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MLB Trade Rumors: Orioles Should Take Chance on Tigers' Rick Porcello

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 24:  Rick Porcello #48 of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the eighth inning during Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series at AT&T Park on October 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

Lost amid the doldrums of late January—where both the meat of the Hot Stove period and the start of spring training are too far away for comfort—come reports that the Baltimore Orioles might be looking to bolster their pitching staff.

As recently as late last week, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Baltimore is interested in Detroit Tigers' starting pitcher Rick Porcello:

Don't let the accompanying report of Jason Kubel distract you. After Arizona dealt Justin Upton to Atlanta, the likelihood of it parting ways with Kubel became remote. But Porcello? He's still very much available...for the right price.

Detroit has an excess of starting pitching, which is obviously a valuable commodity for most potential trade partners. The Tigers are open to dealing Porcello, but aren't exactly going out of their way to do so. They want somebody to approach them. Per CBS Sports' Danny Knobler:

I'll be honest with you guys. I'm not much in the way of a mathematician, and I'm even less of an accountant. I'm not sure exactly who it would take for Baltimore to poach Porcello from Detroit, and I'm not sure how they're to go about making the financial stuff work.

But I am sure that it'd be in their best interest to try.

A peripheral look at Porcello's stats might suggest that he's in decline. Some of the towering 24-year-old's mainstream numbers have gotten worse during his four major league seasons:

Season ERA WHIP H/9
2009 3.96 1.336 9.3
2010 4.92 1.389 10.4
2011 4.75 1.407 10.4
2012 4.59 1.531 11.5

A deeper look, however, suggests that Porcello might not be used goods after all. According to Fangraphs.com, the righty's WAR—an advanced metric that measures his success relative to a league-average replacement—has slowly risen from 2.0 in 2009 to 2.9 in 2012.

Put more simply: Despite the inflated WHIP and ERA, Porcello actually had his best season last year.

That he is valued lower than his actual output makes him a perfect target for the Orioles' thin rotation. Even in a season where (by most accounts) the unit greatly overachieved, Baltimore desperately needed someone like Porcello in the fold.

Here's how the projected rotation's 2012 WAR compares to Porcello's 2.9 (h/t Fangraphs):

Player WAR
Wei-Yin Chen 2.2
Jason Hammel 2.9
Miguel Gonzalez 1.1
Chris Tillman 1.2
Zach Britton 0.7

In summation: The Orioles rotation supposedly "overachieved" in 2012, while Rick Porcello supposedly "declined." And he still would have been neck-and-neck with Jason Hammel for the role of ace?

Without even touching on Porcello's potential (again, he's only 24 and has plenty of room to grow), it becomes increasingly clear that Baltimore would be better with him in the mix. What it takes to get him is up for debate, but given Detroit's current pitching depth, it should be a pittance next to what he deserves.

Let's hope the O's step up and land that value.

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