Mar. 7, 2012; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jacob Turner (50) pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Can we dispense with this "Trade Jacob Turner for ______" stuff? With the Tigers failing to run away with the division like some predicted and the emergence of Drew Smyly, it seems more and more popular to call for the trade of Detroit's top prospect.
As much as anyone, I have a track record of saying it's fine to trade prospects for established major league players. Several years ago I agitated for moving Rick Porcello and I do not regret it in the least. I'm sympathetic to what you've got going on.
But you're going about it all wrong.
Trading your top starting pitching prospect for some middle of the road second baseman makes absolutely no sense at all. (That's not a straw man, it's an actual suggestion I've seen in the comments on Bless You Boys.) Nor does it make any sense to trade your prospect for some bullpen help.
What the Tigers have in Turner is a 20-year-old, well-respected pitcher who has a lot of potential. Whether he ever reaches that No. 2 or No. 1 rotation status is anyone's guess. Not every prospect is going to reach his ceiling. But potential has value, either way.
On the other hand, TINSTAAPP -- "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect" -- is a rather blunt assessment and often used incorrectly. There is clearly such thing as a pitching prospect. Justin Verlander was one once. So was Clayton Kershaw. So were a bunch of Tampa Bay Rays. So were a bunch of other young, high-quality pitchers. When you think TINSTAAP, you should just be reminded that there's no guarantee a pitching prospect turns into a major league stud.
What Turner offers a team is value. There's a huge value to be gained if he reaches the major leagues and he's every bit as good as advertised. There's still a lot of value to be had if he isn't as good as advertised. What's the going rate for a starter at the back end of a rotation? Well, the Tigers paid Brad Penny $3 million plus incentives. The Royals are paying Jonathan Sanchez $5.6 million this year. I'm sure you can come up with your own list.
The point is, you're going to pay starting pitchers millions of dollars even if they're not that good. That is, unless the team has control over the pitcher. In that case, teams pay major league minimum -- or maybe a bit more depending on the exact details of the contract.
So if you trade Turner, you'd better be getting a high-quality player in return who your team only has rights to for the short term, or player with similar potential to the pitcher.
Trading Turner also creates another problem: Depth. Do the Tigers appear to be an organization overflowing with pitching depth? They went into spring training with five or six candidates for a spot in the rotation. Turner battled tendinitis. Most of the candidates couldn't put more than two or three good innings of baseball together at a time. Thankfully Drew Smyly grabbed the bull by the horns -- as he has mostly continued to do at the major league level -- or Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski may have been seeking out veteran rotation help.
What if a rotation member is injured, such as Doug Fister was to begin the season? You saw how that put not just the rotation, but the bullpen as well, out of sorts. Can a Tigers club that went all-in this year be certain that no others will battle injuries or effectiveness? Do you really want to trust Adam Wilk or Andy Oliver?
The sensible thing would be to keep Turner around -- unless an offer absolutely blows away team executives -- and look to deal from other areas of the organization. Maybe, for example, a young catching prospect coupled with others might interest fellow teams.
The Tigers will almost certainly be making moves this season to fill a few obvious holes. But trading Turner to plug them is almost certainly not in the best interest of the organization.