Trade Market For Starting Pitchers

We’ve already looked at the trade markets for catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, corner outfielders and center fielders. Up next is starting pitchers, and there’s never any shortage of starters dealt in the summer trade market. Last year, we saw Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Jake Peavy and Matt Garza get dealt to new clubs, and this year, there have already been a few early moves.

The Yankees acquired Brandon McCarthy from the D’Backs in exchange for young southpaw Vidal Nuno, and the A’s pulled off what could end up as the summer’s biggest deal when they landed both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.

Here’s a look at some of the remaining arms that could hear their names mentioned over the next week-plus (and possibly into August)…

Top-of-the-Rotation Arms

David Price (Rays), Cliff Lee (Phillies), Cole Hamels (Phillies), Jon Lester (Red Sox), James Shields (Royals)

  • Trade rumors surrounding Price have been plentiful, but the Rays’ recent surge and the declining success of division rivals might convince Tampa to hang onto its ace. He’s controlled through 2015 (and projects to earn $18-20MM next year), meaning that any team will have to gut its farm to acquire Price. Acquiring Price is a win-now move that is going to hurt his new team’s minor league system in a big way. The A’s gave up a Top 5 prospect in Russell; their 2013 first-rounder in McKinney; and a 25-year-old righty with five-plus years of team control left in Straily. Price will command a similar, if not more significant package, though as Peter Gammons reported yesterday, they’ll wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before deciding to sell.
  • Lee’s health is up in the air. He struggled in his return from elbow strain and will make at least one more start before the non-waiver deadline. If he’s healthy, Lee is a difference-maker that can lead a rotation for this year and next, though he’s guaranteed roughly $48MM through the end of next season. Part of that is a $12.5MM buyout on a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 that will trigger with 200 innings pitched next year. A deep-pocketed team could conceivably add Lee for two-and-a-half seasons, but that contract limits his market.
  • Hamels is guaranteed just under $100MM from now through 2018, and he has a $20MM vesting option for 2019 as well. He’s among the game’s most consistently excellent pitchers, and at 30 years of age, he still has some prime years remaining. Hamels can block trades to 20 clubs, but among the deep-pocketed teams to which he cannot block a trade are the Dodgers and Yankees. The Cardinals and Red Sox are two teams with a glut of MLB-ready talent that could put together a package for Hamels as well.
  • The odds of Lester being dealt are slim, to say the least, but if the two sides realize that no deal is going to happen until free agency, rival clubs will at least inquire on the possibility of renting Lester for August through October. Boston will be in the mix to sign him as a free agent, regardless, and the return would be significant. Lester has a 2.50 ERA with his best strikeout rate since 2010 and the lowest walk rate of his career.
  • Shields, like Lester, is unlikely to be dealt as the Royals maintain hope for a strong second half that would propel them into the postseason. It would take something like a 10-game losing streak for the Royals to really entertain the thought of dealing Shields, and even then, the team may prefer to simply hang onto him and make a qualifying offer at season’s end.

Mid-Rotation Arms/Innings Eaters/Back-End Starters

Ian Kennedy (Padres), Bartolo Colon (Mets), Jake Peavy (Red Sox), John Lackey (Red Sox), A.J. Burnett (Phillies), Roberto Hernandez (Phillies), Kyle Kendrick (Phillies), Kevin Correia (Twins), Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies), Scott Feldman (Astros), Erik Bedard (Rays), John Danks (White Sox), Justin Masterson (Indians), Brandon McCarthy (Yankees), Colby Lewis (Rangers), Edwin Jackson (Cubs), Ross Detwiler (Nationals), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Mets), Marco Estrada (Brewers)

