Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Should Use Bullpen Depth to Trade for Rick Porcello


As you surely know by now, the Royals have reportedly made Tim Collins and Aaron Crow “very available” on the trade block. With both players entering arbitration, and having pitchers like Louis Coleman, Will Smith, and Michael Mariot all looking for more innings, it does make sense for the Royals to be interested in shopping those two more prominent relievers of the past few seasons.

And where the Royals have excess depth, their division rival Detroit Tigers are severely lacking. With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras both being free agents, the Tigers are looking to bolster that bullpen, which was arguably the weakest part of their team in 2013. Reports are that they are already in discussions with Brian Wilson, and while he would help, the Tigers will need more than Wilson and his beard to close out games for their impressive rotation. Speaking of their rotation, Detroit’s front office would like to move Drew Smyly into a starting role in 2014, and Rick Porcello may be ousted to make room for the young lefty.

The Royals have too many relievers, and having another starter wouldn’t hurt.

The Tigers have too many starters, and having another reliever (or two) wouldn’t hurt.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see where I’m going here.

I know I have always said I’m terrible with hypothetical trades, but it seems like a fairly simple exchange for the Royals to send Crow or Collins (or both) along with a prospect to Detroit for Porcello, who is under team control for two more seasons, and is projected to make a little under $8 million in 2014.

The Royals’ current rotation of James Shields, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura could be a fine group of starters, if Duffy and Ventura pitch to their potential, and if Shields’ peripherals don’t continue to fall off, and if Guthrie continues his work with magic beans, and if Vargas shows he’s worth his contract. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of having to count on all of those “ifs” occurring at the same time. Sure, it could happen, but the Royals would do well to have another pitcher in the rotation who is a better bet to provide the kind of production they’ll need right off the bat.

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Porcello would be an excellent fit with this outstanding Royals’ defense. He’s a groundball machine, posting a GB% over 50 in each of his 5 major league seasons. In addition to that, Porcello’s strikeout rate spiked in 2013, climbing to 7.22 strikeouts per 9 innings, meaning he was less dependent upon his defense than he had been in previous years. For Porcello, that was a good thing, since the Tigers’ defense behind him was very poor, to put it nicely. Granted, his results still suffered, though not quite as bad as one would expect, thanks to his newfound ability to miss bats. Porcello put up an xFIP of 3.19 (Cy Young winner Max Scherzer had an xFIP of 3.16, for reference) but his ERA was 4.32, due in large part to having such a weak defense behind him. The Tigers have improved their defense by trading away Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, allowing them to move Miguel Cabrera away from third base, and also by having Jose Iglesias at shortstop for a full season. However, with Smyly seemingly being favored by the organization, Porcello doesn’t appear to have much of a future with the team.

I’m not the first to suggest such a trade, of course. Pinetar Press’ David Lesky has proposed a trade centered around Luke Hochevar for Porcello. I do think Hochevar would be a solid piece to start discussions, and the difference in the two players’ projected salaries is less than $3 million, meaning the Royals’ rumored payroll restrictions wouldn’t be impacted significantly. But, if the Royals are unwilling to part with Hochevar, it is possible that Crow and/or Collins, and a prospect would be enough of a return for the Tigers to bite. Like I said, I’m awful with attempting to predict hypothetical trades, but the concept of a deal makes perfect sense.

If the Royals truly are committed to building their success based on pitching and defense, it would behoove them to add a pitcher who could slide into that 2nd spot in the rotation. Acquiring Porcello would also give Duffy and Ventura plenty of time to ease into a starting role, without being relied upon to be top of the rotation starters immediately. Porcello has gotten better in each of his professional seasons, and he doesn’t even turn 25 until next month. If he can continue to get strikeouts like he did in 2013, Porcello could provide somewhere around 4 fWAR next year, and he could be a legitimate replacement for Ervin Santana.

Tags: Aaron Crow Featured Kansas City Royals Popular Rick Porcello Tim Collins

  • jimfetterolf

    Porcello doesn’t look much of an improvement over Vargas while Crow and Collins would be a major assets for a Tigers’ team we’re trying to overtake.

    • Hunter Samuels

      Porcello strikes out more and walks fewer batters than Vargas, and gets significantly more ground balls. The K suppresses HR, but a groundball will never get carried out of the stadium on a hot windy day. I don’t hate the Vargas signing (other than the 4th year), but Porcello is a much better pitcher. I also don’t think the Royals overtake the Tigers, regardless of who the Tigers add to their pen. That team is ridiculously talented.

