Mar 14, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Could a deal between the Tigers and Jays involve Porcello after Rondon's season-ending injury? Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Rondon Injury May Fuel Trade Speculation Between Tigers and Blue Jays

Tommy John has struck again, this time taking out the Tigers young, high-powered reliever, Bruce Rondon. Rondon was a high profile prospect due to his ability to hit triple digits, and his tantalizing potential as a late inning reliever.

He had some success in Detroit after being called up from AAA Toledo in 2013, putting up a 3.45 ERA, and a strong K/9 of 9.42 in 28.2 IP. 2014 offered an opportunity for him to have a full MLB season, be a key part of the Tigers bullpen and join the upper-echelon of late inning relievers.

Clearly, that opportunity has been eliminated, and the Tigers have lost a member of their much-maligned bullpen.

They signed Joe Nathan in the offseason to shore up the closer role, but after Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras left via free agency in the offseason, their bullpen is left with plenty of question marks.

Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque offer a couple of high powered arms, but both of them put up ERA’s and WHIP’s above 4.50 and 1.40 respectively. There is a possibility that a couple young guys or spring training standouts could become mainstays in the bullpen this year, but without any reliable arms back there, it’s a cause for concern at this point.

This could present a very good opportunity for the Blue Jays. They have a glut of capable bullpen arms, and simply don’t have room for all of them. They’re considering an 8-man bullpen to start the year, and options are playing a role on who they’re picking because of the fear that they’ll lose someone if they try to sneak out-of-options relievers to Buffalo.

Dave Dombrowski has persisted that they won’t be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, but injuries may be forcing his hand.

A combination of one of Casey Janssen or Sergio Santos, and Moises Sierra could pry one of Porcello or Smyly from the Tigers.

Sierra could be a potential platoon option with Rajai Davis in left for the Tigers, and one of Santos or Janssen could be a reliable, back of the bullpen option behind Nathan.

I have no idea if this is the type of package that would acquire Porcello, who I prefer over Smyly, and it’s pure speculation, but it makes sense on a lot of levels.

The Jays claiming Matt Tuiasosopo yesterday would explain the reasoning behind trading Sierra, and trading one of Janssen or Santos wouldn’t be a huge loss due to the possibility of Steve Delabar taking the closing role, and one of Neil Wagner, Jeremy Jeffress, or John Stilson receiving more responsibility within the bullpen.

Porcello offers exactly the Jays need. A young, groundball inducing machine, who would slot into the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation nicely. Along with having a phenomenal GB% of 55.3, which ranked him third in the entire league, his K/9 increased to 7.22.

His ERA, FIP, xFIP, WAR, and K/9 have all improved at a steady rate the last four seasons. This suggests he’s growing as a pitcher, improving with experience, and a 3.53 FIP last year points to a potential breakout in 2014.

The increase from 5.46 to 7.22 in K/9 isn’t just an outlier either. He reduced his use of his slider from 16% to 6.5%, and increased the use of his curveball from 3.2% to 16.5%. He also increased the use of his changeup by 1.5%. The difference in pitch selection had positive effects on his ability to miss bats.

Opponents made contact 3% less in 2013, giving him a career best contact rate against of 80.7%, which also could explain the big improvement in his H/9 in 2013. His O-Contact% against, which measures how often opponents make contact on pitches outside of the zone, reduced over 5% to 68.8%, and his swinging strike percentage was a career high 8.6%.

The change in pitch selection looks as though it was directly correlated to his K/9 bump, and there’s a good possibility of him being able to keep it there throughout his prime. His sinker has always been very good, but relying on it too much in the past kept his strikeout totals low. More reliance on his developing secondary stuff can explain the improvement on his overall numbers.

Porcello would be a terrific fit for the Jays, and possessing the needs of the Tigers could potentially get a deal done. Even if Alex Anthopoulos needs to throw in another lower-level prospect, I’d be 100% okay with that. Porcello is only 25, could make an immediate impact and be a contributor throughout his prime. Get it done AA.


