Is it time for Rick Porcello

With a job in the rotation up for grabs, the leading incumbents have struggled. Dontrelle Willis has taken a step forward from his struggles last year, but it hasn’t been a big enough step to warrant a rotation spot. Nate Robertson, who I expected to pitch better this year, simply hasn’t. But Rick Porcello? The longshot? He spun 3 scoreless innings where he did allow 5 hits, but none for extra bases and no walks. We’re still almost a month away from Opening Day, but is it time for the 20 year old?

The most compelling argument to keep Porcello in the minors relates to workload and stamina. In his only professional season he was kept to a hard 75 pitch limit in each of his starts. He also amassed only 125 innings. I say only not because that was too few, but it is less than where he’d need to be. So there is work to do in building stamina.

But the stamina/workload issue might also be the most compelling reason to bring him North right away. If you are of the belief he has multiple major-league-ready pitches right now (which many scouts do), why not take advantage of them early in the season? Why wait until he is closer to his seasonal inning limit later in the year. Why not get what you can from the kid to start the season?

Yes he is all of 20 years old, but poise and maturity don’t seem to be an issue for him.

There are of course economic reasons to keep him in the minors. Two of those are the contracts to Robertson and Willis. A third is the contract to Porcello himself. “Rushing” him and ruining him would be quite the blow given the bonus he received. Plus it accelerates his service time.

The Tigers (and every other team in the Central) are in contention for the division. If Porcello is going to pitch for the club this year, I’d rather it be in April than August. There are reasons to keep him in the minors. But it should only come down to 5 reasons – and those would be the 5 guys who prove themselves to be better options in the rotation. So far, and things could change in the next 4 weeks, those 5 reasons haven’t become apparent.

For more:Case closed? Bring Porcello north » Mack Avenue Tigers : A Detroit Tigers Blog

81 Comments

  1. Tbone

    March 10, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Well, that certainly didn’t take long. It seemed foolish to me to have any hopes at all that Willis and/or Robertson were suddenly going to become saviors. Porcello was never a longshot, he was a near-certainty.

  2. jason

    March 10, 2009 at 8:38 am

    It still seems like a bad idea. It seems I can think of too many bad endings for extremely young pitchers over my baseball-viewing days. I want this guy to be around a long time, not just for this year.

    Out of curiosity, who is the highest paid 6th (or 7th) starter in baseball? Willis has to be up there.

  3. Scott

    March 10, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Bill makes some interesting arguments, but I’d rather error on the side of caution. I think Jason is right, there are just too many bad outcomes to risk it. Let him pitch 160 innings in Erie and Toledo this season and mature physically for another full year. If all goes well, he should be able to pitch around 180 innings in 2010, which would make him a more viable fourth or fifth starter.

    The Tigers have real problems as far as starting pitching, but it’s not like it’s a new development. They simply didn’t do enough in the off-season to address it. They should have signed Derek Lowe or someone of his ilk. Right now, you don’t have a sure thing on the staff. Verlander looks like he’s still in 2008 mode rather than 2006 mode. Every other guy is a big question mark. Ideally, Bonderman comes back strong, Galaraga doesn’t have a sophomore slump and Jackson eats 200 innings and wins 12-14 games. Robertson looks like he’s done and Willis should be pitching in Toledo.

  4. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 9:41 am

    If you had to think of teams in the league to who a good start would be important to, I’d have to think that the Tigers would be especially high on that list. Keeping that in mind, I think that the Porcello issue will come down to Bonderman’s ability to start the season. It seems to me that you can probably overcome patchwork pitching in 1/5 starts. Losing Bonderman for the start of the season (or longer, who knows?) would mean overcoming 2/5 starts, which I think is too much to hope for. If that’s the case, then I think that starting off the season with Porcello makes sense. He presumably gives the Tigers the best chance of winning, and winning early (given the options available in their present conditions). The hope would be that Porcello would perform well enough that the Tigers would feel comfortable not rushing Bonderman’s return. I suppose that you could also make the case for Porcello starting the season in order to give Willis more time to prove himself.

    My Porcello reservations revolve partly around how he’ll handle setbacks. I know that a lot has been written about his poise and maturity, but as others have pointed out, he’s not really struggled yet professionally. Maybe just as important, will starting Porcello excessively tax the bullpen? As pure speculation, his pitch cap would be in the 80-90 range, right? Teams would know this going into games and exploit that (just like I assume they exploit Willis’ tendency to BB). This could lead to some short outings innings-wise whenever he starts.

    Luckily there’s a lot of spring training left to figure this all out…

  5. Mark in Chicago

    March 10, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I’m a little torn on this issue.

    I think it depends at least a litle bit on how the rest of the rotation shapes out. If Verlander rounds into form and has a really strong spring, Bonderman at least shows he can pitch effectively and stay healthy, Galarraga continues his good spring and Jackson continues to improve, they probably don’t need to hurry Porcello. You can live with the mess of Robertson/Willis/Miner in the 5th spot and a whole lot of long relief.

    The flip side is, if at least 3 of those 4 above mentioned starters don’t pan out as I described, now you’ve almost got to throw Porcello in. This is awful close to asking the kid to “save the season” which puts a lot of pressure on a 20 year old.

    To billfer’s point: which is better, 100 innings of Porcello + 100 of Willis/Robertson/Miner or 200 of Willis/Robertson/Miner? I don’t think there’s much question. But I still lean towards sending Porcello to AA to start the season. It’s different in the bigs and he didn’t even use all of his pitches last year. I’m no expert, but I just don’t think he’s ready.

