Tigers Pick Anibal Sanchez Over Rick Porcello

Despite a winding road of reports over the last two days, Anibal Sanchez will remain a Detroit Tiger after all. The club signed the 28-year-old right-hander to a five-year, $80 million deal, keeping him in Detroit through the 2017 season.

Sanchez joins Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister as locks for the Tigers’ rotation this spring, with just one spot left for youngsters Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. Porcello could be the one on his way out — trade rumors have surrounded the 23-year-old since the Winter Meetings, and now the Tigers’ otherwise full rotation will likely push him out the door to make room for Sanchez.

Porcello posted mediocre results through his first four seasons — a 4.55 ERA and a 4.26 FIP. Durability has been a positive — 120 starts over those four seasons — and his accomplishments are much more impressive in the context of his youth. Both his ERA and FIP have improved each year since 2010, and with his prime ostensibly still to come, there’s reason to believe Porcello can turn into a mid-rotation starter (or maybe even a notch better).

However, the Tigers aren’t necessarily in a position to wait. The club already reached the World Series last fall despite missing Victor Martinez for the entire season. In addition, Ramon Santiago, Delmon Young, Don Kelly, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn took 1,719 plate appearances and combined for minus-4.5 WAR. Although Boesch and Santiago remain on the roster, their roles will be diminished, with the others replaced by superior options like Andy Dirks, Omar Infante, Quintin Berry and Martinez. This is a team shooting for a World Series within the next two seasons, seasons in which Sanchez is likely to be definitively more valuable than Porcello.

Sanchez owns a 92 ERA- and 88 FIP- over the last four seasons, significant improvements over Porcello’s respective 107 and 100 marks. Diving deeper, Sanchez’s pitching style appears to be a much better fit for this current Tigers’ roster — specifically, its infield defense.

Porcello thrives on the ground ball. He throws a power sinker averaging 91.4 MPH over 50 percent of the time. The pitch has induced 58.7 percent ground balls over Porcello’s career according to Brooks Baseball, powering Porcello’s career 52.3 percent rate (53.2 percent in 2012). He has solid but not impeccable control — 2.3 career BB/9 — but doesn’t miss many bats. Although his strikeout rate has improved year-in and year-out, his sinker is still a hittable pitch — just a 5.1 percent whiff rate against it — and as such his strikeout rate has yet to break 5.5 per nine innings in a season (5.46 last season).

However, the Tigers infield defense — Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante and Prince Fielder — simply does not suit a pitcher like Porcello. The club allowed the fourth-most ground ball hits last season (fifth most adjusting for errors) and was third-worst in 2011. The Tigers have never been particularly good against ground balls during Porcello’s career — 20th in 2010 and a respectable 12th in 2009 — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise the grounder-reliant Porcello has seen his BABIP on the rise since his first call-up:

The Tigers’ rotation success in 2012 hinged on high strikeout totals — their 8.2 K/9 trailed just the Brewers in MLB and led the American League. Although Sanchez is himself something of a ground ball pitcher — 44.5 percent career, as well as a sharp 0.82 HR/9 — his 7.6 career K/9 and 9.6 percent swinging strike rate will allow him to rely less on his defenders and create more outs on his own. Besides being just a better pitcher, Sanchez’s ability to put hitters away himself makes him a better fit for the roster than the pitch-to-contact Porcello.

What looks like maybe just a one-win gain for the Tigers between Sanchez and Porcello on the basic statistics swells a bit when we account for the team context. Now, the Tigers can use Porcello as a solid asset — a young pitcher in just his second year of four (thanks to Super 2 status) arbitration seasons, under team control through the 2015 season. Detroit can use him to pick up middle infield help — they have little support for Infante and Peralta beyond the replacement-level Santiago — or shore up a bullpen left shallow by the departure of Jose Valverde. In the context of the Tigers — and Mike Ilitch’s lifelong run at a World Series ring — Anibal Sanchez is the better fit for the present.




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40 Responses to “Tigers Pick Anibal Sanchez Over Rick Porcello”

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  1. Marc Vander Vliet says:

    Good point about the infield. I still have hopes for Porcello since he’s only 23 and hasn’t been horrible, but he’s definitely not designed for this team as it stands.

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  2. PiratesHurdles says:

    Porcello for Hanrahan is so glaringly obvious it hurts. Come on get it done.

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    • Eddie says:

      Why take Hanrahan when you can have MARMOL?????

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    • ThirteenOfTwo says:

      Except Porcello is considerably more valuable.

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    • J says:

      The guy was pretty good once, but for a reliever coming off a negative WAR season, there’s no way this happens unless the Pirates throw in prospects.

      Porcello is a league average pitcher at age 23. His ceiling clearly is not that of an ace anymore, but he’s plenty valuable.