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  • RyanMueller

    another quality write up Lucas. It would be great to get one of those guys but I just don’t see it happening. If Dombrowski isn’t interested in trading a starter for a closer, because that is what you have suggested, then I would walk away or offer less, like a Wagner or comparable.

    • Andrew van Laar

      Can you elaborate on the Wagner suggestion? I didn’t quite understand what you meant by that. Wagner for a starter or add him to sweeten the pot?

      • RyanMueller

        Sorry Andrew, my ramblings make sense in my head but sometimes don’t make sense when I say them, type them or write them. What I meant was that I would decrease the quality of arm from a Santos to a Wagner if the Tigers GM refused to part with either of the guys Lucas suggested. I consider Redmond, Rogers, and Wagner in the same talent class, which is good but not great. I know wagner is a reliever but he is a guy that I think could close in the majors.

  • Shaun Doyle

    Considering Dombrowski didn’t even consider AA in his attempt to trade Fister, which AA seemed surprised and miffed about, this may be unlikely. I agree with your suggestion though. Great piece!

    • Michael Wray

      I think pretty much every GM in the league was mystified by the Fister trade, not just AA. Maybe if he throws in Sean Nolin it would sweeten the pot since Dombrowski seems to have an affinity for back of the rotation, left-handed pitching prospects.

  • Justin Jay

    Good suggestion, but I’m not sold on Porcello. I think he’s been overrated for some time. He’s had 4 yrs at the MLB level and still hasn’t even cracked 200 IPs, which should be a given for a sinkerball pitcher. is ERA- is 106, which has been his best yet, but is still below avg. Granted there’s a lot to be made about the Detroit D, which explains the better FIP numbers, his WHIP is still up around 1.3. For pitchers in that range last season, they generally sat around an ERA in the high 3 to low 4s. Porcello is no exception. He plays in a pitchers park and still gave up 18 HRs. Stretch that out Buehrle IPs and it’s really not that good.

    Jays missed the boat when Arizona was looking for a closer and a RH power bat. They were stacked with good prospects like Skaggs, Bradley, Owings, and Davidson. Look at what Trumbo brought the Angels in return. Imagine if that was Bautista and Janssen being dangled out there?

    • Kevin

      we don’t have a 5th pitcher man…… who cares if he’s overrated hes so much better than anything we have. one good outing from Esmil has not convinced me he is our guy and our savior.

      • Justin Jay

        A lot of teams don’t really have a 5th pitcher. This team doesn’t have a true ACE. Porcello is another back of the rotation type guy. He can hardly go 6 innings and he’s a sinkerball pitcher. That’s not good. In a rotation of Scherzer, Verlander, Sanchez, and Smyly, Smyly’s the new guy who is a #3 on most other teams. But Porcello? Porcello is a #4 on a poor team, including Houston, CWS, and the Jays… and a 5 or bullpen on almost everybody else. Even the pitching starved Braves could only consider him a 4 right now.

        Esmil’s potential is better. McGowan IS better IF healthy. Dickey (a #2), Buehrle (a #4), Hutchison (a #4. Again, it’s ST. No reason to get excited), Morrow (who knows), and McGowan (a #4) is most likely the rotation right now. The only way Porcello would only get in there is because nobody knows where Morrow is at or to save McGowan’s arm. Both pitchers have have better stuff (Morrow has Ace potential, but is continuing to pitch like shit) then Porcello. The Tigers need a #5 starter and don’t have any minor league players ready. VerHegen and Crosby both can’t stay healthy and have a very limited upside that makes Porcello appear to be the better option.