  6. Mark in Chicago

    March 10, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Dre,

    We are bascially saying the same thing and I argued earlier that I was concerned about how Porcello deals with adversity. Damn you and your fast posts!

  7. Kathy

    March 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Still early. But, at this point, Mr. RP looks like the ace on this team.

  8. Walter55

    March 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Does anybody know the date when we could bring him up and it still not count as a full year of service time? Thus giving us 6 more years of him besides this one? Also it always seems to me that the young roookies phenom players who break camp with the team are always under a lot more pressure than when just called up during the season.

  9. Harley3000

    March 10, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Make Porcello and Miner a tag team of sorts. Start Porcello for 3-5 innings and then bring in Miner for the rest. Porcello can build up his stamina and we can watch him grow into the job. If Miner can throw well the last 4-6 innings, he is building his own case to start. What do you think?

  10. Jaynaya

    March 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

    It’s too early in ST to be declaring Porcello major league ready.

    I still believe Robertson and Willis will be given every opportunity to win the job. They are due a combined $17 million this season (and more next season.) It would be tough to eat that money (either by cutting/sending to the minors).

    If Willis or Robertson do not show enough (I still have a little hope for Willis, given the improvement he has shown, but I believe Robertson is done), Zach Miner would make a very fine #5 starter. He has shown that he can handle the role on multiple occasions.

    Porcello has not thrown enough innings to handle a major league workload. Rushing and potentially ruining his promising arm on what is sure to be a wasted season would be a very short-sighted move (one Leyland would make, because he has no contract past this season.)

    Would Porcello significantly improve this team’s chances? I don’t think so. I think his numbers would be somewhere in line with what Bonderman’s were his first season (when he was also rushed to the majors from A-ball.) I think the correct course is to assign him to Erie, and if he proves he is major league ready by dominating batters, bring him up and carefully manage his innings.

    I blame Dave Dombrowski for the fact that the Tigers are even considering rushing Porcello. He has wasted so much of the Tigers’ payroll by giving contract extensions to poor, mediocre and old/injury prone players. This has hampered their ability to sign free agents who would actually help the club. He has virtually ignored a pitching staff that has been terrible since 2007, even trading away good young arms like Jurrjens that further depleted the Tigers’ weak pitching. You would be hard pressed to find a GM who has done a worse job over the past two seasons than Dombrowski. He is proving he has no idea how to build a perennial contender.

  11. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Even though I think its too early for Leyland to come out and say something like this, I’d feel better hearing him echo Henning’s thoughts,

    “He’ll go with the guys he believes can win — no matter how money or procedural matters, or political realities, enter into a club’s list of considerations.”

    I hope he’s right.

    Also, and sorry this is slightly off topic (no need for a lengthy response), but I thought Sheffield had started off “ok” in spring training? Last I heard his average was < .100, so what gives?

  12. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Jaynaya,

    I have to hand it to you, seamlessly blending revisionist history:

    “[Dombrowski] was wasted so much of the Tigers’ payroll by giving contract extensions to poor, mediocre and old/injury prone players.”

    (almost none of whom were deemed excessively so at the time of extension)

    with fearless forecasting:

    “on what is sure to be a wasted season ”

    (funny, a lot of people said that of the Twins going into last year)

    Well done.

  13. Scott

    March 10, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Andre,

    I think Jaynaya’s assessment is a little harsh, too. Truthfully, though, I’m not optimistic about this season. I think they’ll be better than last year, but I think there are just too many things that would need to go perfectly for them to win the Division. I see this team winning 85-88 games at best. If you can’t get to 90, you’re not making the playoffs.

  14. Chris in Dallas

    March 10, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Scott: 85-88 games might win the AL Central this year. It’s a lot like the ’06 NL Central in my view (the Cardinals won that division by going 83-78…we all know what happened after that). No team is head and shoulders above the rest. For that, I’m optimistic that the Tigers will contend.

    Walter: I believe the date is sometime in May. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d look up when Milwaukee called up Braun or Tampa called up Longoria, as they waited until after the date in question.

  15. Scott

    March 10, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I hope you’re right, Chris. If the Twins had a little more umph in their lineup, I think they’d win it. But if Mauer stays down for anything length of time, they’re in big trouble. I like the White Sox lineup and I think there pitching is better than ours, but that idiot manager will cost them the Division if he possibly can.

  16. Jaynaya

    March 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

    “He’ll go with the guys he believes can win — no matter how money or procedural matters, or political realities, enter into a club’s list of considerations.”

    If this is true, why did he stick with Sheffield, Renteria, Inge, Robertson and other has beens last season?

    As for Dombrowski’s contract extensions, you can find many people who didn’t think it was wise to extend an injury prone DH who was nearing 40. Or two back-of-the-rotation starters who had terrible years in 2007, especially since they were both already under contract for two more seasons.

    The DD apologists should look at a list of the 45 worst contracts in MLB that was just released. The Tigers had 5 of these contracts, by far the most of any major league team. The fact is that DD has handcuffed the Tigers’ chances these next two seasons by having a bloated payroll with much money being committed to players who aren’t helping the club win. They already have $100 million committed to under 10 players next season. That’s why they can’t sign the FOR starter, shut down closer, LH bat that they need. There is no money available, so they are considering rushing prospects to the majors to make up for a lack of talent/effectiveness.

