Well, we're at it again. Seemingly within minutes of players, agents, and general managers arriving at the MLB Winter Meetings, the 'Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes' trade rumor resurfaced. Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald tweeted that the Tigers and Red Sox have discussed the deal, but talks are "not hot currently."
Let's hope they stay that way.
On the surface, the deal makes some sense. The Tigers could use another outfielder. Boston has too many, and basically zero pitching. Both players have one year left before free agency. Cespedes would even save the Tigers a couple million dollars, giving them more payroll room that could be used for fixing the beleaguered bullpen.
But it wouldn't be a good deal. Porcello has been worth 9.2 WAR to Cespedes' 8.5 WAR over the past three seasons. He is also trending upward, having topped the three win plateau in both of the past two seasons. He logged 200 innings for the first time in his career in 2014, and allowed a career best 3.43 ERA. The only knock against him is his strikeout rate, which took a dive after topping out at 19.3 percent in 2013.
Meanwhile, Cespedes is a bit of a wild card. He posted a career high 3.4 WAR in 2014, but that was largely thanks to an uptick in his defensive ratings. At the plate, Cespedes hit .260/.301/.450, good enough for a .326 wOBA and 109 wRC+. Old school numbers fans will love his 22 home runs and 100 RBI. However, his advanced offensive numbers barely topped those of noted sluggers Kurt Suzuki and Conor Gillaspie.
Okay, that's a bit of an unfair comparison, as Suzuki and Gillaspie had well above average years by their standards. But Cespedes' numbers were par for the course. He has a career .316 on-base percentage and walks in 6.4 percent of plate appearances. The walk rate has trended downward in each of his three big league seasons while his O-swing percentage -- or the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone he swings at -- has risen. Opposing pitchers have figured out that you can get Cespedes out without throwing strikes. He's amazing at punishing mistakes, as the home run totals show, but is rather pedestrian otherwise.
There are other opportunities for the Tigers to improve their outfield. Premium talents like Melky Cabrera may cost an arm and a leg, but lesser players are available. Guys like Nate Schierholtz, Chris Denorfia, or even -- gasp! -- Andy Dirks may not be as good as Cespedes, but they also won't cost the Tigers one of their best starting pitchers. Or a first round pick, which the Tigers will receive if and when Porcello declines a qualifying offer after the 2015 season. Cespedes' contract contains a clause preventing him from receiving a qualifying offer.
So, in essence, a potential trade would be more like Porcello and a first round pick for Cespedes. There is no way I would make that move unless Boston significantly sweetens the pot. Would you?