This offseason, Detroit will likely be forced to part with one of their starting five.
As the Tigers reach the midway point, it’s not too early to begin thinking of a solution to this dilemma. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer both have incredible value in very different senses, so which one is a wiser pick?
Let’s start with the obvious choice (And probably future New York Yankee) Max Scherzer. At 29 years old, Mad Max put together a season that made Justin Verlander blush. The reigning American League Cy Young wanted upwards of $200 million, and the Tigers were only willing to bet $144 million on him.
His 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts, as well as a career high in innings pitched wasn’t enough for the Tigers to take the bait on Scherzer, and he bet his future on the 2014 season.
At 11-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 19 2014 starts, Max appears to be poised to command the kind of cash he wanted, though it would be unwise to assume Max will continue at this pace for years to come.
Fangraphs is showing a slight but noticeable decline in his average fastball, and his extremely violent delivery will hinder his ability to continue to pitch at this pace.
Age is also becoming a factor. The Tigers recently signed Justin Verlander, who had just reached his 30s. To this point in 2014, Verlander has struggled. Do the Tigers really want to ink another massive and long contract on a pitcher that will turn 30 on July 27th?
Rick Porcello, meanwhile, is a seasoned 25 years old, four younger than Max, and has just 12 less career victories (72) than Scherzer (84).
The wheels appear to be turning in Ricky P’s head. At 11-4 with a 3.53 ERA, his numbers continue to improve season to season.
He has now put together six consecutive seasons with 10 or more regular season victories. Rookie Ricky pitched in the infamous game 163 against the Minnesota Twins in 2009. Though the memories of that fateful evening in the Metrodome are predominantly negative, Porcello’s stellar start as a 20 year-old should not be dismissed.
Rick Porcello is a starting pitcher with a bevy of incredible experience at 25, and it appears better seasons are still ahead of him. He finished 13-8 in 2013, one win short of his 14-victory rookie campaign.
Now, he is four victories away from setting a new career high with two and a half months to earn them.
The Tigers could stall and sign Rick to another one-year deal, or go all-in and somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-90 million on a long term contract, and have his prime years ahead of him. If Rick were to have 20 win seasons in 2015 and 2016 on one-year deals, they could risk losing him during his prime and be forced to overpay for his post-prime years.
It becomes obvious that the Tigers could more than afford to allow Max to walk and give him a thank you card and gamble on Rick for over $100 million less, giving them offseason options to fill space with a plus lefthanded bat/right fielder, the option to hang on to Victor Martinez, or possibly another starting pitcher if Robbie Ray doesn’t pan out.
The Tigers World Series window does not close if Max leave, rather it could (Emphasis on COULD) be aided by Max going elsewhere. It frees up money for the Tigers to become flexible this winter.