Starting pitchers could dominate talks leading up to this summer’s trade deadline, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column. In addition to long-discussed trade candidates like White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana, struggling would-be contenders like the Mets, Blue Jays, Royals, and Pirates could put some of their own arms on the market if they’re fully out of the pennant race by July. Olney’s column is well worth a full read for his listing of every potential name on the market, though here are a few of the particular hot stove notables…
- Some evaluators believe the Mets would listen to offers for Matt Harvey if they fall out of the running in the NL East. The former ace has been whispered in trade rumors for a couple of years due to both off-the-field controversy and a seeming likelihood that he will test the free agent market after the 2018 season (Scott Boras is Harvey’s agent). Of course, Harvey’s stock has dropped due to an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, and the righty has been only average (4.25 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB rate) over 29.2 IP and five starts this season. Harvey has been been homer-prone this season and his average fastball velocity is 93.8 mph, two full miles down from his 2015 velocity. Still, as long as Harvey stays healthy, one would think he’d still receive a lot of deadline attention given his past history.
- Gerrit Cole is also a Boras client, and since “there is a wide expectation” that Cole won’t stay with the Pirates when his current deal is up after 2019, the righty could be a deadline chip. Olney writes that some teams felt Pittsburgh was even willing to listen to offers for Cole last year. With two-plus years of team control left, Cole could well be the most sought-after name on the market if the Bucs indeed made him available, though Cole also has a fairly checkered injury history over the last three years. The right-hander has a 3.60 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.5 K/BB rate, and 47.1% grounder rate through 30 innings this season. Dealing Cole wouldn’t necessarily indicate a rebuild for the Pirates, as the team could seek to gain some MLB-ready young talent that could help them make a quick rebound in 2018.
- Some contending teams could also look to shop pitching, as Olney notes that the Dodgers could again try to move Brandon McCarthy after they were unable to find a taker last winter. McCarthy has a 3.10 ERA, 7.76 K/9, and 2.78 K/BB rate through 29 innings, finally looking to be in good form after missing much of 2015-16 due to Tommy John surgery. Of course, given McCarthy’s long injury history, interested teams will surely want to see if the veteran can stay healthy before making any trade offers. In my opinion, I’d think that the Dodgers might want to hang onto McCarthy given the team’s other injury and performance issues within their rotation.
- Even with Zack Greinke pitching well and the Diamondbacks battling for first in the NL West, Greinke’s huge salary will still make the D’Backs open to discussing a trade, rival evaluators believe. Greinke is owed roughly $167MM through the end of the 2021 season, single-handedly accounting for a such a big percentage of Arizona’s current and future payroll commitments that a trade may well be in the best long-term interest of the team. Of course, if the D’Backs are still contending into July, GM Mike Hazen will face pressure to keep Greinke so he can help the club reach the postseason for just the third time in 15 seasons.
- A busier-than-expected pitching market could also lead to some players staying put, as Olney suggests the Phillies could look to extend Jeremy Hellickson and make him a building block of their rotation. Hellickson has a 1.80 ERA through 30 innings this season, though his ERA predictors and peripheral numbers (3.3 K/9, .196 BABIP, 86.2% strand rate, 3.63 FIP, 5.26 xFIP, 5.34 SIERA) suggest that he has been quite fortunate to get such good results. One would think Philadelphia would try to sell high on Hellickson if he keeps outperforming the advanced metrics to such a large extent, though obviously other teams will be wary of those numbers as well.