      • jimfetterolf

        Last year looks like an outlier on Porcello’s K rate, his previous best in four years was 5.46 k9. FIPs, homers, ERAs all look comparable, so we’ld trade good value for another #4/5 starter who would keep Ventura or Zimmer or Smith off the field while strengthening a Tigers’ team that we matched up well against last year.

        I just don’t see it, should be other teams needing relief that have prospects to trade, we need to always keep the pipeline full to be able to reload every year.

        • Hunter Samuels

          Porcello is still just 24, so him improving in the K department isn’t that outlandish. He also used his curve much more in 2013, which helped him quite a bit. I get the point about keeping the pipeline full, but Porcello is more than a #4 guy.

    • moretrouble

      I agree, Jim. I’m not sure why KC would want to help the Tigers and vice versa.

  • flan50

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Porcello in KC at all, but depends on how steep the cost is. Bottom line, though, I’d be very surprised to see Moore swing any type of ‘major’ deal in division, especially with the Tigers.

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  • unclejesse40

    I like Timmy Collins and Aaron Crow still has potential to develop into a really good bullpen piece. But with our bullpen stocked and starting pitching being the currency of baseball, I think it makes sense to give up those two if it meant getting Porcello. The question is if it takes more than those two to get him how much more are we likely talking?

  • cardsfanatik

    I agree with your premise here, however, the “pitching and defense” philosophy did not work last year, and won’t work this year. This is an era of offense. You need decent pitching, but if you don’t have a team that can score 4 + runs per game, your not going to be a championship ball club. To many variables when it comes to depending on pitching and defense alone. The old saying that “pitching and defense” win games is just foolish. Shields pitched a lot of games this year into the seventh and eighth innings, while allowing 3 runs or less, just to lose or get a no decision. This team needs more offense. If your going to trade from a position of strength, you need to add to a position of weakness on the return. Trading 2 relievers and prospects makes sense only if its in a package for some sort of middle of the order bat. Porcello would be a nice addition, but simply put, it doesn’t matter if they put Slugger in the rotation this year, if they can’t score more runs.

    • Flatface

      As if we aren’t trying to improve our offense as well. We need another starter, regardless of how much we need hitting. And as for this whole pitching and defense philosophy not working last year, I call BULLSHIT. Dude, just because we didn’t win the World Series doesn’t mean the year was a failure. Best season we have had in 2 decades, and more importantly, THE ROYALS HAD ONE OF THE BEST RECORDS IN BASEBALL OUTSIDE THE TERRIBLE MONTH OF MAY. And I would blame May on their youth more than anything else. How does that not backup the philosophy that pitching and defense win.

      A little more offense and we have a very legitimate chance to not only make the playoffs, but go somewhere in them. We have our leadoff hitter now with Aoki. Just need another starter and a second baseman and we’re set. And adding Beltran too would be the x-factor I think. Playoff experience my friends.

      • cardsfanatik

        First off, if you have to cuss, go somewhere else. Secondly, pitching and defense ALONE DON’T WIN CHAMPIONSHIP’S. How many did Atlanta win with the best rotation that maybe ever took the field together? “Blah, blah, blah, a little more offense, this and that” You have your opinion. I feel like the Royal’s have enough young pitchers, they don’t need to allocate 10-15 million more on that front. It would be better served putting a hitter in the middle of the order who can hit a ball over 410 feet. I can see that you drink the Kool-Aid, so there won’t be much of a point to argue with you. But to ask you a question, which you won’t be able to answer, because your a knee-jerk type of commenter, Where would the Royal’s have finished last year, had they had an offense that could have scored an average of one more run per game last season? You are a fan (or maybe your not) of the Royal’s. When in god’s name was the last time you saw them go out, sign 2 front end SP, and a middle of the order bat out of FA? Vargas is not even a front line starter IMO, but he is consistent and serviceable. And with the young guys we have, why would you want to package 6 years of one of our young guns, for a more expensive version of the same, with less team control, if your referring to the trade proposal above? Not to mention, your cussing at me about a post that is over a week old, more trades and signings have been made, your not going to get Porcello from Detroit now anyway, after Fister to Washington. So brain surgeon, who is on your “trade” list? You gonna give the farm AGAIN for David Price? We don’t NEED another pitcher, would one be nice, yep, sure would, but this team NEEDS an impact bat. Your entire post above sounds like a Yankees fan, “Just need a second baseman, another starting pitcher, oh, and Beltran” So all of a sudden this year, Glass is going to push his payroll up 45-50 million above what he has been? Get realistic before you start yelling at people “Dude”.

        • Flatface

          Wow “dude” (lol I’ve never seen someone get so offended by being called dude). Sorry my good sir. (better?)

