Last offseason, the Detroit Tigers traded away Doug Fister. This time around, Rick Porcello could be the one to go.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Porcello is drawing trade interest from around the league.

After all, we have heard that Porcello has been linked to the Marlins—per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports—while Jayson Stark of points out that Boston would be a fit.  

So, why deal a pitcher in Porcello who just won 15 games and posted a 3.43 ERA in what was widely regarded as a breakout season?

Answer: for salary purposes.

Even before re-signing Victor Martinez, Detroit had a lot—and I mean a lot—of salary tied up going forward. has a fantastic chart that shows future salary obligations. Even before Martinez’s new contract, Detroit had more long-term money tied up than the Yankees. Yes, the same Yankees that seemingly don’t understand the word “overpay.”

Silly, absurd, exorbitant (maybe even necessary)—any of these terms would be acceptable in describing the salary situation.  

But back to Porcello. The only way Detroit will deal him is to save cash.

The former first-round pick will hit free agency after the coming season, and should he continue to pitch like he did in 2014, he could command upward of $100 million on his next contract. Throw in an arbitration raise this season, and you’re talking about a supersized wad of cash.

Should the Tigers’ general manager Dave Dombrowski decide to trade Porcello before his price tag becomes too expensive, he’ll need to receive the maximum in return.

Dombrowski has played this game before—in 2009 he dealt Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson to New York and Arizona, respectively, to avoid giving either a massive payday.

Granderson and Jackson would later be paid in full, but Dombrowski was able to turn the pair into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke.

Dombrowski attempted the same feat last offseason by dealing Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Robbie Ray, Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi.

The team saved some cash on Fister, but it is left with only Krol after Ray and Lombardozzi were dealt in separate trades. Ray brought back starter Shane Greene, while Lombardozzi was traded for the since-departed Alex Gonzalez.

Ideally, trading Porcello would bring Detroit a return similar to the one received for Granderson and Jackson, but Dombrowski must be cautious and not repeat the Fister fiasco.

Fister has developed into one of the top 20 pitchers in the league, while the Tigers were left with scratch-off lottery tickets.

If Porcello continues on that trajectory (which is perfectly plausible given his performances last season), Dombrowski would need to receive the best possible return. Detroit is in win-now mode and can’t afford another setback similar to Fister.  

In would-be trade talks, Porcello should be marketed as a potential ace, or at the very least a high-end No. 2. The better the perceived value, the better the return. After all, Dombrowski did acquire a Cy Young winner for Edwin Jackson.

Detroit’s general manager should look to emulate his counterpart in Boston. At the 2014 trade deadline, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington flipped John Lackey and a minor leaguer to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.

There are two things of note with the Lackey trade. The first is that Craig and Kelly were established big leaguers with successful track records. Craig made the All-Star team in 2013, while Kelly was an integral part of a deep St. Louis rotation. The second is that Lackey was 35 at the time of the trade.

Sure, Craig and Kelly were in the midst of down years, but Boston acquired a middle-of-the-order bat and a potential No. 2 or 3 starter for a 35-year-old.

Yes, you read that correctly: a 35-year-old.

Did I mention Craig can play right field as well as first base?

You may be thinking to yourself, why do I care how old Lackey is? Well, his age matters because he’s considerably older than Porcello.

Not only is the former Angel a decade older than Porcello, but the argument can be made that Porcello is the better pitcher at this point in time.

It poses this question: If a 35-year-old and declining John Lackey can net two players who were part of St. Louis’ nucleus and are now part of Boston’s, how much can Rick Porcello bring in return?


Miami Marlins

With Miami reportedly interested and Boston a trade fit, the Tigers brass should be asking this terribly long (and unlikely to be similarly worded) question.

Both teams certainly have enviable assets that would tempt Detroit.

Miami is in win-now mode. The Fish gave Giancarlo Stanton enough money to fix a small country’s economy and shipped two prospects to Kansas City for former All-Star reliever Aaron Crow. Ergo, they may be willing to part with some of their talented youngsters if it means winning sooner and avoiding the wait game.

One appealing trade target for Detroit would be center fielder Marcell Ozuna.

Ozuna swatted 23 home runs in 2014 and drove in 85 runs—both exceptional numbers for a center fielder. The Marlins would be without a center field, but given their seemingly aggressive nature on the market, they could find a replacement elsewhere.

Detroit could use Ozuna in a three-man rotation with Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis to cover center and right field. The Marlins center fielder mashed right-handed hitters last season with a .275 batting average. In addition, 45 of his 54 extra-base hits came against righties.

Given Crow’s acquisition and Detroit’s chronic bullpen woes, one of Miami’s many excellent relievers could be part of the return. However, a starting pitcher would be the likely target. Nathan Eovaldi or Jarred Cosart could thrive with the Tigers.

Both are young, relatively affordable for the foreseeable future and happen to possess power fastballs—something that’s more often than not part of the job requirement in Detroit.

Anibal Sanchez flourished in Detroit after coming over from Miami in 2012. Maybe one of these two is the next Marlin to flourish in Motown.

Acquiring Ozuna and Eovaldi/Cosart certainly would be a worthy trade for Detroit, helping the squad win now and later. Losing two of those players would be tough for Miami, but the other side of the coin is that the Fish would be able to pair Porcello with Jose Fernandez and form one of the top one-two combinations in the league.


Boston Red Sox

While Miami has assets across the board, so to speak, Boston’s best trade chips all play the same position—the outfield.

One of the Internet’s finest writers published a wonderful slideshow looking at which Red Sox outfielder is the best trade fit for the Tigers. (It’s not me…really, I swear it’s not my writing…OK fine, it’s me.)

While Yoenis Cespedes has been widely tabbed as a player who’ll be traded this offseason, he wouldn’t be the best fit in Detroit.

Cespedes is essentially a two-trick pony. He has a cannon of an arm and can hit a baseball 500 feet. Other than those two strengths, his game is lacking. Cannon arm or not, he isn’t spectacular defensively. In addition, his on-base percentage during the last two years is below .300 (.298), which is concerning at best.

Instead of Cespedes, Detroit would be better off with Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts. Both possess better all-around games than Cespedes and are considerably younger—Castillo is 27 and Betts is 22.

Corner outfielder, righty-masher and platoon expert extraordinaire Daniel Nava wouldn’t be a bad throw-in, either.

In addition to a bevy of talented young hitters, Miami has the young pitchers to match with hurlers like Cosart and Eovaldi. Boston is a different story. The Red Sox’s young and talented starting pitchers (Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster) have a combined 25 major league starts.

At 26, Kelly (whom you’ll remember from a certain John Lackey trade) may be the best option for the Tigers in any Porcello trade. Kelly played a key role in St. Louis, posting a sparkling 3.08 ERA in 61 appearances and 231 innings.  


In Conclusion

It’s no surprise that Porcello is a coveted player on the trade market. The former first-round pick finally seems to be cashing in on his potential.

Porcello is cashing in on his potential metaphorically, but he could literally cash in on it when he hits free agency next offseason. This likely occurrence will be expensive for Porcello’s employers. Very expensive.

Detroit could cut bait on Porcello, similar to how it offloaded Fister. If this happens, the team’s brass must ask for everything in return, so to speak.

Porcello is a legitimate front-line starter and must be valued as such. “Fister Fiasco 2.0” can’t happen, not for a Tigers team in win-now mode. Miami and Boston are two destinations. While both have exciting players, Miami may be the better option thanks to the Fish’s superior pitching.

The bottom line is that if Porcello is dealt, Dombrowski and the Tigers can’t accept anything less than a king’s ransom.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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