Tigers Open to Shuffling Rotation
Our fantasy writers pined throughout the 2013 season for Drew Smyly to find his way into the Tigers’ starting five. If general manager Dave Dombrowski is to be believed, they will get their wish next year.
The question, per FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, is not whether Smyly will enter the rotation, but whom he will replace. First-year manager Brad Ausmus already has Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello at his disposal. That group of right-handers was both effective and remarkably durable last season, keeping the left-handed Smyly in the bullpen, out of which he made 63 appearances and racked up an 81-to-17 K:BB ratio over 76 innings. On the six occasions when the Tigers needed a sixth starter, they turned to Triple-A call-up Jose Alvarez.
Assuming that Ausmus is not going to employ a six-man rotation, someone will have to go to make room for the 24-year-old Arkansas product, whom Kevin Goldstein pegged two years ago as a future fourth starter. To wit:
- CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported on Monday that either Scherzer—the American League Cy Young Award winner—or Porcello is on the block.
- The next day, Morosi tweeted that Dombrowski is also shopping Fister at the GM Meetings in Orlando.
Dombrowski and his staff must weigh performance, service time, and financial obligations, as well as other teams’ interest, in order to determine which member of the aforementioned trio to export.
- Fister is eligible for arbitration for the second time, after making $4 million on a one-year pact signed in January, and he is coming off of a career-best 3.8 WARP season.
- Porcello, a Super Two player in 2012, is entering his third year of arbitration eligibility, earned $5.1 million on a one-year deal struck on the same day as Fister’s, and turned in 1.2 WARP, a tick below his 1.3-win efforts in 2011 and 2012. The 24-year-old shaved his FIP to a career-low 3.56, improving in that department for the fourth straight year, a run that dates back to his rookie season.
- Scherzer, who figures to be one of next winter’s hottest free agents, is in line for a considerable raise from the $6.725 million salary he took home in 2013. He is set to go through the arbitration process for the final time this spring, and his five-win breakout could put the Tigers in a bind if the sides go to a hearing. If the Tigers were to trade Scherzer, though, they would likely need to be compensated for the sandwich-round draft pick they would receive were he to decline a qualifying offer next November.
None of the three available right-handers has a set-in-stone salary for 2014, and all of them are coming off of what might be considered the best seasons of their careers. That means that any one of them could fetch a bounty on the trade market, particularly as the cost of free-agent pitching soars, but it also means that replacing any of them would be a tall order for Smyly.
As a reliever, Smyly essentially used three pitches: a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s cutter, and a high-70s slider. He turned to his fastball half the time against fellow lefties and 60 percent of the time when facing righties, with the difference coming at the expense of his cutter. Like-handed hitters were utterly baffled, amassing a .189/.225/.246 triple-slash line, but glove-side batters fared much better (.242/.295/.404), perhaps in part because Smyly lacked a changeup with which to throw them off.
Smyly can hold his own as a fourth starter even if those platoon splits hold steady, but righties’ .441 aggregate slugging percentage on fastballs is a moderate concern. They had no trouble squaring up four-seamers over the plate. Although the sample size is small, that is both a blessing and a curse: It may mean that Smyly was unlucky, yet it could also spell trouble the second and third times through the order, unless he adds another offering to the menu.
With the Tigers coming into 2014 as division favorites and legitimate pennant hopefuls, they cannot afford a significant rotation regression, even as Dombrowski plans for the long haul. Hence, the choices Dombrowski makes in the coming months will reveal not only the club’s near-term payroll plans, but also just how good the Tigers think Smyly can be.
Athletics Hope Bartolo Colon Returns on One-Year Deal
Seven years removed from his last two-plus-WARP season, and on the wrong side of 40 as of May 24, Colon delivered 2.7 wins to the American League West champions last year. And he did all of that for just $3 million (plus incentives).
Now, as Oakland tries to earn its third division title in a row, general manager Billy Beane wants to bring Colon back to help his club’s cause. However, after two seasons together—the first of which was shortened by a steroid suspension—the sides may no longer be seeing eye-to-eye.
Heyman wrote on Tuesday morning that while the A’s would like Colon to accept another one-year contract, the right-hander believes that he has three more years left in his arm. Another bargain-bin contract cannot be ruled out, but with Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana asking for a king’s ransom, Colon—who won’t demand a long-term commitment or force his next employer to surrender its top draft pick—could become an attractive option for the plethora of teams seeking reliable starting pitchers.
Although Colon would, as Heyman wrote, provide skipper Bob Melvin with a veteran presence in a rotation otherwise stocked with 20-something year-olds, he would be more of a luxury for the Athletics than for most other offseason buyers. Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin, and Brett Anderson would form a strong fivesome (at least until Anderson’s next injury), and Melvin has a solid sixth option in Tommy Milone.
If Colon latches on elsewhere, the A’s could turn their attention to another familiar face: Tim Hudson. The 38-year-old is already drawing attention from half the league, per Troy Renck of the Denver Post, but might prefer to join a contender as his career winds down. Hudson is the only active pitcher with 200 wins under his belt but no World Series ring to show for them.
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