  17. Chris in Dallas

    March 10, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Sorry for the double post. I felt like I had to throw in my two cents on the Jaynaya comment. It’s fair to criticize Dombrowski for certain moves (trading Jurrjens/Hernandez for Renteria being the big one), but in the interest of being fair you have to look at what he’s done that has made us all forget 119 losses also. Drum roll…

    Bad moves, contract extension division: Inge, Robertson, Willis, Sheffield. With the first two, he committed the GM cardinal sin of rewarding guys immediately after career years when their prior track records didn’t really warrant it. The Willis extension was a brain cramp. His performance had been declining in the National league for 2 years, so extending him sight unseen to pitch in the Big Boy League was a touch short sighted.

    Bad moves, trade division: Renteria. Just. Ouch. I’m tempted to put Sheffield here as well, but I don’t think he gave up anything of great value to get him so that’s a wash.

    Good moves, free agent/contract extension division: Maggs, Pudge, Cabrera, Granderson, Rogers. Cabrera and Ordonez are making pantloads of cash, but they are also superstars. As much as I criticized Pudge during his last season and a half in a Tigers uniform, he was very productive in ’04-’06 so that’s a win. I don’t think I need to espouse the virtues of Granderson. Kenny Rogers was worthwhile if only for the ’06 postseason.

    Good moves, trades division: Polanco, Galarraga, Guillen, Cabrera. I don’t think I’ll get an argument that these guys worked out, especially since jack and squat were given up for them (well, except Cabrera). I forget if it was DD or Randy Smith who pulled the Bonderman heist so I won’t list it.

    Good moves, draft division: Verlander, Porcello, Miller, Maybin. The first two are franchise conrnerstones. The next two landed Cabrera, who is also a cornerstone. Not bad. Again, I forget if the ’02 draft was under Retard Randy or DD, but they picked up Granderson and Zumaya there as well.

    All in all, this team has won 95, 88 and a disappointing 74 games in the last 3 seasons. If they end up with a win total in the high 80′s in 2009 I think we can dismiss 2008 as an outlier and we can christen this a successful franchise under Dombrowski’s stewardship.

  18. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Jaynaya,

    The intent of mentioning Henning’s quote was to illustrate my hope that Leyland and Co. might break with what appeared to be last season’s negative trend of playing guys based on past performance in the face of present non-performance. Myself and others have hazarded many guesses and explanations for his decisions in that regard, some of them more justifiable than others, but that’s not something I’ll revisit here.

    In any case, in part thanks to Billfer and others, I’ve moved from being adamantly opposed to Porcello starting this year with the Tig’s to a more moderate/cautious position that if he can help them get off to a better start than they would otherwise be able to achieve, that bringing him up should certainly be considered.

  19. Scott

    March 10, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Anyone know where the Tigers are drafting this year? Any chance this pitcher from San Diego State – Stephen Strasser (I think) – could fall to them considering he’s a Boras client? He’s supposed to be even better than Mark Prior coming out of college.

  20. Kurt

    March 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Tigers are drafting ninth. I don’t think the SDSU kid falls that far because I think teams have started to take notice that the draft, even Boras clients!, is a cost-effective way to pick up a player, so they’re willing to pay more than in the past.

  21. Chris in Dallas

    March 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    The Tigers have the #9 pick. By all indications, Strasbourg will be long gone by then. He’s pretty much a mortal lock to go #1 overall, Boras or no Boras. Even still, they should be able to get pretty good value in the top 10.

  22. Scott

    March 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Even though there seems to be a dearth of high-ceiling position players in our farm system, I would still use that pick on the best starting pitcher available.

  23. Kathy

    March 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    The one thing we don’t know is how hitters will adjust to him (Porcello) after a few at bats and/or games and how he will adjust to them. At this point, he’s an unknown but you can bet other teams will be watching film on him to look at his pitches.

  24. Kevin in Austin (now Dallas)

    March 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Walter -

    172 days on the active roster = 1 year service. Which is why we don’t see many studs called up on April. Also remember that Super 2 eligibility = 2 yrs, 86 days (and in top 17% of the 2-3 year players).

  25. stephen

    March 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I say if Porcello is good enough, bring him up. In a strange way, he might just be saving the Tigers’ future by pitching well in April and May.

    If this team gets off to a slow start and there is a corresponding dive in attendance, even more than the drop caused by the economy, you’re going to see Cabrera gone in some kind of 4-for-1 deal for prospects. There’s is no way Cabrera is in a Tigers uniform next year if the team goes, say, 74-88 and attendance plummets to 1.8-2 million. (Not unthinkable after 2008′s disappointment and the collapse of the auto industry). So, if Porcello can go 10-6 somehow–instead of Willis/Robertson going 5-11– before he hits his inning wall, that may be the difference between the team contending and the franchise having the fire sale of all fire sales. This is an ‘all hands on deck’ season for Leyland, Dombrowski, and the franchise if that means rushing a kid, well, that’s why he got a big bonus. You can argue this is long-term foolish, but the thing is if the team doesn’t do well in the short-term, the long-term is gonna look a lot like 1989.

  26. scotsw

    March 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Opening Day rotation prediction:

    Verlander, Jackson, Galarraga, Miner, Porcello.

    Bullpen Lefties: Rapada, Seay and Willis
    Bullpen Righties: Perry, Zumaya, Rodney, Lyon

    Robertson will go on IR, or be traded for a 5th round draft pick. Bonderman may begin the season on a rehab assignment, or on the IR. If Bonderman can go, Miner goes to the ‘pen, where he takes Rapada’s spot (leaving 2 lefties).

  27. Kevin in Austin (now Dallas)

    March 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    stephen – I disagree. Even if Tigers are in last place come August, no way Dombro trades Miggs. You can win a championship with Miggs & Verlander. Not to mention Granderson & Porcello (or so we think). DD knows this, I don’t see this year as being much other than a development year for Porcello and some other young players.