          If you actually read my post not looking for a fight, you will see that I was not at all angry. I was not at all putting you down. I was not at all cussing ( I believe I cussed one time. I said bullshit. Soo… what’s the big deal. I wasn’t cussing AT you buddy. And guess what? I can cuss if I feel like it so don’t tell me to leave. Okay?)

          Why do you feel the need to interrogate me? You seem to know a lot about me based on my comment. A Yankee fan? Please… I am a Royals fan. A big Royals fan and have been for years. I drink no Kool-aid. I merely have an opinion (which of course you berate me for hypocritically).

          And yes, I stand by my opinion. All I was pointing out was that yes, we did win quite often last year with terrible hitting for the most part. I do think that pitching and defense is a solid backbone to build a team around, and can win championships. Obviously you need some hitting, and I clearly said I would like us to pick up more. Most importantly we need our young hitters to improve.

          Anyway bud, I have given you way too much energy and politeness for the way you treated me. But I figure a flame war does no good. If I can leave you with a small piece of advice: don’t take out your insecurities on others. I know this is common practice on the internet since you can hide behind your screen, but really, you should take pride in acting more maturely. Don’t go looking for fights. (And I’m sure you think my use of “curse words” is immature. Well, just the opposite. I see merit in all words: literate, slang, curse, CAPSLOCKED, etc. I use words like “dude,” because it offers me the freedom of expression. I mean no harm by it. Don’t go looking for offense in every little thing.)

          And I expect another round of insults any minute…

          • Flatface

            Wow, looking back at your reply to me one more time has made me really angry my friend. I still can’t believe you had the gall to say some of the things you said. Knee jerk commenter? There’s no point in arguing with someone like me? Is this really how you have conversations young one?

            I will answer that question for you btw (you know, the one you said I wouldn’t be able to answer because I’m some kind of moron or something…) Where would the Royals have finished if they scored 1 more run each game? Answer: Playoffs. Yes, you are correct. We would have won many more games. Is that the answer you expected from a knee jerk commenter?

            That still doesn’t take away from the fact that we are losing one of our best starting pitchers this year (most likely) and as you said Vargas isn’t really that good. So picking up another starting pitcher (a quality one) would be smart, especially since we have so many relief pitchers available.

            If our pitching and defense isn’t as good this year, we will need to be that much better at offense. It would be best to try and be as close to as good at pitching and defense as we were last year, and improve a little bit offensively, as opposed to shifting to mediocre pitching and good hitting. At least that is my opinion…

          • cardsfanatik

            If my comment made you mad, I am sorry, I took yours as insulting to what I said. If you read my post, I said that the old additive of “pitching and defense” wins championships is a waste of breath. My meaning behind that is this, IF pitching and defense wins championships ALONE (I should have clarified) then the Royal’s would have won the World Series. Now back to what I am saying about pitching. Dayton needs to find out what he has in the likes of Zimmer, Ventura, Duffy, Dwyer, etc. We have a TON of young pitching “prospects”. But then again, we ALWAYS seem to have a ton of pitching “prospects” that NEVER amount to anything. Before we go out and trade these guys, whom they haven’t even given a shot to btw, they need to see what they have. Or before they go out and commit whats left of the budget for a “proven” starter, instead of an impact bat, when we have all this young pitching, I think is the wrong move to make. If Zimmer and Ventura pitch like big leaguer’s in ST, then they should be on the roster, not wasting arms and years at AAA. I think one of Dayton’s biggest problems at times is his lack of urgency in getting young arms to the majors to see what they TRULY have in them. I find it hard to believe that either/or/or combination of both Zimmer and Ventura can’t hold down a number 5 spot in this rotation. I think both are destined to be much better than that. I just don’t see the point in paying someone 10-15 million dollars to do what these two could do. Matter of fact is, Dayton has NO IDEA what they will do, because they haven’t been given the chance. Its time to start letting some of your young arms prove themselves. If they can’t or don’t, move them as pieces in a trade at the deadline. Now all young arms aren’t going to come out and be aces, but not all are going to be Hochevar’s in the rotation either. And all this nonsense of “saving” their arms, or whatever excuse they give is asinine. Pitchers blow out their arms at AAA just as easy as at the big league level. Guy’s that come out of college at 22,23,24 like Zimmer shouldn’t need 3 or 4 years at the AAA level. Before we start trading off the farm, we need to know what we have, was my entire point. Given the opportunity to pitch, I believe Zimmer will be MUCH better than Porcello, or Fister. But if not given the chance, one will never know. And Ventura in his small sample size last year, looked anything BUT overmatched. Dayton has preached for years, build the farm, compete with “Homegrown” players. Okay then Dayton, sign a bat that produces, and let your young pitchers pitch.

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