Detroit Tigers: Why Detroit Must Trade for a Starting Pitcher

The Robbie Ray/Buck Farmer two headed monster hasn’t worked. After each was utterly annihilated by the Twins (yes those Twins) in consecutive starts, the Tigers need some pitching help. Not only do Ray and Farmer’s struggles hurt the Tigers from a winning and losing standpoint, but it also overtaxes a recently overworked and generally underwhelming bullpen. Each starter lasted on only an inning and a third each against Minnesota.

Maybe the most telling number from the two disastrous games in Minnesota was the lack of established, quality big leaguers Minnesota had in the lineup. The Twins, who are obviously in deep rebuilding mode, had only three legitimate big league starters in the lineup versus Ray—Brian Dozier, Joe  Mauer and Kurt Suzuki. They only fielded two of those players against Farmer (Dozier and Mauer) as Suzuki got the day off.

Detroit hasn’t had to call up too many starting pitchers from the minor leagues in recent memory, but they have had some success with the likes of Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. Ray and Farmer are still young and have room to grow, but for now their numbers are more reminiscent of Andy Oliver and Casey Crosby than Porcello and Smyly.

At this late stage, the best starting pitching options available to the Tigers are those who have cleared, or are in the process of clearing waivers. Should any of those players clear waiver, they will likely have an inflated salary. A factor that might make Detroit shy away.

The Tigers need money to throw at David Price. This is assuming Max Scherzer will leave via free agency in the offseason. If Scherzer does leave, acquiring a quality, moderately priced and not particularly old starting pitcher would seem smart. The team can use that starter to fill the rotation turn of Anibal Sanchez until the former Marlin is healthy. That and a healthy Justin Verlander will push the Ray/Farmer duo back to the minor leagues—something that would be beneficiary for all parties. Once Sanchez is healthy, manager Brad Ausmus can either use the new acquisition out of the bullpen, or use him to occasionally spell one of the other five starters.

For Detroit, the real advantage of having six quality starters comes in the postseason. Most teams wouldn’t be thrilled about using two of their starting pitchers out of the bullpen in October, but this could work for the Tigers. Adding two quality starting pitchers to Detroit’s playoff bullpen would be godsend. Here are some of the many positives-

  • More quality arms: Detroit could use more top-drawer pitchers in the bullpen. Adding two (even if they’re starters by trade) would give Ausmus more options.
  • In-game flexibility: Ausmus can use the two starters to pitch long, effective innings in relief to shield the rest of the bullpen. This could be particularly useful if Detroit is on either side of a blowout.
  • Tense situations: Jim Leyland used Max Scherzer to great effect out of the bullpen against Oakland last year. With six quality starters, Ausmus can repeat this with Scherzer and use one of the two extra starters to take Scherzer’s playoff start. Or he can simply use one of the extra starters, who may be better options than most of the Tigers’ current relievers.

At this point, even if Detroit acquires a starting pitcher in September who isn’t eligible for the playoff roster, but simply helps the Tigers get there, it will be a win. It may not be panic time in the Motor City, but it’s certainly getting close.

 

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