  28. Mark in Chicago

    March 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    So many posts to get to:

    Chris in D: DD traded for Bondermand, Pena and Franklin German, but Randy Smith was responsible for the Granderson/Zumaya drafts. I would also argue that Andrew Miller is a disaster in Florida and Maybin appears to be a very good ML regular (who will never be as good as Cabera. Ever.). The other guys are throw ins, so that trade is most definitely a win for DD. Great post though, good recap.

    Walter55: Interesting idea, but the player’s union would have a hissy fit if it looked like the Tigers waited until June to bring up Porcello and avoid going to arbitration a year earlier. It’s also not good PR to treat your players that way. It’s a possibility, but it’s a dangerous move.

    stephen: I don’t disagree with your firesale idea, and it’s most definitely true that DD and Leyland (especially jimmuh) are fighting for their jobs. So they’re likely to do whatever they need to in order to get off to a good start. There’s no way they’re trading Cabrera though. Only a few teams can afford that contract (especially with the economy the way it is and may be for some time) and many teams are locked in at 1b. If DD is fired, maybe he gets dealt, but otherwise he’s here to stay.

    scotsw: Your rotation scares me. That does not look like a championship-caliber pitching staff to me. Interesting that you have Perry in the bullpen too.

  29. Walter55

    March 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    So if we are looking at having till wait until June to bring him up to have him for another 6 years then I say wait. I mean would you seriously rather him for 2 months now when they are going to watching his inning totals for the year and he could even be worn down later in the year. Or a whole extra year of a pitcher at the level Porcello could be in 5 years from now.

  30. Walter55

    March 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Mark in Chicago
    The Brewers and Rays have already done this with Braun and Longoria and nothing was done. Now you don’t come out and say this the reason you are sending them down you just say you want him to have a little more time in the minors and send them down.

  31. Chris in Dallas

    March 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I’m just leery of bringing in a pitcher who’s not even old enough to legally drink. Off of the top of my head, I can’t think of a whole lot of guys who have been successful coming up that early right off the bat. Doc Gooden certainly was one. But on the other hand, as talented as he is, Felix Hernandez struggled mightily at first. Bonderman was a mess at 20. I think if you want to compete in ’09, which it’s pretty obvious the Tigers organization thinks it can, you’ve gotta keep Porcello in the minors. Verlander, Bonderman, Jackson, Galarraga and Willis break camp as the starters if I’m managing (this is of course assuming the health of Bondy and Willis continuing to get his mojo back).

  32. Mr. X

    March 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Porcello is throwing like the best pitcher in camp right now. We need him now instead of later. I care for quality over quantity. If we can get 160 quality innings out of him at the MLB level, that’s 160 more quality innings than anyone else we can put in that spot.

  33. Mr. X

    March 10, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    The chances of Cabrera getting traded are slim to none, even if we lose 100 games this year.

  34. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    If they don’t break camp with Porcello, I’d rather he spend the entire season in the minors as opposed to a June call up ala Longoria. My thinking so far has been that the biggest reward for the risk or “rushing” Porcello would come out of the Tigers not feeling like they needed to rush either Bonderman or Willis’ respective comebacks, while picking up some early momentum/wins (presumably).

    As Billfer points out, given the choice between starting a young pitcher – who’s endurance is in question – earlier or later in a season, you’d tend to prefer earlier.

    I also strongly doubt that the management is going to risk Porcello’s future health just to save their collective bacon this season. I can be cynical, just not THAT cynical. Besides, it would mean that the entire organization signed off on the approach, which is unlikely to happen given how much money was spent on acquiring Porcello and how much he could mean down the road.

    The nice thing about having a guy with as high a ceiling as Porcello has is that it forces management to think long and hard about the risk/rewards of bringing him up so early. In the end, in light of what they’ve hopefully learned from last year, I think they’ll only risk him if they’re reasonably sure that: 1) the team will benefit now, 2) Porcello will benefit both now and down the road, and 3) neither’s futures are overly jeopardized by such a move.

  35. Mark in Chicago

    March 10, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Mr. X,

    Was your use of the word ‘slim’ in describing Taco Bell Miguel a coincidence or intended pun? Either way it’s pretty funny.

  36. Mr. X

    March 10, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    coincidence. I have no problems with his plus size as long as he continues to be the most durable player we have.

  37. Andre in Chi

    March 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Mark in Chi,

    Thanks for helping me avoid a double-post!

    Mr X,

    “If we can get 160 quality innings out of him at the MLB level, that’s 160 more quality innings than anyone else we can put in that spot.”

    If everything else were equal, and just based off ability, yes you want Porcello on the team come opening day. The problem is the advantage you have going up against a pitcher that you know will get pulled after 90 pitches, no matter what. Maybe instead of grounding out on a lot of first pitch fastballs, teams start taking many more pitches or fighting / fouling off more pitches just to get him out of the game sooner. I think if it weren’t for this question of endurance, it would be a much easier decision. One can wish the modern game didn’t coddle pitchers, but to act without regard to the reality of the trend doesn’t help either.

    The risk to his “mojo” is harder to quantify, but no less interesting. I think Willis is all the showcase we need as to the bridge between being physically and mentally able to do something. I don’t care how “poised” they say Porcello is or how good his spring training results have been so far, the majors and everything that comes with that (pressure, attention, distraction) can have unforeseen and undesirable effects on a 20 year old.

