The Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners have hooked up on a few significant trades over the past several years, including the deal that sent right-hander Doug Fister to Detroit, and the last-decade transaction that shipped Carlos Guillen to the Motor City. The two clubs, like most others, have had conversations over the past year or so, though nothing else has come to fruition. The two could once again match up this winter, however.
The Tigers just fell to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, to no fault of their starting rotation, of course, but there have been reports suggesting Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer could be shopped this offseason. There are others that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski could dangle to try and shore up the club’s weaknesses in the bullpen and outfield, and perhaps create more payroll space to fill the few holes the American League Central champs showed this month.
Rick Porcello, RHP
Porcello is arbitration eligible again and is set to earn a healthy raise from the $5.1 million he earned in 2013. He’s free-agent eligible after the 2015 season but could earn as much as $18-20 million over the next two seasons via the arbitration route.
He’s 25 this December and performed well beyond his 4.32 ERA, posting career bests in strikeout ratio (7.22/9 IP), ground ball percentage (55.3) and FIP (3.53), and may be part of Dombrowski’s trade bait.
The Mariners cannot ignore their rotation, despite the presence of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, or youngsters Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, who appear ready to legitimately compete for a spot in the big-league starting five in March.
It’s worth noting that the two clubs discussed Porcello last offseason.
Austin Jackson, CF
Jackson is also arbitration eligible for two more seasons before free agency and made $3.5 million this past season. He’s a strong defensive center fielder with above-average power, though he will strike out and isn’t of superstar status.
The Tigers aren’t necessarily going to try and deal Jackson, as center field is a difficult spot to fill and it’s not like the club lacks the ability to fund their full payroll, but if they can get package that answers multiple questions and creates additional financial flexibility it’s plausible to think they could make such a move.
If they do so, they’ll either need to acquire a legitimate starting-quality replacement in center in the deal, or be on the trail of the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury via free agency.
Max Scherzer, RHP
I do not see Scherzer, or Tampa Bay’s David Price, for that matter, as a target the Mariners can grab without parting with Walker and then some — which is somewhat counterproductive considering their current state — but there has been chatter that the Tigers could consider moving the CY Young favorite one year before free agency.
Scherzer’s status could impact that of Porcello and Jackson — if the Tigers trade Scherzer, more future funds could be committed to the former pair.
Drew Smyly, LHP
The Mariners would have to view Smyly as a rotation candidate to have serious interest, despite his success in relief for the Tigers the past year and a half, though Detroit could make the same move with the southpaw if they trade Scherzer or Porcello.
The 24-year-old will not be eligible for arbitration for two more seasons, so payroll and salary aren’t factors in the least here — the return package is.
Andy Dirks, OF
Dirks isn’t an everyday player, but as we’ve discussed late this season the Mariners need more legit major leaguers, even those that serve as role players. That’s Dirks. He’s a decent option off the bench versus right-handed pitching and is a solid defensive corner outfielder.
He’s another arbitration eligible as a Super Two this winter, but the salary isn’t much of a deterrent for a part-time player.
I don’t know if the Mariners have exactly what Dombrowski will be looking for in exchange for any of the above players, but the Tigers have pieces that may be available to some extent that GM Jack Zduriencik should have interest in this winter. And all the Mariners have to offer, really, is inexpensive players with a little bit of upside and no salary attached.
There could be a match somewhere, particularly regarding Porcello.