Will There Be An Elvis Sighting In Detroit?


*Author’s note: The following is a typical, “need to stretch my thinking after a frustrating loss” article.  Not to be confused with the more factual and positive “I feel good about the Tigers right now so I will discuss how great they are” article.

Jim Leyland shows up to the ballpark everyday and ponders his lineup options.  He and his coaches look ahead to upcoming pitching match-ups, talk to trainers about how the players are feeling, and go through the game plan for that night’s opposing starter.  In other words, they are taking it one day at a time.  To them, there is no 2013, it all comes down to this season, this series, this day.

Such is not the simple life of Dave Dombrowski and his front office cohorts.  While they certainly hang on every pitch of every game, they must also check the box scores of minor league affiliates, chat with scouts, check the waiver wire, and, unavoidably, they must plan for 2013.  They will look forward to Andy Dirks next at bat, and also ponder if he is an everyday player in 2013.  They shudder as Brennan Boesch swings at a pitch out of the zone, and fret over his role next season.  They cheer as Max Scherzer racks up another strikeout, and ponder what a contract extension would look like.  Finally, they watch Johnny Peralta’s ups and downs continue, and notice that Jurickson Profar will likely be called up by the Texas Rangers.

I may have thrown you off with that last one.  Who is Profar and why would his impending call-up matter to Dombrowski & Company?  Jurickson Profar is the top prospect in the Texas Rangers system (and one of the top in all of baseball), he plays shortstop, he is only 19, and…well…he’s very good at baseball.  If the Rangers are considering calling up this prized player, they must think he is ready to handle big league pitching.  Profar has played at AA Frisco this year, hitting .280 with 14 home runs and an .823 OPS.

The Rangers currently employ Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and…well…he’s pretty good at baseball, too.  Playing as a regular since he was 20, Andrus has a career .276 average, steals 35 bases a year, and has made two All-Star teams.  He has also experienced the World Series…twice.

The Rangers believe Profar has a higher ceiling than Andrus.  Not only that, but Profar would likely be under team control through 2017 at the earliest.  Andrus, meanwhile, has probably shown everything he can do (not that its bad), and will be a free agent in 2015.  So, as some insiders have suggested, Elvis Andrus may be on the trading block this off-season.

Andrus would have no shortage of suitors, and since the Rangers don’t have to trade him (Profar could easily spend 2013 in AAA) they will hold all the bargaining power.  The Tigers would certainly have an interest in Andrus, but so would the Rays, Red Sox, Mets, Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and likely more.  It will come down to who has what the Rangers want.

If the Rangers sign Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton (which they are likely to do), their biggest need will be a starting pitcher.  If the Tigers were to make a run at Andrus, it would likely cost them an established, controllable starter like Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, or Max Scherzer.  It may cost another minor player, but no one of real consequence.  The dominoes would fall then, and the Tigers would be left searching for another starter on the free agent market.  They could start by making an offer to Anibal Sanchez, who, contrary to what we’ve seen, would be a decent replacement.

My assumption is that Nolan Ryan would covet Rick Porcello, a ground ball pitcher to pitch in a homer happy park.  Porcello is similar to Andrus in many ways.  They both debuted at 20 years old and are in their fourth full season.  Porcello is not a top tier starter, just as Andrus is not a top tier hitter.  But they are both valuable.  They will even make a similar amount of money over the next couple of years.

So, Tiger fans, would you do it?  Would you trade Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, or Doug Fister for Elvis Andrus, and consequently attempt to sign Anibal Sanchez?  A chance to have a solid, young shortstop for years to come is hard to pass up.  Good pitching, however, is tough to give up.

Once again I am taking a nugget of truth and diving into an elaborate hypothetical, but, as we have learned from Dombrowski over the years, nothing is impossible.