    I’m not advocating babying him, but there’s a comfortable medium between baby-steps and throwing somebody in the deep end to see if they can swim.

  38. billfer

    March 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Wow, a lot to respond to.

    Regarding Dombrowski: He has proven he knows how to build a championship caliber team. He did it twice with the Marlins (he acquired many of the pieces for the 2nd championship) and he did it with Detroit. He hasn’t shown he can build a perennial contender. I think that is a fair criticism. To say everything he’s done since 07 is bad isn’t accurate though. Most of the extensions haven’t worked out, but Granderson’s did and he did trade nothing for Galarraga last year.

    Ignoring pitching: I don’t think it’s fair to say they ignored pitching. They didn’t have the resources to get pitchers. This is their own doing with the extensions. They also flipped a batter for a pitcher this offseason.

    Service time: The Tigers wouldn’t get in trouble for bringing up Porcello around May 20th or so. Teams do it all the time. But what I’m advocating goes the other way. There’s nothing magical about that time except that a player needs a little over 4 months (plus 2 full years) to reach Super 2 status. I don’t want his health risked either so I say let him pitch the first 4 months of the season. Then when he hits his innings limit option him out. You can still stay under the service time. Plus it gives you 4 months to see if your contending and buying or selling. If it’s the former get a pitcher at the trade deadline if there are no inhouse options. Otherwise sell and anyone will work as 5th starter.

  39. Mr. X

    March 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    So what if Porcello is on a 90 pitch count? Willis, Robertson, and Minor can’t even throw 20 pitches without getting the snot kicked out of them.

  40. Coach Jim

    March 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Robertson is done unless he develops a knuckleball. Even the worst major league hitters can sit on, and crush, an 84 mph fastball (just about what I was throwing in my early 20s).

    Willis is done unless he starts shagging fly balls – we talked about the Rick Ankiel comparison a few weeks back.

    I don’t have high hopes for Bondo just yet. We’re not even sure he can throw every 5 days yet…and if he does, he’s likely to get lit up. I just feel like if He pitches in April, it’s going to be a train wreck.

    I agree with Scotsw roster prediction except Rapada. It’s not that I don’t think he can handle it, I do, it’s that I don’t think Jimmuh likes him. I expect Dolsi to make the team, or someone else that’s 95 and wild.

    I still expect to see a trade like Marcus Thames for Matt Clement.

  41. Mark

    March 10, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I like the idea of not making Willis or Robertson a starter because those two just aren’t the types of guys who will win more than they lose anymore. I think that it would be stupid to rush a guy with Porcello’s talent and ruin either his arm, his confidence or both.

  42. Walter55

    March 10, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    billfer
    the only problem I have with Porcello just the first 4 months is if he pitches well and is one the Tigers better pitchers and come August they are in the hunt then they sit him down most of the fans and most of the players will be flipping out. Even if they explain it ahead of time people would still be pissed.

  43. Mr. X

    March 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    So the minor leagues have some kind of safety net? Pitchers get injured or ruined at every level. Some are just looking for excuses. The workload should be the last thing to worry about. It’s like saying you don’t want a Ferrari because you’ll get to the finish line quicker. If it’s about service time, then it’s like saying that you don’t want to date the Prom Queen because she might dump you in a few years.

    I’ll take my chances with the Ferrari and the Prom Queen.

  44. stephen

    March 10, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Man, if you guys don’t see how a team in the most economically depressed market in the major leagues will find a way of unloading Cabrera if they take a dive this season, then all I can say is take a look at the entire history of baseball in the free agent era. This team loses 85 games and they draw poorly there’s no way Cabrera is going to be on this team come the end of the 2010 season. They will find a way to deal him.

  45. Kevin in Austin (now Dallas)

    March 10, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    No way stephen. Shaving $20M off the payroll to announce to the world that we are in a rebuilding stage is the last thing DD would do. Even if he were to somehow get fired, I can’t imagine a GM coming in here and thinking, “let’s start by trading one of the 3 best hitters in the game, who happens to be 25.” I think you are underestimating the bubble that is MLB. I’m sure more teams will be hit this year and complain of losses (though they’ll never open up their books), but I don’t foresee our current economic times leading to firesales across professional sports.

    Like I said, you can win a WS around Miggy and JV. And they’ll be around for a while.

  46. stephen

    March 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I completely disagree. This team tanks and the economy continues to suck Dombro will be gone and the Tigers revert back to a Pirates/Marlins’ size payroll where their whole outfield won’t make 20m a year. There’s absolutely no way a team in a rebuilding phase can afford him.

    And don’t get me started about building a WS winner around 17 game loser last year and a great, clutch hitter who by the age of 29 could weigh 280 pounds and be relegated to being the MLB’s best DH ever. Which is all well and good, but you don’t a WS built around a 40 hr 130 rbi DH.

  47. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I think Stephen is saying that if GM files for bancruptcy, then Cabrerra is gone.

  48. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 1:05 am

    I’m with Mr. X, if he changes that Ferrari to a Porsche.

  49. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 1:07 am

    And why are my posts one hour behind? Someone forget to change a clock?

  50. David

    March 11, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Porcello needs to be on the Tigers now it is time for him and Perry so yes Stephen I agree with you, and Bill what Walter said is true, and if he is going good I don’t see them taking him out.

    You’ve got the die hards here but that doesn’t sell enough $$$$$and if they tank again, or heck don’t even win 85 games PLUS the economy stays put or gets worse around here you may see a fire sale and Leyland will be gone. I don’t know about dropping Cabrera, but we just won’t have the money to support an aging Polanco, Ordonez, Guillen, Inge.

