Tigers Not Pursuing Trades From Rotation

MLB Trade Rumors

The Tigers added a pair of right-handers to the middle of the rotation early in the offseason. Detroit signed Kenta Maeda to a two-year pact and took a one-year rebound flier on Jack Flaherty. That duo helps compensate for the loss of Eduardo Rodriguez, who opted out and signed a four-year pact with the Diamondbacks.

Detroit president of baseball operations Scott Harris spoke with reporters yesterday at the press conference to announce the Flaherty signing. Most notably, the front office leader downplayed the odds of another significant rotation move — either via an acquisition or trading away someone bumped from the staff by the Maeda and Flaherty pickups.

We did not add Jack intending to trade one of our starters,” Harris told reporters (link via Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press). “We’re always going to listen to opportunities to make trades to make the organization better, but that was not the goal of adding Jack.” At the same time, Harris acknowledged that while the organization is broadly open to stockpiling pitching depth as a matter of due course, he “(doesn’t) know that we’re going to be in the starting pitching market anymore after this signing.”

Maeda and Flaherty step in as veteran additions to a fairly young rotation. Tarik Skubal is the staff ace. The left-hander’s 2022 breakout was cut short by an unfortunate forearm injury that required flexor surgery. Upon returning from a nearly year-long rehab process in early July, he was even better than he’d been before the procedure. Over 15 starts, Skubal turned in a 2.80 ERA while striking out almost a third of batters faced. The 27-year-old kept his walk rate below 5% while averaging 95.8 MPH on his fastball, nearly two ticks higher than he’d shown the preceding season.

Barring an injury in Spring Training, Skubal, Maeda and Flaherty are locks for the Opening Day starting five. The last two spots will likely go to some combination of Reese OlsonMatt ManningCasey Mize and Sawyer Gipson-Long.

Olson and Gipson-Long debuted last season with solid results. The former built a lengthier résumé, pitching 103 2/3 innings over 21 appearances. He allowed just under four earned runs per nine with better than average strikeout and walk rates (24.4% and 7.8%, respectively). Gipson-Long was a September call-up in his age-25 season. He had excellent numbers over his first four starts, allowing a 2.70 ERA with a 31.7% strikeout rate across 20 innings. That came against a very weak group of opposing lineups — the Angels, White Sox, Royals and A’s — but aligns with his minor league track record of running big strikeout tallies.

Mize and Manning are former top 10 picks who have posted back-of-the-rotation results in their MLB time. Both pitchers have battled injury issues, with Mize missing all of 2023 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s at full strength going into Spring Training, although it’s likely he’ll be limited from an innings perspective. The Auburn product only made two starts in 2022 before the injury, so he has 10 innings over the last two years.

Manning has started between 12 and 18 MLB games since making his debut midway through the ’21 season. Shoulder issues sidelined him for a good portion of the 2022 campaign. His injuries last year were more fluky, as he fractured his foot upon being struck by a comebacker on two separate occasions.

That’s seven viable starters. Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo are still on the roster after making 12+ starts apiece last year, although neither pitched well enough that they’re likely in the Opening Day rotation mix. Teams almost never get through a 162-game schedule with only five starters, so it’s not surprising the front office is content to hold everyone in the group. Petzold writes that the Tigers aren’t considering a six-man rotation, though, so there could be camp battles between Mize, Manning, Olson and Gipson-Long for season-opening jobs.

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