While much of the baseball world is still reacting to the mega blockbuster trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins, the defending American League champion Tigers did some business of their own. Earlier today, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that Detroit has signed veteran outfielder Torii Hunter.
Despite coming off a quick exit in the World Series, the Tigers are not in position to rock the boat in regards to the returning roster for 2013. Hunter is an excellent addition to the core that the AL champs already have. The inhabitants of Comerica Park now figure to turn their attention to bolstering their pitching staff.
In a bit of a surprise, it appears the Tigers are paying more attention to adding depth to their starting rotation rather than addressing the question mark at the end of their bullpen. The whole world witnessed the implosion of closer Jose Valverde as the 2012 playoffs wore on, and Detroit has decided to part ways with their closer from 2012, leaving Valverde to be a free agent.
Phil Coke did an admirable job filling in for Valverde, providing the cover at closer needed to see the Tigers through to the World Series. As a result, Coke would be considered an in house option to try to man the closer role going forward. The Tigers do not figure to spend too much money in upgrading the pen, so the trade route would be an attractive avenue to add to the bullpen of the returning AL champions.
Mean while, the fact that Anibal Sanchez has hit free agency is one reason why the Tigers are focusing on adding to the starting rotation led by ace Justin Verlander. Word is that the team is looking to try to resign Sanchez, but have other free agent targets in mind if they fail to retain their number two starter from 2012.
Enter our Chicago Cubs to the dance floor. The North Siders are coming off the failed, Twitter hyped trade of closer Carlos Marmol. While the team missed out on receiving Dan Haren in return, at the very least it is now public that the team is looking into dealing the at times inconsistent closer.
It is also no secret that the Tigers were interested in starter Matt Garza this past July. As Andrew mentioned in his post regarding Garza earlier today, it was the former Rays elbow injury that handcuffed Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer from dealing Garza at the trade deadline. The injury concern figures to put a lower ceiling on Garza’s trade value this off season, but the Cubs front office will be gauging the market and the possible return on Garza none the less.
At this point, Garza does not figure to earn quite the return the Jim Hendry led Cubs gave up to pry him from Tampa Bay, but if packaged with Marmol to the Tigers, it would be interesting to see what Chicago could get back as they continue to work through an honest rebuilding process and plan.
Considering Epstein and Hoyer took back pitchers like Chris Volstad and Travis Wood in trades they made last off season, a potential return package could include Rick Porcello. The Tigers appear to consider Porcello expendable if they are able to add another starter, and receiving Garza would facilitate that. Porcello is a 2009 Rookie of the Year candidate that is a ground ball pitcher, a perfect fit for the Friendly Confines. The right hander is only 23 years of age and would be under team control through the 2015 season. A move from the AL to the NL would also benefit the youngster as he continues to establish some consistency in his career. Porcello would already come in Cubbie blue with a better career resume than Wood or Volstad could boast.
The rest of the return is where the Cubs front office would turn their attention to the Tigers’ farm system. Some prospect names that jump out based on need include right handed closing prospect Bruce Rondon, left handed starter Adam Wilk, and wiry pitcher Brenny Paulino. The Tigers Top 20 prospects, as ranked by MLB.com, is stocked with several pitching arms, and these names merely represent a picture of the type of package the Cubs could try to negotiate in return.
Rondon is a burly righty that can hit triple digits on the radar gun, but he also shows control issues Cubs fans are familiar with from Marmol. Wilk does not project to be the ace of whatever staff he ends up sticking in a the MLB level, but a left handed starter is worth his weight in gold, and Wilk would be worth a look as a back of the rotation option. Paulino, with his pencil thin frame, represents the text book gamble on a kid with potential that is sky high if his body can fill in even just a little bit.
The Cubs would figure to eat some salary as they have down in past trades, to entice the Tigers to part with better prospects. This is all speculative currently, but the needs of both clubs, who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum contention wise, make both Midwest teams excellent matches as trading dance partners.