    Let alone non producers with sizable $$ (Willis and Robertson)
    and afford to give Grandy and Cabby and Verlander and Porcello and Perry and Zumaya and Bonderman and Galaraga and our 09 pick and other young guns pay raises

    Plus he is a draw and the chance is ends up like the BIRD and flames out is slim. Kid looks tough, plus you’re forgetting that the younger you are the more durable your body is – how many injured 25 or younger guys do you see? The only problem could be his mental health – ie too much fame too fast (ala Shelton) or experiencing failure and not knowing how to handle it(ala possibly Verlander??)…but according to what I’ve read it shouldn’t be too much of an issue and he’ll have to deal with some of both sooner or later and we NEED HIM NOW

    AND Sheffield needs to retire
    Let me preface this by saying I don’t put a ton of merit into spring stats but I put some…The guy is 1 for 16!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WITH 5 walks…remind you of anything?
    I know it is hard but let him GO ALREADY, a failed investment is a failed investment

    If he gets the DH spot (WHERE GUILLEN SHOULD BE!!!) he’ll be hurting the team, I’ve said this now for 2 years and I hope he is gone, don’t care about 500 hrs, let him do that in the Mexican League

    Guy is old, and done

  51. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Hopefully Leyland will be fired prior to the fire sale because like Sheffield, he is old and done. And then maybe we won’t need a fire sale after all. I don’t know about the rest of you; but this Spring is making me very nervous. Maybe we should look at the Netherlands; those guys can play some ball.

  52. Kathy

    March 11, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Fire Sale talk, already? How depressing. One player I don’t think will be here next year is Polanco. Jim just loves that Will Rhymes and has said it many times. But I don’t think they would get rid of Cabrera under any circumstances. Sheff isn’t going anywhere until he hits #500. After that, who knows.

  53. Kevin in Austin (now Dallas)

    March 11, 2009 at 6:57 am

    stephen – assuming I give into your scenario, who is going to be the buyer on the other side? Not a NY team. Dodgers just gave up $22.5 per year that they swore they didn’t have. Cubbies? Do we take Derrek Lee? Bo Sox replace Youkilis (who, perhaps, has the most annoying plate approach in MLB history)? He won’t get traded w/in the division. Texas doesn’t need a 1B. LAA of Ana of Cal of USA, world is the only one that makes any sense to me, from a cursory analysis anyway.

    You can reply and then I’ll drop it. Only time will tell. This is what makes baseball so fun – it is a talking sport.

  54. stephen

    March 11, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Kevin you’re exactly right, this is what is great about baseball talk. While I hear you on the first base glut, it’s hard to judge the market now for what would likely be a late ’09 trade or a next off-season deal. Delgado with the Mets is on his last legs, the Dodgers don’t have a real cornerstone 1st baseman. But you’re right, there’s a possibility Cabrera remains a Tigers solely because of the depressed market. And while I will enjoy watching him play, his 20m is going to be just $ that the Tigers don’t have to spend on scouting, bonuses, and other infrastructure. As I said before, this isn’t the only scenario, but I do think it puts an added emphasis on this team getting off to a good start, hence making Porcello in the rotation a possibility.

    So lets all hope for a 25-15 start!

  55. Chris Y.

    March 11, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Regarding Porcello’s mental health:

    First, the Shelton comparison is not a good one. Shelton was never a top-tier prospect, and came to Detroit as a rule-5 pick. He had a couple good months, but his downturn was not “mental” but rather other teams making adjustments and exposing his substantial weaknesses as a MLB-hitter.

    Porcello has routinely been characterized as very intelligent. I think he was even a National Honor Society student in high school. The kid has pitched a perfect game, and so far, the transition to spring ball hasn’t shaken him in the least. I don’t think this kid is going to over-react the first time he gets blown up.

  56. scotsw

    March 11, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Cabrera is staying right here. Remember that Ilitch was the moving force behind bringing him here. It’s probably not DD’s call to move him out. The nucleus of this team going forward is: Cabrera, Granderson, Verlander, Porcello, Perry, Zumaya (yes, I believe in him) and possibly Bonderman.

    This club has been building the minors for several years now, and I believe the plan is to reduce salary by bringing several of those guys along over the next 2-3 years. If the Tigers are competing, money won’t be an issue. If they’re not competing, and need to cut salary in the next few years, wave goodbye to Maggio Ordonez. Guillen’s next contract will be much smaller, as he’ll be a DH if anything. Polanco is also potentially expendable, since Will Rhymes has caught the club’s eye.

    Coach Jim: Yes, Dolsi could be there instead of Rapada… I just think that with all the RH starters, 3 lefties in the pen makes more sense, and I don’t see a huge difference between Dolsi and Rapada. I think it’s a virtual certainty that we’re going to see 5 RH starters in the rotation when the Kittens break camp.

  57. Andre in Chi

    March 11, 2009 at 10:06 am

    “So what if Porcello is on a 90 pitch count? Willis, Robertson, and Minor can’t even throw 20 pitches without getting the snot kicked out of them.”

    Mr X,

    The three pitchers you mention above have not had a brilliant spring training. This probably means less in Miner’s case, as he’s shown himself to be a perfectly capable back of the rotation starter. Willis may still yet have something in the tank, but I think its too early to tell one way or the other. I’ll agree with you that none of them are ideal candidates, but 2/3 isn’t half bad… Do you see the in-game disadvantage of being limited to 90 pitches? Do you see the long-term disadvantage it could pose to the bullpen?

    “The workload should be the last thing to worry about. It’s like saying you don’t want a Ferrari because you’ll get to the finish line quicker.”

