobb, Tyler Chatwood, Michael Pineda, Hector Santiago, Jason Vargas or Lance Lynn.
No, the Tigers are shopping in the bargain bin. They are going to, in a sense, be taking a flyer on a veteran pitcher who is seeking to revive his career productivity-wise, is healthy enough to give them 30 starts and is willing to come in on a one-year, make-good contract.
And certainly the Tigers luck with these types of aging starters has been spotty recently, to say the least (Alfredo Simon, Mike Pelfrey).
“You’ve got to go after what you can get at the moment,” Avila said. “Just try to get whatever we can get to build the team.”
So who are we talking about? Perhaps a guy like Chris Tillman, who endured the worst season of his career last year but is still only 29. Maybe someone like left-hander Brett Anderson, also 29, who has made just 17 starts the last two years because of injuries. But he made 31 starts for the Dodgers in 2015 — is he healthy again?
Maybe right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, 33, who has averaged 153 innings over the last five years, with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.
Do they try to squeeze one more productive year out of Matt Garza (33), Ubaldo Jimenez (33), Ricky Nolasco (34), Doug Fister (33), John Lackey (39) or Hisashi Iwakuma (36)?
Or, do they go completely out of the box?
During the general managers’ meetings this week, veteran and highly decorated right-hander Jake Peavy made it known through his agent that he wants to return to the big leagues this season. He will be 37 in May and he sat out last season to tend to some serious upheaval in his personal life.
The Tigers haven’t yet spoken to Peavy or his agent, but he fits the profile of the type of veteran pitcher they are looking to add to a young staff that is led by three young arms (Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris).
He’s won a World Series, he’s won a Cy Young and he’s a three-time All-Star. We’re talking about a 15-year vet with 377 starts (plus nine post-season starts), 2,377 innings and a career 3.63 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Obviously, he’s lost a few yards off his fastball and his production fell off dramatically in his final season with the Giants in 2016 (5.54 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). But even from 2014 through 2016, when the velocity on his fastball dipped from 94 to barely touching 90, he found a way to stay competitive.
He has a higher-than-average spin rate, so his 89-mph fastball plays up. He had a 102-36 strikeout-to-walk rate in 2016. In that season, he got high swing-and-miss percentages on three pitches — curve (17 percent), change-up (15) and slider (15).
Listen to what his former manager Bud Black said about Peavy before the 2017 season in an article by EPSN’s Jerry Crasnick:
“Just look at where Jake is now in his career. Cy Young Award winner. Been a world champion. Passion and heart. Competitiveness. Those are great attributes to bring to a team. I saw him (in 2016) with the Giants go through stretches of making pitches and getting results. There’s some usage on that arm, but there are potentially some good innings in there for a team.”
Keep in mind, too, that in 2016, Peavy was dealing with a painful divorce and trying to make the transition with his four sons. He also was reeling from losing millions of dollars in an investment scandal.
The year out of the game allowed him to hit the reset button, both on his arm and body, and on his mind. He’s always been the fiercest of competitors and now, after a year away, his hunger should be off the charts.
It may be a long shot, but it seems the Tigers would have little to lose by kicking the tires on a guy like Peavy.