      (Besides, Bruce Rondon can probably put together at least -.4 WAR without costing the Tigers pitching depth)

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    • jim says:

      betancourt

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    • Colin says:

      League average starters that put up innings and have no injury history are significantly more valuable than a player like Hanrahan.

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  3. Mike says:

    Porcello to the A’s for some of their OF depth – Crisp or Young, plus some other pieces.

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    • Tim_the_Beaver says:

      Except that they’re arguably just as deep at SP with Anderson, Parker, Milone, Griffin, COLON, Straily, Blackley, Peacock…
      I suppose they could still go for bolstering the middle of the rotation, but it seems Beane really likes his outfielder depth and is intent on keeping it.
      More pressing: A’s need a SS. Still waiting to see if Drew ends up in a Tigers or A’s uni

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    • Big Game Timmy Jim says:

      Porcello is solid, but I’m not sure he is better than Parker, Millone, Griffin, Anderson, or Straily. They don’t have any extra infielders to give up, but might be willing to part with some of their bullpen depth. I don’t think they are a great fit, though.

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    • fuster says:

      the Angels might be willing to give up a better outfielder for Porcello

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  4. Mike says:

    Not sure I understand why Sanchez resigning means Porcello needs to be traded. Smyly should have been in AA or AAA last year, and can absolutely use some more time figuring it out. They should keep Porcello, go into the season with the 5 RHPs + Smyly in the minors as depth, and then have a trade chip at any point in the first four months of the season with Porcello/Scherzer/Fister/Smyly, depending on how big of a piece they want to add.

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    • J says:

      I like this a lot. A lot of this speculation is just trading him for the sake of a trade and the Tigers don’t really have any glaring needs at this point, unless you consider “platoon partner for Andy Dirks” a glaring need.

      There’s no harm in sitting on him for a while.

      Although I’m not sure Smyly desperately needs time in the minors; he’s polished for his age and also pitched well in the majors last year. Maybe for a change the Tigers keep someone in the minors who doesn’t deserve to be there instead of rushing.

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      • Tak says:

        I think Dirks deserves to play every day. He has arguably been better against lefties- 117 wRC+, 5 HR in 104 AB, .288 AVG, 7.0% BB rate, and 8.8% K rate against lefties and 115 wRC+, 10 HR in 429 AB, .294 AVG, 5.6% BB, and 17.0% K against righties.

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    • Jeff says:

      Smyly had a 3.99 ERA, 3.83 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP in the majors last year. I don’t think that means he should’ve been in AA last year. I would much rather keep him in the starting rotation and see if he can improve on those numbers rather than waste him in the minors. He’s also a strikeout pitcher, with an 8.5 K/9, a much better fit for the Tigers than Porcello.

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  5. cpebbles says:

    The Tigers need infield depth? The Cardinals could offer Ty Wigginton and throw in Pete Kozma. In one move, Mozeliak could correct one of his predecessor’s biggest blunders and his own most recent one.

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  6. wiggly says:

    How is the Tigers’ pitching depth behind these 6 guys? Say Verlander breaks a finger….

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    • Dwight S. says:

      It’s not very good, I’d say Adam Wilk or Casey Crosby would be next in line, both of whom are terrible but with their offense and the division they play in they should make the playoffs regardless. And come playoff time that spot wouldn’t be starting anyway. But with that said, unless they can get a clear upgrade somewhere else I’d rather hang onto Porcello. I don’t think they should trade him just because they potentially have 6 starters now.

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    • maeby says:

      You may want to check Verlander’s track record of health. But to answer your question, it’s not great.

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  7. Dan says:

    Porcello and Castellanos for Dickey, and throw in whatever else you have to. Let Smyly work out of the pen for now. If you’re going to go for it, go for it. Castellanos looks like Delmon Young all over again.

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    • J says:

      You probably shouldn’t put much stock in minor league patience stats, particularly when dealing with 20 year olds in AA who just finished hitting .400 at the previous level. Hitting .400 can make you a bit more willing to hack than you might otherwise; doesn’t mean he’s Delmon Young.

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      • Dan says:

        Strikes out three times as often as he walks. I’d say that’s pertinent. Scout types are constantly talking guys like this up, and they always seem to fail because they can’t hit for average in the majors. He probably doesn’t have the power profile to make up for this problem, so if he’s not walking a lot and he’s striking out three times as often, it’s a sign that he is relying on skills that won’t hold up at the highest level. I’m not saying he’ll definitely fail, but I’d say it’s a real good change he will. Enough of a chance to dump him for a win-now situation. Dickey would give the Tigers an incredible rotation, and he isn’t even that expensive.

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    • maeby says:

      Lol, Dombrowski would be fired on the spot.

