Rondon Injury May Fuel Trade Speculation Between Tigers and Blue Jays


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

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.