With the Blue Jays in obvious need of at least one quality, established Major League starter to add to their 2013 rotation, they’ll be looking to both the trade and free agent markets to make an acquisition. A week ago we looked at the free agent market for pitching, and now it’s time for the much more difficult task of trying to find what may be available in trade, starting today by looking at the American League…
I’ll do it anyway, but the American League Central is about as poor a division as any in which to begin scouring the Majors for potential starting pitchers to acquire in an off-season trade, as three of the five teams are essentially bereft of starters themselves. The Twins dealt free-agent-to-be Francisco Liriano this summer, and will likely lose Carl Pavano and Scott Baker to free agency as well, leaving the surprisingly effective Scott Diamond as their top holdover starter, with not a whole lot in behind him. In Kansas City, with apologies to Bruce Chen, the Royals don’t have adequate pitching assets of their own, let alone any kind of surplus to deal from, and while Cleveland has Justin Masterson, they don’t have much else in this department, and the impetus to deal their top pitcher would seem likely to be quite low.
So… we’re left looking at basically just the two division leaders, Detroit and Chicago.
The Tigers have four solid arms– Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello– healthy, productive, and under contract for next season. Top pitching prospect Jacob Turner may have been able to step into this group as well, had he not been dealt mid-season to Miami for Anibal Sanchez. With Sanchez just a rental, assuming he isn’t re-signed, the Tigers will be looking for some kind of rotation help this winter. It’s possible that they will add more than one starter, which could push one of the two youngsters, Porcello and Scherzer, onto the market (if so, I’d suspect the former), but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
For the White Sox, both Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd have options, with only the latter’s being cheap. Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana (that creep can roll) all seem set for the rotation, and with the club’s payroll down $30-million this year from its 2011 level, you’d think that at least Floyd will be back, and if not Peavy himself, another addition will be made, potentially making Floyd movable.
There isn’t not a whole lot here, as Floyd’s name has been rumbled about since last winter to no effect, and he’s done the White Sox no favours by pitching to a 4.80 FIP this season. Scherzer would be a fantastic pick-up, as he’s seen an uptick in velocity this year, his strikeout rate has gone up, batters are swinging and missing on him more, and he’s got a pair of under-market arbitration years left before free agency. But, obviously, it’s for all of those reasons that Tigers would be reluctant to move him. Porcello could possibly come a little more easily, and cheaply, but it’s not like there is a whole lot the Jays have that would appear to be a fit for a team eyeing MLB-ready pieces in preparation for another playoff run in 2013– especially when that team has Victor Martinez and Alex Avila at catcher, a left side of the infield that appears set, and– if you really want to stretch the definition of what the Jays can offer that’s Major League-ready– a spectacular centre fielder.
Concerns about trading within your division ususally tend to get a little overblown, mostly because there’s a serious gut-punch aspect that looms over them, with the possibility that you may wind up making a deal that will help one of the clubs you can least afford to see get better, at your own expense. I mean, imagine having made the Aaron Hill for Kelly Johnson deal with the Baltimore Orioles instead of the Arizona Diamondbacks. PUKE!
Yet, if a GM is convinced that a trade makes sense, and makes his club better, there’s really no good reason to let that trepidation force him into taking a lesser deal from a club outside his division, so we’d better explore what’s available in the AL East, just to be safe.
The Yankees seem to not have a lot of moving parts in their rotation, with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova returning, Hiroki Kuroda likely to re-up, and Michael Pineda heading back from injury as well. If anything, they’ll be looking to add, not subtract. The Orioles have old number one, Wei-Yin Chen, and Jason “Cole” Hammel coming back, plus Dylan Bundy coming fast, and Jake Arrietta and Chris Tillman having better seasons than you probably think. There’s not a lot of surplus here, unless you’re really interested in Tommy Hunter or Brian Matuz, which… you shouldn’t be.
The Red Sox’ roster could potentially be in flux, and it’s possible they might look to move someone like Josh Beckett, or maybe even Jon Lester, but I think there’s too much cost and too much risk involved for those to be realistic possibilities. Tampa, on the other hand, has pitching that ought to be available. Ken Rosenthal wrote this week at Fox Sports that the Rays should consider moving David Price in exchange for a boatload of young talent, and while you never know with the Rays, I’d imagine such a scenario is pretty unlikely, and that Price, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson will be back next year to anchor their rotation. Two of Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jeff Niemann could very nicely round out that group, provide some depth, and also allow the Rays to save some money by moving a seventh starter, “Big Game” James Shields.