  • Kennedy has reemerged as a strong starting option, and some may consider him eligible for the previous section of this post based on his strong numbers in 2014. A 3.68 ERA, 2.98 FIP and a career-best strikeout rate (9.5 K/9) combined with team control through 2015 make him an outstanding trade chip for San Diego. The asking price will be lofty, and certainly more than head-scratching package of Joe Thatcher, Matt Stites and a Competitive Balance pick that San Diego sent to Arizona last summer to acquire him.
  • Colon is known to be available, and despite his age and body type, he’s having a strong first season in Queens. The Mets might not trade many pieces this summer, but Colon is the most likely to go, and with a 4.12 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 126 2/3 innings, his two-year, $20MM contract looks like a reasonable price. If a team simply needs some above-average innings behind its front-line starters, Colon is a great fit.
  • Peavy’s name has been popular lately, and while his velocity is down and most of his stats are declining, he’s a serviceable right-hander that can slot into the back of a rotation — particularly in the NL. He’s owed about $6MM through season’s end, and Boston could sweeten the pot by eating some salary. With ready-made replacements like Rubby De La Rosa in-house, the Sox should be motivated to move him.
  • Lackey’s contract has a ridiculously cheap $500K option for 2015 that triggered after he missed a season with Tommy John surgery, and that will be highly appealing to rival clubs. There’s been talk that he could simply retire rather than play for that amount, but that seems unlikely when he clearly has plenty left in the tank.
  • Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, and his stats have declined along with his velocity in 2014. Still, he’s posted a 4.08 ERA and would be of interest to teams looking for a mid-rotation piece to bolster the back of a potential playoff rotation. Burnett has a player option on his deal that he doesn’t seem likely to exercise, barring a poor finish to the season.
  • Hernandez has walked way too many hitters this season, but control hasn’t been an issue with him since 2010, so a different team might think it can help him get back to his low-walk ways. He gets plenty of ground-balls and has whiffed better than six per nine over the past two seasons. With a cheap price tag, he could have some appeal to another club for a very modest return.
  • Kendrick is somewhat similar to Hernandez. He generates fewer grounders and strikeouts but comes with better command, albeit at a higher price tag ($7.7MM in 2014). He’s a free agent at year’s end and won’t be receiving a qualifying offer, so the Phils would seemingly be open to dealing him. Given his down season (4.87 ERA), however, the return wouldn’t be much.
  • Correia’s overall numbers don’t look great, but he’s quietly pitched to an excellent 2.87 ERA over his past eight starts, and he has a 3.96 ERA dating back to May 1. However, his K/9 rate is the lowest in baseball among qualified starters, and he comes with limited upside. A team with a need in the fifth spot of its rotation could do worse, and his modest $5.5MM salary isn’t as burdensome as some similar starters (e.g. Kendrick).
  • De La Rosa, a free agent at season’s end, is sporting a 4.39 ERA that doesn’t look highly impressive on the surface. However, his fastball velocity, ground-ball rate and strikeout rate are all up this year. A move from Coors Field would be beneficial, and he’s already been connected to the Orioles. Other teams have undoubtedly noticed some of his improvements this year, even if a slight increase in walks and decrease in strand rate have hurt his ERA.
  • It’d be a surprise to see Houston deal Feldman just three months into a three-year deal, but the Astros have recently shown a willingness to deal almost anyone. Feldman is having a marginal season, but the Astros did front-load his contract, perhaps making it slightly more appealing in trades.
  • Bedard’s strikeout rate this year isn’t what it once was, and he’s recently shifted to the bullpen for the Rays. A move out of the AL East might benefit him some (he’s been rocked by Toronto and Baltimore), but every division has some tough lineups. The asking price figures to be minimal, but the former ace isn’t much more than a No. 5 option at this point.
  • The roughly $34MM still owed to Danks through the 2016 season drags down his value, but also figures to substantially lower Chicago’s asking price. Danks has a 3.41 ERA over his past 11 starts as well, suggesting that he may be recovered from shoulder surgery that cost him a calendar year from May 2012 to May 2013.
  • Masterson has had a brutal year, thanks in part to a fastball that has dipped by 2.5 mph and a BB/9 rate that has spiked north of 5.00. Currently on the DL for a knee issue, he could possibly be acquired by a team that thinks resting his knee will return him to the form that made him one of the top projected free agents prior to this season. Of course, Cleveland may not be willing to sell low on its former ace.
  • McCarthy has been a sabermetric darling this year, as his 4.8063 ERA doesn’t line up with his 2.87 xFIP or 2.98 SIERA. McCarthy has the best strikeout and ground-ball rates of his career to go along with excellent command. If the Yankees decide they can’t recover from Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury, they could flip McCarthy, perhaps for more than they gave up, as Vidal Nuno wasn’t too steep a price to pay.
  • Solid strikeout and walk rates have helped Lewis post a reasonable 4.11 FIP, but his 6.37 ERA doesn’t look anywhere near as appealing. Lewis’ .413 BABIP will come down, but a contender might not want to wait for his luck to turn around. Needless to say, the asking price wouldn’t be much for any team looking to buy low.
  • Another pitcher whose FIP (4.27), xFIP (3.95) and SIERA (4.13) all suggest that Jackson has been better than his 5.61 ERA, the Cubs would almost certainly be happy to move some of his remaining $26.4MM, but it’s tough to envision too many interested parties, despite a career-best 8.1 K/9.
  • Detwiler has been shifted to the bullpen this year following the Doug Fister trade, despite the fact that he performed well as a starter with the Nats over the past few years. He now sports a 3.61 ERA out of the ‘pen, and he’s controllable through next season. Earning just $3MM this season, he won’t be too expensive after his final round of arbitration.
  • Matsuzaka hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his return to the Mets, but he’s been a solid swingman, making nine starts (4.24 ERA) and 18 relief appearances (2.45 ERA). His strikeout rate is a strong 8.6 per nine innings, but he’s shown his usual control problems (5.5 BB/9).
  • Estrada hasn’t pitched particularly well in 2014, as his strikeout rate has dropped while his walk rate has increased substantially. Always homer-prone, he’s averaged more than two long balls per nine innings this season. He’s controlled through 2015, so a team could buy low on him as a rotation option for this year and next, while the Brewers replace him with Jimmy Nelson (of course, that scenario is just speculation).

