Just after the Detroit Tigers walked off with a 3- 2 victory over the Houston Astros for their fifth win in a row on Saturday night at Comerica Park, the rumor mill churned out reports that the club may be in the market for starting pitching. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the team has been "increasingly involved," looking for No. 3 or 4-type starters.
Morosi specifically mentioned Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and Los Angeles Angels’ starter Hector Santiago. While there have been slight rumblings regarding those two before, Sunday brought new names to the table when ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the Tigers have also expressed interest in Wade Miley, Edinson Volquez, and Erasmo Ramirez — in addition to Hellickson and Santiago.
As the August 1st non waiver trade deadline draws near, the Tigers find themselves just one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the final wild card playoff spot, and 4-1/2 games behind the division leading Cleveland Indians. The Tribe made a big splash with the news that they have made a deal to acquire Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers for three prospects, although the trade is dependent on Lucroy waiving a no-trade clause.
Hellickson is a 29-year-old right hander who will be a free agent after this season. In 21 starts, he has a 3.70 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and struck out 109 batters against 29 walks in 131 innings of work this season. His downfall is that he has allowed 19 home runs. He holds a career ERA of 3.90 with a 4.35 FIP.
Santiago is a 28 year old left hander who has another season before he can become a free agent. He holds a 4.25 ERA with a 5.05 FIP with 107 strikeouts and 57 walks in 21 starts over 107 innings in the current season. He has been hot recently, allowing just seven earned runs in six July starts. In five seasons, he has posted a 3.68 ERA with a 4.61 FIP.
It stands to reason that Santiago would cost more in terms of trade pieces than Hellickson because of the extra season of club control. Hellickson is earning $ 7 million this season, while Santiago has a $5 million salary with a year of arbitration for 2017. The Phillies have no reason to hang onto Hellickson, so he is likely to be traded before Monday.
Miley is a 29-year-old lefty pitching in his sixth year at the MLB level and his first with the Mariners. In 19 starts with Seattle this year, he's tallied a 4.98 ERA, 4.75 FIP, and averaged 9.4 hits per nine. The walks aren't egregious, but his 1.4 HR/9 stands out, and his 6.6 strikeouts per nine aren't a particular strong suit. It is somewhat of an abnormal year for Miley considering his FIP has rested in the high 3s for the last four seasons, going nearly 200 innings dating back to 2012.
Volquez's 4.70 ERA and 4.26 FIP aren't miles better than Miley, either. He's given up 9.3 H/9, walks batters at a higher rate, and strikes out an average of 6.8 batters per nine. He averages a home run per nine, too, and has started a league-high 22 games to this point. And while Ramirez's 3.88 ERA may be better than Miley and Volquez, the 4.54 FIP tells another story.
That Ramirez has given up 9.7 H/9, walked 2.4 batters on average, and allowed 1.3 HR/9 in 41 games isn't confidence inspiring. All three of the latest names mentioned are true back-end pitchers with moderate contribution.
The Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly shopping a few pitchers, all with some years of club control remaining. Right hander Jake Odorizzi has three years remaining before free agency, Matt Moore has three team friendly options, and former Tiger Drew Smyly has two seasons of arbitration remaining before free agency.
Starting pitchers with seasons of club control are a hot commodity, and will be expensive to acquire. The Tigers’ general manager Al Avila has said that the club does not want to trade their top young pitching prospect, but that is not realistic if the team is to add a starting pitcher before Monday’s deadline. Avila told reporters that standing pat was the most likely scenario for the club at this year’s deadline.
Farther down the pay scale, the Arizona Diamondbacks have designated pitcher Josh Collmenter for assignment. The 30-year-old right-hander from Homer, Mich. and Central Michigan University has a career ERA of 3.54 over 659 innings, mostly as a starting pitcher. However, he’s been limited to 22 innings of bullpen work this season after coming off the disabled list.
The Tigers are expecting to get Jordan Zimmermann back shortly, but they have announced that Anibal Sanchez will make at least one more start, this coming Tuesday. Daniel Norris is also rehabbing, but progress has been slower in his case. Zimmermann figures to replace Sanchez in the rotation, and Norris could replace Matt Boyd or Mike Pelfrey at some point, barring a new acquisition.
The New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded their closers, growing the list of teams who are in "sell mode" at the trade deadline to at least half of the clubs in major league baseball. While the market for starting pitchers is reported to be expensive, the more sellers and the fewer buyers there are can only bring trade priced down, perhaps into the Tigers’ buying range.