Shields still has two option years left on his contract, at a price ($21-million) that is definitely palatable to a club like the Jays, and potentially too much for the cash-strapped Rays– though with Carlos Pena, BJ Upton, Kyle Farnsworth and others coming off the books, it’s certainly not like they need to deal. What the Rays do need, however, is more production from behind the plate, as the club’s catchers have combined to hit for a .255 wOBA in 2012. Now, clearly JP Arencibia would only be enough to start a conversation, but maybe then add a reliever or two to help offset the potential loss of bullpen free-agents-to-be Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and JP Howell, and perhaps you could find a prospect package to seal a deal that genuinely helps both clubs.
The AL West seems in the abstract like it would be a good division for the Jays to pry some pitching away from, as there’s no worry about giving up great pieces to a team they’re fighting for a division title with, yet they’d at least be acquiring a pitcher who has a track record of success in the American League. But like just about every other division, there isn’t really a club with a tremendous amount of surplus pitching who might be looking to deal, nor is there anyone– even, perhaps, the currently red hot Mariners– who seems all that likely to make their 2013 club worse by dealing an established pitcher for prospects– which, of course, represents the Jays’ biggest and best reservoir of trade capital. That said, there may be some possibilities…
The Angels have Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson locked up, with Dan Haren heading into an option year and likely to be back. Zack Greinke will be a free agent, though, and Ervin Santana has been below replacement level this season, meaning the club is more likely looking to add than subtract.
The equation for the Rangers is a little bit different: while Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt and the now-injured Colby Lewis are free agents, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish look set for 2013, and Scott Feldman has a $9-million option that may get picked up. Neftali Feliz will eventually be back in some capacity, Martin Perez is a ready-made cheap option, and Alexi Ogando could possibly return to the rotation as well. That’s a lot of names, but we saw this year that Texas is just fine with having a wild amount of pitching– and that sometimes they need it, and then some.
There is always the pipe dream of prying Felix Hernandez away from the Mariners, but he’s under contract for two more years, and it would be an extremely hard pill for the Mariners to swallow to deal him this off-season and essentially admit that they’re hopeless until 2015 at the earliest. Beyond him there’s Safeco creation Jason Vargas, free-agent-to-be Kevin Millwood, and– with apologies to Blake Beavan and Hisashi Iwakuma– not a whole lot else. The A’s, though, always seem open to dealing, and have some intriguing arms they may be able to spare, even though they’re set to lose Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy to free agency.
Jarrod Parker is having a terrific first year in Oakland, while Tommy Millone has been decent, if only at home, Travis Blackely has been a nice surprise, while AJ Griffin and Dan Straily are up-and-comers, and Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden both returning from injury– Braden has recently suffered a setback, though it’s too soon yet to suggest his 2013 is in jeopardy.
Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli will come off the books for Texas if they don’t re-sign, which could theoretically put the Rangers into the market for a free agent starter and make some of the current staff available, but even if Napoli leaves and they non-tender Geovany Soto (who’ll likely get a raise in arbitration on the $4.3-million he’s making), I don’t think Jon Daniels is crazy enough to be tempted by catching help into dealing someone like Derek Holland, despite his having a down year.
Looking at things another way, the Mariners have three outstanding pitching prospects getting very close– including James Paxton, who we know the Jays had a bit of a thing for– so if Seattle wants to go down the Pineda-for-Montero-type road again, and the Jays aren’t as insistent on acquiring an established pitcher as we’re maybe thinking, maybe something works there (um… Jake Marisnick, anyone?).
Most intriguingly, though, I think is the possibility of an A’s pitcher, and specifically Anderson. He’s not without health risk, as he’s coming off of Tommy John surgery that was performed mid-2011, following a 2010 that was plagued by elbow issues also. Because his surgery was mid-season he’s just now getting back into action in the Majors, giving us a chance to see him down the stretch. Still, there may be lingering questions about his health that drive the price down this winter, and he makes $5.75-million next year, with club options for $8- and $12-million the following two years, which may have Oakland viewing him more as a trade chip than a long-term piece, especially with other arms performing nicely in his absence.