Controllable/Young Arms with MLB Experience

Randall Delgado (D’Backs), Tyson Ross (Padres), Tommy Milone (A’s), Hector Santiago (Angels), Felix Doubront (Red Sox), Jacob Turner (Marlins), Shelby Miller (Cardinals)

  • Delgado’s name was somewhat curiously absent from Arizona’s list of untouchable players. Despite being a key piece to the 2013 Justin Upton trade, he seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization, to an extent. Rather than give him a shot in the rotation, the D’Backs inked Bronson Arroyo in the offseason. And now, even with the rotation in disarray, Delgado is in the bullpen. He’s posted a 3.99 ERA and 11.7 K/9 as a reliever, but some clubs may look at the former Top 50 prospect as a buy-low rotation candidate. He’s controlled through 2018.
  • Ross, too, is unlikely to be dealt, as he’s controlled through 2017 as a Super Two player and has broken out over the past calendar year with the Friars. The 27-year-old has the lowest contact rate among all qualified starters (hat tip: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune on Twitter), and he’s posted an even 3.00 ERA since Opening Day 2013.
  • Also controlled through 2017, Milone lost his roster spot when Oakland acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That’s a harsh reality for a southpaw with a career 3.84 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 468 2/3 innings. O.Co Coliseum has no doubt helped his ERA, but Milone profiles as a controllable back-of-the-rotation starter (if not more) and is seemingly without a rotation spot this year or next (when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin will return). Milone’s name will undoubtedly be popular after yesterday’s reports that he asked the A’s to trade him. It’s tough to see the A’s moving him without a pretty strong return, however.
  • With a 4.72 ERA in a dozen starts, Santiago hasn’t fortified the rotation as the Angels has hoped. The 26-year-old lefty has a career 3.61 ERA with 8.7 K/9, but poor control (4.3 BB/9) and some good fortune on balls in play have led FIP, xFIP and SIERA to project something in the low to mid-4.00 range. He’s controlled through 2017 as well.
  • Doubront has been shuffled back and forth between Boston’s bullpen and rotation over the past few seasons, and the 26-year-old could ultimately benefit from a change of scenery. Doubront has seen his fastball velocity decline rapidly since 2012, and his strikeout rate has fallen accordingly. That might dissuade teams that would’ve been interested a year ago from looking him up now. Like many others on this list, he’s controlled through 2017.
  • A former first-rounder and the centerpiece of Miami’s trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, Turner may have fallen out of the Marlins’ rotation plans. With Jose Fernandez, Andrew Heaney, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi looking like the future front four, Turner would be competing with a host of other prospects for the fifth slot. He’s posted a 6.22 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 63 2/3 innings in 2014 and has been in the bullpen since mid-June. Turner is controlled through 2018.
  • Miller was recently shifted to the bullpen after posting a 5.65 ERA over a 10-start stretch. Overall, his ERA is a seemingly passable 4.25, but a 4.79 FIP and 4.88 xFIP suggest that he’s been fortunate to keep it that low. Miller was once one of baseball’s top prospects and was outstanding for most of 2013, which would make him an excellent buy-low candidate. St. Louis may be hesitant to include him in a deal for an impact player, but he’d still be plenty intriguing to other clubs.

blog comments powered by Disqus