        • brad

          I would be absolutely shocked if McGowan opened in the rotation. They are looking to get him up to 65 pitches for his next start….. there just isn’t enough time. From what they are saying about him, it looks like he is destined for the pen but might be plugged in if someone gets hurt later in the season. That being said, I love McGowan and hope to see him healthy and in the rotation this year(likely when Morrow goes down in May)

          I think you’re too high on Esmil here. Better potential than Porcello? really? He had 4 good starts and then the league figured him out. In July, August and September he had an ERA over 6. As a starter overall it was 5.18…. with a WHIP of 1.59 and 1.43 for those two time frames respectively. Porcello has put up a few seasons very similar to what came out of Rogers last year but we need to remember he is 3 years younger and has better stuff. Rogers sinker is quite a good pitch when on but Porcello’s is better and complimented by far superior offspead pitches…. I think I got Porcello here

          I don’t see Porcello as a pen arm on any team really(save a few ridiculous exceptions) but as a 25 year old slotting into a 4/5 spot with mid rotation potential if he can learn to stay on top of his sinker(reasonable to expect this to come to fruition for a 25 year old….. but not necisarily for a 28 year old with the same problem).

          I do also like Smyly much better but if Porcello were on the Jays he would/should be a lock for the rotation just because of the terrifyingly poor quality of back end arms

          • Justin Jay

            From what Brooks Baseball says, Esmil’s 2FB/SNK was better than Porcello’s SNK. Not to mention Rogers throws 95-96 while Porcello sits in the low 90s. Esmil has a good SLD. So essentially, that gives him 3 plus pitches. The problem is, Rogers can’t consistently locate them. Porcello can’t either, which is why his numbers aren’t much better. Porcello has 1 plus pitch. Everything else is average. That’s why I like Rogers more. If (really BIG IF… it’s pretty bad) Es-meeee-AL could develop that CHG, it wouldn’t even be a question. He needs something more offspeed.

          • brad

            ehhh I don’t buy it. I caught a ton of tigers games last year and Porcello’s looked way more effective to me. While Esmil has more velocity and movement(really not even a question there… unbelievable) the break point is WAY too early for an effective sinker. Porcello’s isn’t as violent but it’s late and it sinks where it is supposed to…. which is my next (and bigger) concern with Esmil’s sinker. It seems to me like Rogers’ sinker doesn’t sink(at least doesn’t sink as much) when it’s started at the thighs…. which is the ideal break point for a sinker. When he starts it at the knees it has unbelievable sink and run on it but if he throws it for a strike there’s no break….. and it gets smoked. It’s almost like when he aims that 1 foot higher he catches the side of the ball instead of staying on top of it. I think what happened to him is that when hitters figured out that he can’t throw his sinker with good movement for a low strike, they started to lay off it when it looked like it was coming in at the knees(and they could tell his sinker from his 4FB because it broke early)…. which led Esmil to aim higher, catch the side of the ball and get hammered.

            small sample on Esmil but that’s what I saw. If he could develop an effective change(step 1) that’s a game changer…. especially if he could give it a little run and make it look more like his sinker(step 2). If he could then learn to throw the change for a low strike in the absence of sinkers for low strikes(step 3) hitters wouldn’t be able to lay off the low sinker out of the zone and Esmil Rogers would be a phenom.

            Porcello’s already got that change and is a little bit of control and run away from reaching his potential

          • Justin Jay

            I just think Rogers is not consistent with it, much like any of his pitches. At times, his 2FB looks very sharp. Other times, it’s sloppy like you mentioned above. His slider too. Even the placement of it. Ever notice it comes out flat at times, especially when it hangs?

            But Porcello isn’t much better. I’ll admit I hadn’t seen him much lately, but when I first watched him my response was “They’re excited about this kid?” Turner and Smyly I thought were both better than this guy. I saw his start vs the Pirates last season and his FB hit 95. His CHG looks like it has improved to a possible plus offering… but that’s just that one start. Typically, I’ve watched him be a low-90s sinkerballer that goes deep into counts. He had no real out pitch either. So far, maybe he’s experimenting in the spring, but he hasn’t pitched since the 14th, and the results haven’t been good when he has. I’ve just never been sold on the kid. I’m not sold on Esmil either, but I feel like his stuff is better than Porcello’s. He’s on equally as often as off. Porcello you can’t really say that about.