Is Acquiring Rick Porcello Really Worth It?


Per Adam Rubin, on Monday the Rangers “inquired” about Tigers RHP Rick Porcello, which, logically, was most likely prompted by Martin Perez‘s arm injury over the weekend. If I’m Adam Rubin, who is an ESPN New York writer, I’d have no reason to blindly speculate about teams from Detroit and Texas. So from his end, it seems legit; how far the Rangers have been inquiring is very much up for debate.

It did, however, get me thinking about a scenario where Rick Porcello was the 5th starter in the Rangers’ rotation, at least until Colby Lewis returns from injury.

To keep matters simple (if not mildly realistic), for the context of this hypothetical reality, Porcello will be traded to the Rangers, and in return the Tigers will receive SS prospect Luis Sardinas, and a lesser prospect that isn’t worth much.

To begin the season, that would give the Rangers a rotation of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Rick Porcello.

At the end of May, let’s assume Colby Lewis returns from injury and is good to go. If we also assume none of the five Rangers’ starters are injured, that leaves us with 6 pitchers and only 5 spots to put them.

To create equity within the rotation, that would likely mean one of the following scenarios needs to come true:

  • Alexi Ogando for some reason struggles in the rotation, and the team inevitably feels best putting him back in the bullpen. This gives us a rotation of Darvish, Harrison, Holland, Porcello and Lewis.
  • Ogando and Porcello each out-pitch Derek Holland. In this situation, the Rangers probably look to trade Holland, because I can’t imagine they would waste a year of his value pitching in a low- to mid-leverage relief role.
  • Ogando and Holland each show more upside than Porcello, and Porcello is flipped elsewhere for a prospect to compensate for the loss of Sardinas. The rotation would then be what everyone expects it to look like in June: Darvish, Harrison, Holland, Ogando and Lewis.

Another positive to acquiring Rick Porcello would be the marginally added flexibility of not needing to bring Colby Lewis back prematurely. If we do not get Porcello, and Justin Grimm struggles pitching out of the 5-spot, it would stand to reason that both Lewis and the Rangers’ brain trust considers bumping his return schedule to satisfy the need. With Porcello in the last spot instead of Grimm, Texas would be able to take its time with Lewis.

Of course, one often-used and often-true cliche is “you can never have enough pitching”. There’s a reason for that. Pitchers go down with injuries — ranging from fluky to catastrophic — all the goddamn time. Right now, it’s safe to say the Rangers are banking on quite a bit from Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Ogando. If any of those four go down with a ghastly injury that stretches over an extended period of time, our odds of making the postseason dramatically alter (and not in a good way). Having an extra option like Porcello provides both insurance towards a potential injury, as well as a valuable trade chip. His addition would theoretically act two-fold.

Those opposing this plan ask, “Why would we give up a solid prospect like Sardinas, for example, for a 6th starting pitcher?”

I only have two reasons:

(1) Rick Porcello isn’t chopped liver on the mound. In the last three years he’s generated 2.0, 2.7 and 2.9 fWAR, respectively, and brings with him a career 52.3% ground ball rate. If not elite, his GB% is highly, highly, above-average. His career ERA (4.55) is nothing to write home about, though his xFIP (4.10) suggests his ERA should be about a half-run better.

The reason? It’s no secret he plays in front of the worst defensive infield in baseball, featuring Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on either corner, and the inept Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. If you ask me, bringing in a 24 year-old whose career appears to be trending upward, and having him pitch in front of three plus defenders — Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler — seems like a pretty decent idea.

(2) The goal in executing a trade for Rick Porcello is pretty basic; if everything works out according to plan with Colby Lewis, then Porcello becomes trade bait to a team desperate for a starting pitcher. Perhaps a team willing to overpay for a starting pitcher. If he were to bring back a prospect of the same level — or better — than Luis Sardinas, then the Porcello investment would be a successful one. Particularly if he gives us a solid two months of pitching.

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To keep it to fewer words, this is essentially what I’m saying:

  • No, I don’t think the Rangers will make a serious push to get Porcello, mainly because I don’t think the Tigers would give him up for only Luis Sardinas. I can’t see how the Tigers could justify to their fan base that they are giving up a 24 year-old former first round pick for Sardinas, a shortstop who’s yet to see AA, and who isn’t on any top-100 lists that I’m aware of. Perception matters.
  • No, I don’t think the Ranger fan base is particularly thrilled with adding Porcello. I can only assume the reasoning sounds something like, “He’s not even good enough to be one of the 5-best pitchers on his own team.” If you look at the bare bones, three arbitration years of Porcello are much more valuable than however much money he will be making per year. If absolutely nothing else, he would be a pitcher we could gain surplus value from, and if we need to trade him, he would be a valuable commodity on the open market.
  • So long as it didn’t cost us the cream of our farm system (Profar, Olt, Gallo, Guzman, Mazara, Beras, Alfaro), I would be on board with pulling the trigger. Detroit has to do something with Porcello, in all likelihood, because they can’t go into the year with a 6-man rotation. That gives the Rangers more leverage in trade discussions.

Anyway, am I completely crazy? I tried being rational.