    I don’t know what to say in response to the first sentence. ‘Coddling’ pitchers may or may not ironically be responsible for less endurance and more injuries, but since its already been the case with Porcello, the remedy doesn’t seem to be to pretend like it never happened.

    Also, your Ferrari analogy is a bad one. Sorry, but it is. Oversimplification comes to mind, and if I was to continue with the racing analogies I’d say that its more like taking the risk of blowing an engine that could have one you the race to be in the lead after the first lap of the Daytona 500. Wow, you were REALLY fast for one lap, now sit with the pit crew and enjoy the next 3 hrs of rednecks turning left ’cause you’re done.

    Chris Y,

    I still think there’s a world of difference between the level of competition and pressure that he’s faced so far (spring training included), and what he’ll face in the majors. That’s just, like, my opinion, man. I also have no idea how he’ll react, good or bad, I’m just saying its something to consider.

  58. Scott

    March 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I don’t care how badly the economy tanks, no way the Tigers trade Miggs. He’s a cornerstone player and you don’t get better by trading guys like that in their prime. The Tigers have hemmed themselves in with these bad contracts – Sheffield, Willis, Robertson and perhaps Bondo if he can be productive again. I don’t see things changing significantly, as far as adding additional salary for another starting pitcher, until 2011 when these contracts are gone.

    If the Tigers dump any salary this year, I think Maggs would be the prime candidate. If the Tigers are out of it and he’s productive, I could see them shipping him off to some place like Tampa. They’ve got a lot of good young arms and perhaps we could pluck one of them (not David Price, of course, unless they’re really stupid).

  59. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I like Mr. X’s analogy. How complex is this game anyways. You throw hard, you win 17 to 20 games, you screw up your arm, have surgery…. Next.

  60. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Hey; it’s been 25 years. Tiger fans are dying every day. Get that kid out there!

  61. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Pressure? Please.

  62. Andre in Chi

    March 11, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    ron,

    I assume that you triple-posted out of need to rest between thoughts. This is understandable though, considering how well thought out and detailed your posts were.

    Sarcasm? Surely not.

  63. Walewander

    March 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    “but you don’t a WS built around a 40 hr 130 rbi DH.”

    Boston Red Sox, World Champions 2004, 2007.

    I think it’s too soon for Porcello. Start him in Double A, limited count, bring him up in June if we’re in it.

    This team needs to trade for a SP in the worst way.

  64. Scott

    March 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Is it time to hit the panic button with Verlander yet?

  65. greg

    March 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    David – I think Sheffield read your post today.

  66. David

    March 11, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    National Honor Society doesn’t mean much

    I wouldn’t claim to know Porcello’s mental health and how he can handle defeat until I see him for awhile… Having a few writers glow on him and his maturity as a 20 year old is a bit premature imo.

    And what is wrong with comparing him to Shelton? or Mark the Bird Fidrych? or any one year wonder? in this particular way – he hasn’t to my knowledge dealt with massive struggles in baseball EVER!

    Still, I want Porcello to be on the team until he proves otherwise b/c I favor him over the alternative (WILLIS, ROBERTSON, MINER)

    And @ Stephen while I think it highly unlikely that Dombro will trade Cabrera, and the Mets and Dodgers might not be interested – you will have potential suitors in many teams not limited to the Red Sox, Cubs and possibly Angles, Braves, Cardinals, White Sox and of course the YANKEES

  67. David

    March 11, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Greg LOL if only if only,

    another explanation might be he got some easy pitches to hit (ie Sabathia made mistakes) and plus he hasn’t done poorly against Sabathia career (just under .900 OPS) and plus he “GETS UP” for games involving the Yanks

    @ Sheff =p if your reading this do the team a favor, and pull a Higgi – drop off, let us know in the paper we’ll all thank you for it considering your value is (-) and quite possibly you have the most negative influence worst on this team.

    It is like we signed Juan Gonzalez to an extension and can’t let him go after he struggles to hit not his but the short-stop’s weight at the DH slot!!!!!!!

  68. ron

    March 11, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    What pressure? It’s a little boys game.

  69. ron

    March 12, 2009 at 1:03 am

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Oh yeh, Porcello.Seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Yeh, he can get thru six innings on 90 pitches. He’s a stud. Pitching is a thinking man’s position. he could be our ace by August. But that service time thing is a stickler. He and we might have to bite the bullet for the good of the company. We don’t want the kid to get to arbitration too quickly with money as tight as it is. Dombro says that’s no problem. Well see. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  70. ron

    March 12, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Mental health and being a member of the National Honor Society, hmmm….

  71. Rick G

    March 12, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Interesting piece by Ken Rosenthal on Rick Porcello. Looks like they’re leaning toward bringing him up.

    Side topic – anyone else watching “Eastbound & Down” on HBO? It’s the story of a washed up relief pitcher trying to work his way back into normal life, sort of has a “My Name is Earl” feel to it but with a lot of swearing and nudity. I can’t decide if it’s “good” or “so-bad-it’s-good,” but I can’t help feeling I’m watching Joel Zumaya’s future…

  72. Chris in Dallas

    March 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Late to the discussion on this particular topic, but Cabrera goes nowhere. If the Tigers are out of it by the trade deadline, you’ll see guys like Polanco and Ordonez on the block. Both guys deals expire after this year (though there are a slew of options on Ordonez’s contract) anyway. And Sheffield will be off the books. That saves a ton of $ if Illitch decides to go into skinflint mode. The future of the club is Cabrera-Granderson, who are both young and locked up for a bunch of years. On the pitching side, they will likely try to build around Verlander-Porcello until JV flies the coop.

