The Detroit Tigers have reportedly lost starting shortstop Jose Iglesias for an unknown but extended period of time, and now have some level of interest in Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, multiple league sources told 1090 The Fan and Prospect Insider. The Tigers could look to lure free agent Stephen Drew, who shares the same agent as does Iglesias — Scott Boras — but he’d cost a multi-year deal plus a draft pick.
One caveat: It’s difficult to imagine any team, especially a contender such as the Tigers, dealing away a club-controlled regular in a deal for Franklin. It fills one hole, but creates another. For example, some have wondered whether or not the M’s could sweeten the deal to try and pry centerfielder Austin Jackson from Detroit. Despite the presence of Rajai Davis, doing so would create a hole in center for the Tigers, both in the field and in a lineup that sacrificed some offense when they traded Prince Fielder to Texas over the winter. The Mariners do not have a replacement to offer. The same goes for prospect Nick Castellanos, who projects to be the Tigers’ starting third baseman this season.
Drew Smyly, LHP
Smyly is the No. 5 starter for Detroit as the spring schedule nears the final two weeks, which on the surface suggests he might be available in trade. The problem is, the Tigers do not have a clear replacement. Left-hander Kyle Lobstein may be closest, but he’s made just one start this spring. Trading one of their five starters the third week in March creates some issues getting the next arm ready.
They traded away Doug Fister this offseason and did not possess another big-league ready arm. Smyly profiles as a No. 4 starter, perhaps a shade better, but he spent 2013 pitching out of the bullpen — very well, by the way — although he was solid, posting a 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 19 starts in 2012.
If I am Seattle, who had interest in the southpaw when they eventually dealt Fister to Detroit in 2010, I’d love to have Smyly, but if he’s the headliner in a trade for Franklin I’d pass unless there’s another similarly-valuable piece coming back, even if that dictates sending another player to Detroit with Franklin.
Rick Porcello, RHP
Porcello is a pitcher Seattle showed interest in a year ago, but things have changed a bit since then. For one, he’s now just two years from free agency. Secondly, he’s set to earn $8.5 million this season with another arbitration raise on its way before 2015. The same rotation issues for Detroit apply here as for Smyly: Who replaces Porcello?
Porcello’s salary could also be a significant issue for Seattle, but what’s far more concerning for me is the lack of club control. Franklin is two full years from arbitration eligibility and five years from free agency. The value in controlling a player’s contract and reaping the benefits of his team-friendly salary is understated.
Robbie Ray, LHP
Ray was part of the return package from Washington in the Fister trade, but is not ready for the majors, nor does he profile as more than a back-end starter or reliever. The changeup is solid-average and his fastball jumped a grade to the 90-95 mph range in 2013, but the breaking ball is below-average and appears at least a year from becoming more than a show-me pitch.
Jake Thompson, RHP
Thompson, among the scouts to which I have spoken, is a better prospect than is Ray if you’re looking for probability, and he doesn’t lack upside and projection, thanks to a 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, 92-94 mph sinking fastball, potentially-plus slider and promising changeup. He’s working on a true curveball that could end up a fourth weapon. Still, Thompson is likely 2-3 years from threatening the majors as a reliable rotation candidate.
other than the obvious need of starting pitching the Mariners also could use an infuse of young, athletic outfielders, but the Tigers lack such talent, both in their farm system and on their projected 25-man roster. Torii Hunter is nearing retirement and has one year left on his contract, while Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Davis are part-time players that lack the upside of an everyday player.
It’s also worth noting that the Tigers do not appear to have any catching depth from which to deal, something few clubs have, all clubs are seeking and willing to consider accepting in any trade.
Again, it’s difficult to find a match here, but if somehow Smyly is a player the Tigers are willing to discuss, a deal could be built that could make some sense. I’ve stated consistently and from Day 1 that any return for Franklin absolutely should consist of talent that helps the Mariners’ 25-man roster right away, not in June or July, not in 2015 or 2016. Right now. That’s what Franklin is to the other team, and that’s what his value to the Mariners should be, regardless of the fact that there is no regular place for him to start 2014.
In the end, I’m not confident a deal will be struck between the two clubs, unless each agrees to expand the trade to include multiple pieces heading in both directions, though that concept complicates the process and likely lowers the chance any trade is made at all.