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Detroit Tigers trade discussion: Porcello/Crosby for Wandy Rodriguez/Jeff Keppinger

OK, this isn't a rumor so much as a discussion thrown out there by a national blogger. Matthew Pouliot, writing for NBC's Hardball Talk, is running a series about what moves playoff contenders could make by the July 31 trade deadline to be ready for the final push.

He suggested for the Tigers a trade of Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello and pitching prospect Casey Crosby for Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez and second baseman Jeff Keppinger.

Pouliot wrote:

Astros fans wouldn’t be too happy with this one, but I think Porcello would have a bright future in the National League and come close to approximating Rodriguez’s success for the next three years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for him in Detroit. The Tigers would have a better chance of making an October run with Rodriguez slotted into their rotation, and Keppinger would be an upgrade at second base.

The way I see it, either top prospect Jacob Turner or Porcello will have to go for the Tigers to land a big upgrade this summer and Porcello is likely the one they’d move first.

I'm not sure if Tigers fans would like it either.

Giving up Crosby doesn't concern me. He's battled some injuries. He's being handled with kid gloves. He's the picture next to TINSNAAP -- There is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Receiving Keppinger is a slight upgrade. At least he doesn't strike out.

Giving up on Porcello for Rodriguez is more of the issue for me.

Just for comparison: The 22-year-old Porcello has a 4.78 ERA (4.15 FIP), 5.25 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. He's stranding 67.4% of runners -- below both his career and the 72% MLB average. I'm not that concerned by his ERA either. He had a hiccup vs. the NL, but held opponents to three runs or fewer in 12 of his past 15 starts dating back to
April 15. In six of those games he allowed either 1 or 0 runs.

The 32-year-old Rodriguez has a 3.52 ERA (to go with a 4.09 FIP), 7.2 K/9 and 2.90 BB/9. He's stranding 82% of runners this year -- that's 11% higher than his career average.

If the idea is that Rodriguez goes deeper into games, that's generally true. We're talking about 6 1/3 innings per start vs. 5 2/3, though. If the worry is about Porcello's recent bunch of bad games, Rodrigeuz allowed five runs in three of his last four starts.

As far as salary goes? Well, Rodriguez is owed about $3 million the rest of this year, $10 million next, $13 million in 2013 and -- if traded -- a player option for $14 million in 2014. Porcello is going to cost substantially less.

I don't give up on Porcello now. I was in favor of trading him a year or two back when every deal for an A-list player started with his name. But that's not the case now. He can't command an A-lister even if one was available. However he is continuing to grow as a pitcher. Maybe not fast enough for as everyone would have hoped, but it's progress. He's walking less, striking out more, still getting ground balls. Just get him a little infield defense help and see what happens.

The problem with trading for a pitcher like Rodriguez -- who in a vacuum would be fine -- is that he just costs too much. The Tigers are not going to be an organization carrying $130 or $140 million in payroll. They have to choose wisely how they spend. Trading for Rodriguez essentially takes away the possibility of either re-signing a young player or finding one on the free agent market in the offseason. It costs the Tigers the value of a cost-controlled player like Porcello.

And trading Porcello for Rodriguez -- by the time you account for Porcello's growth and Rodriguez's likely regression in moving to the American League -- it probably isn't a big upgrade in the long run. Honestly I'd rather see a big bang rental than a costly incremental upgrade. Give me Hiroki Kuroda, basically.

So, no, I don't do it. Detroit just can't trade from the top four in the rotation in order to improve it. This might make David Tokarz's head explode, but they might just be better off seeing what Jacob Turner has in the final two months of the year if they can't find another way to upgrade the rotation.