  73. Ryan

    March 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Don’t think Cabrera goes anywhere. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. If the economy continues to tank to the point where the Tigs need to be rid of the contract, no other team is going to be in the mood to lay out that money. Ordonez’s options (I believe) auto-vest if he gets around 500 PA this year, which makes his one year contract a three year, and puts him in the same boat.

    Porcello… god that’s tough, isn’t it? I think the best option right now is JV/JB/Armando/Jackson/Miner. If one of those guys is injured or pitches out of the rotation, it’s gotta be Porcello. If Porcello is on the team though, I’d like to see his every third start go to Nate, who I assume is going to be the long guy this year. Treating Porcello right is worth four or five extra losses. Plus, maybe Nate isn’t obscenely bad and regains a little trade value.

  74. Mark in Chicago

    March 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    If the Tigers are really out of it by the deadline, Chris in D I think you hit it perfectly. Polanco, Ordonez, Thames, Guillen are all moveable parts. Granderson and Cabrera stay put.

    However, I suspect that if Verlander has a year similar to last year, he might be on the block as well. He’s still arb-eligible with a very reasonable contract, and some team desperate for pitching at the deadline might overpay with some top-notch prospects. If you’re truly rebuilding, you can get a haul of good young players for JV and younger players would provide greater cost-certainty. And then you would build your rotation around Porcello and ML-ready prospects you can add via trade.

    Chances are this won’t be the case since I think DD views this as a bit of a transition year (albeit with a chance to contend) getting ready for a leaner, meaner, younger 2010 team. However, if he feels like 2010 doesn’t have quite the promise it does now, you have to think he’d at least consider it and take a longer view.

  75. Chauncey

    March 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Why is it that we Tigers fans have such a propensity to continually bash our team? Trading Cabrera would be absurd. You do not trade a 25 year old that just hit 37 HR, 120+ RBI with a near .300 batting average, especially when he didn’t even really get going until June or so. I agree that there are a lot of contract issues on this team, but the advantage that the Tigers have is that of all the bad contracts on the team, none of them are long term. They get out of the Sheff contract after this year, and Willis and Robertson next year- so really, what benefit would come out of trading Cabrera? Its not as though this team is in total rebuild mode either- like Mark says, they certainly have a realistic shot of contending this year, especially if the rotation comes together.

    As for Porcello, I think the one thing that keeps getting overlooked is that he is going to be throwing 90-100 pitches someplace- either at Erie or in Detroit- so if he is ready from a talent perspective, why not use those pitches in the bigs? If he proves he’s not ready, then send him down. Its not as though he’s being given the job- he’s actually earning it, and has been by far the best pitcher in camp by far. A rotation of JV, JB, Jackson, Galarragga and Porcello is certainly nothing to scoff at either.

  76. Chris in Dallas

    March 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t think “bash” is the right word. Constructive criticism, maybe. I’m pretty sure we all want them to succeed.

  77. Chris in Dallas

    March 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Forgot to add that I saw Sheffield tonked a couple of HR yesterday, including one off of Sabathia. If they can get anything out of him this season, that would be a bonus.

  78. Chauncey

    March 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Yeah, maybe “bash” was the wrong word, but it just seems to me that we all seem to be pushing the panic button a little hard right now. Yes, this team has 4 or 5 bad contracts. Yes, they have 1-2 spots open in the rotation. But name one team outside of the Yankees and maybe Boston that can tell you who all 5 starters are going to be right now. I can tell you this- I would take the question marks over the Tigers starting rotation over what the Indians have at the moment.

    Also, the most encouraging sign for the Tigers so far this ST has been the bullpen, which looks to be much improved, at the least, over last year. I’m not predicting world series for the Tigers, but I do think that they have the pieces to make a serious run at the division.

  79. Mr. X

    March 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Illich has been making good money with the Tigers since 2006. They had a record year in attendance last season. The Tigers attendance will regress, but it will still probably be better than it was pre-2006. The Tigers still create a huge buzz in the Detroit area and those who don’t go to the games at the CoPa will still be watching the games on TV somewhere, either at home or at a bar where they can get cheap drinks.

    $9 beers, $3 hotdogs, and $10-$20 parking is the main thing keeping me from going to games. If the Tigers were smart they would lower the concession prices and mandate cheaper parking just so that they can draw the fans who are looking to get the most bang for their buck. As for right now I’d much rather spend $20 to $40 at a local sports pub and watch the game in comfort, where I’d also be getting great service from the waitstaff. I probably couldn’t go to a Tiger game and get decent seats with less $60 in my wallet.

  80. Mr. X

    March 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    As for pitching, I think the best pitcher again is going to be Galarraga. He looked pretty good in the WBC the other day pitching vs the USA team. Are next best might be Porcello. Then Verlander, Bonderman, and Jackson. Minor could be OK, but he has been a notorious slow starter. We’ll have to wait until May until he starts pitching well.

  81. billfer

    March 13, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I’d be very surprised to see a massive fire sale, and I think it has more to do with finding buyers. Polanco would likely go, but I don’t see a lot of other desirable player/contracts given the market and economy. The Tigers won’t eat $75 million to have Cabrera play somewhere else. Guillen is a considerable injury risk. Ordonez is essentially on a 3 year deal and if he doesn’t vest the option it means he’s injured also making him undesirable.

    They may be able to move Gerald Laird and could probably get a nice return for Justin Verlander. But I’m not sure how a firesale would come to fruition.