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  8. montavius says:

    That’s a decent sized longish term contract they handed out. Is there concern this will dwindle the resources and hamper there attempts to extend Verlander in the future?

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    • Tim D says:

      Porcello for Hanrahan and Brock Holt…..

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    • Dwight S. says:

      I doubt it, for one I’m sure the Tigers wouldn’t have signed him if they knew it meant possibly losing Verlander. For another they are already paying Verlander alot annually(20M), so even if they sign him long term it shouldn’t cost that much more annually(relatively speaking). My guess is it would probably be another 7-10, which is obviously alot but this is a team that paid 7 million for Delmon Young and 8 million for a setup guy, so I’m sure they would eat the extra money to get him.

      And finally they are due for a new TV contract in the next few years, and considering that they draw the highest TV ratings of any team in baseball chances are they are going to get a big contract and more money. So no, I don’t think it will hurt there chances with Verlander but I do think that they probably won’t be able to sign either Fister or Scherzer long term.

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    • Tim says:

      Not really, the TIgers have $46m in payroll dropping off by the time JV comes up for a reset. $10M a year extra between JV and Cabby plus the arby uplifts for Maxx Fister AJax and Avila should be covered by that, and the bully spots dropping off look like they will be backfilled (Rondon, Al-Al and VIllareal), as will RF (Garcia) and the DH loss of VMart shift of assets across the diamond w Castellanos playing 3b. Really they just need Suarez to move through the system at SS and find a suitable 2b replacement for Infante…I imagine that one of Fister and Maxx wont be there after 2014 just for payroll balance…but they’ll have Smyly, Jake Thompson, a few other lower minors guys and maybe what Porcello or( I think Max is the one that goes) brings back.

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    • maeby says:

      Dwindle resources in the future? Yes. At the expense of Verlander? Hell no (too important to franchise, they’ll give him a blank check if that’s what it takes). At the expense of Scherzer (FA in two years, Boras is his agent)? Most definitely.

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      • Matt C says:

        What some people don’t realize about the Tigers owner Mike Illitch is that he owns alot of businesses surrounding Comerica Park, most notably Motor City Casino. So his other businesses benefit greatly by getting fans(who usually reside in the suburbs) to go to downtown Detroit to see the Tigers, since many of them frequent his businesses before and/or after the game. So even though he says he spends all this money to win a World Series, more than likely he spends it because he knows that a winning team means more attendance at games and more people to visit his other business ventures.

        Basically what I’m getting at is people always say the Tigers can’t operate with a high payroll, and they cite his revenue through the MLB and Tigers as a reason why, but I’m saying that that is misleading because he doesn’t just gain money through baseball when the Tigers do well. His other ventures do as well, which is a big reason why he can continue to operate with a high payroll.

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  9. montavius says:

    Makes sense as you say it I couldn’t see a situation were they would he willing to risk Verlander

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  10. montavius says:

    Seems more like there picking Sanchez over Fister/max long term. I don’t think they should feel they must trade him as its and organisational weakness behind the Big league rotation. They would certainly need bull pen help and a good pitching prospect to perk up the talent coming through. Theu could look to get a deal like Gregerson and Erlin from the Padres, speculation as there one of the teams rumoured to be intrested.

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  11. Kyle H says:

    Orioles should be interested. I know they have a ton of depth at pitching but it is often lacking in quality and durability. I have a feeling Porcello is going to come much cheaper than fangraphs would think

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  12. Porcello for McNutt and Watkins of the Cubs? I think Porcello could do well in Chicago with Barney and Rizzo on the right. With Castro up the middle and possibly Stewart at 3rd that’s a real nice defense compared to the Tigers.

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  13. WrigleyIvy22 says:

    What about an Alfonso Soriano-Porcello trade? The best option at left right now for the tigers is Dirks and Alfonso was worth almost 3 more wins above than Dirks last year. Plus Soriano’s defense was a lot better last year. The Cub’s would pick up most of his contract for a quality young pitcher like Porcello.

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    • Dwight S. says:

      That’s actually not a bad idea. As a Tigers fan I would be down with Soriano if CHC picked up a good portion of his contract. Even if his defense isn’t as good as it was last year I think that would be ok considering Jackson is in CF and can cover a ton of ground and Hunter would man the other corner spot and he is still a plus defender there.

      Offensively he would be a great fit, he gives them more HR pop which they need and he hits lefties great which is something that the team struggled with last year. If they got him they would have a plus offensive player(in regards to their position) at every spot on the field, so their offense could be deadly. Throw in the top of the rotation and they should be the heavy favorites to win the World Series.

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  14. Ben says:

    I don’t think this means the Tigers have to trade Porcello right now. If anything I would wait until the trade deadline to make a deal. Porcello is still really young so I think it’s too early to give up on him.

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