Last week we discussed the possibility of the Colorado Rockies swinging a deal with the Miami Marlins, piggybacking on the Edward Cabrera for Brendan Rodgers rumors that were floating around. The concept was simple: the Marlins need to add some immediate punch to their offense while the Rockies would be wise to invest in a high-end starting pitcher whose club-control will align with the arrival of the next wave of prospects.
But Miami is not the only club that is searching for offense that could possibly offer a promising young arm in return. While the Marlins showed poorly in runs scored last season, no team was worse than the Detroit Tigers who scored just 557 times in 2022.
So far, the team’s hopes to improve in this area mainly hinge on top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene blossoming into impact hitters. Beyond that, the club will depend on Javier Báez earning his 6-year, $140 million contract, along with whatever is left in Miguel Cabrera’s tank in what is likely the final year of his contract (and possibly career).
But the offensive woes are a little more understandable when you consider the Tigers identity during their rebuild has been formed around pitching. The organization has selected a pitcher in the first round six times in the last seven years and has had at least one pitcher in MLB’s top-100 prospect rankings every year since 2017.
That prospect lineage is largely constructed by three arms: Matt Manning, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. All three have graduated to the majors in recent seasons and represent a potential target that could be worth exploring for the Rockies.
The crown jewel of the group so far is Skubal, who is also the only one not selected in the first round of the draft. The 26-year old lefty posted a 2.9 fWAR in 2022 with very healthy strikeout and walk rates of 24.5% and 6.7% before undergoing flexor tendon surgery in August.
He is set to miss a large portion of the 2023 while he recovers and so will Mize, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in June. A former first-overall selection out of Auburn University in the 2018, Mize looked to be turning a corner on fulfilling his lofty expectations after a respectable 2021 season. However a poor start to the 2022 season before landing on the injured list with an elbow strain – which ultimately lead to surgery – has cast doubts on his outlook.
Both Mize and Skubal will reach arbitration-eligibility after 2023 and before reaching free agency following the 2026 season. They each have immediate overarching concerns about their health, which should deter any team from acquiring them before they are addressed, but still posses the talent to become premier rotation anchors.
That potential – and health concern – also applies to Matt Manning. Like Mize and Skubal, there was some concern about his pitching arm because of forearm tightness. But, unlike his teammates, Manning did not need surgery and all indications are he will be healthy for the start of the 2023 season.
Manning also differs from his peers when it comes to track-record and remaining years of control. He exhausted his rookie-status in 2021 but has less than 150 MLB innings to his name with a below-average 16.2% strikeout-rate and 116 ERA- to this point in his young career. But he also carries an extra year of control, not reaching arbitration until after the 2024 season and free agency until after 2027.
So, while there is risk involved with each arm there is also still enormous potential. And Detroit has not been shy about adding more pitching in recent seasons, selecting highly-touted arms like Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden in the draft along with promising acquisitions like Reese Olson and Wilmer Flores to provide reinforcements in the upcoming seasons.
This perceived depth could lead to Detroit becoming flexible in moving one of their young big-league arms. If so, a potential match between them and the Rockies begins to make even more sense when you consider where the Tigers are in serious need of an upgrade: second and third base.
Last season, Detroit’s 1.4 fWAR from 2B ranked 21st in the league while their 3B output of -0.3 was 26th overall. What value they provided largely came defensively, as the .584 OPS from their 3B was the third-worst mark in baseball while the .553 at 2B ranked dead-last.
From the Rockies perspective, this aligns with the most attractive established players the team has to offer, Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon. It’s valid to wonder if Rodgers’ remaining years of control meshes with Detroit’s timeline or if they would be financially willing to take on Ryan McMahon’s contract in a deal. But overall, it’s a very sensible starting point for any trade negotiations as either would offer a significant upgrade for an ailing Tigers’ offense.
Detroit has some infield talent along the way, but those most impactful are expected to still need another two or three seasons of minor league development. And the clock is ticking for them to start making strides with the young talent they have. If they choose to move an arm like Manning — or Mize and Skubal after they’ve shown they’re healthy — to help jump-start their franchise, the Rockies may be wise to get involved.
★ ★ ★
Very sad news came out late Sunday evening as Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The 12-year veteran is set to begin treatment immediately. On behalf of the Purple Row staff, we wish the best for Hendriks in his recovery and hope to see him take the field again soon.
★ ★ ★