First Brandon Morrow strained his oblique. Then Kyle Drabek felt an ominous pop that’s being called a sprained UCL. Finally, Drew Hutchinson heard a pop of his own and developed elbow soreness. You know, at the rate you guys are losing starting pitchers, you’re going to have to resort to sticking Brett Cecil back in the rotation one of these…oh, wait. And I don’t know anything about this TBD guy you have starting on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s clear that, if they’re going to stay competitive in the AL Wild Card hunt (they’re currently three games back of the second wildcard), the Jays are going to have to find some help over the next couple weeks. Things are so desperate that the Jays have already been linked to Jeremy Guthrie, who the Rockies just put on the market yesterday. That’s the same Jeremy Guthrie who has a 7.02 ERA this year, with 30 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched. Any port in a storm, I guess.
But here’s the problem for the Blue Jays: Everybody else in contention seems to need arms this year, and the Jays will seemingly have to outbid every one of them.
The Red Sox finally are getting some production out of Clay Buchholz and have gotten a lot more out of Felix Doubront than anyone expected, but Josh Beckett just went on the DL (his golf card is already full) and they have legitimate questions about Daniel Bard (now at AAA) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (coming off of Tommy John Surgery). Things are so desperate they turned to failed phenom Franklin Morales last night, his first start since April of 2009. Plus, the Sox have Kevin Youkilis to dangle in any trade offer, and dynamic prospects in the low minors that would interest clubs like the Cubs, who have Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza on the market.
With Ted Lilly outhe Dodgers are also supposed to be in on Dempster, according to Danny Knobler, though it’s hard to see what they’d have to offer over other clubs. Dee Gordon wouldn’t be available, and guys like Scott Van Slyke, Ivan De Jesus, Alex Castellanos, and Jerry Sands don’t have the pedigrees needed to outbid anyone. It’s also hard to see where Dempster would fit, given the emergence of Nathan Eovaldi in their rotation.
Knobler also links the Yankees to Dempster too…but why? Andy Pettitte’s worked out far better than anyone could have hoped, and both Phil Hughes and Ivan Noval are more than adequate on the back end of the rotation. And it’s not like they can offer up Dellin Betances (5.91 ERA, 58 BB, 61 K in 67 IP at AAA). Wouldn’t any discussion have to begin with Manny Banuelos, unless the Cubs are willing to wait around for Gary Sanchez? And isn’t Banuelos (and Sanchez) way too high a price to pay for a rental like Dempster? Still, they’re in the hunt, it sounds like.
The injuries Doug Fister has suffered in 2012 have left the Tigers more reliant than ever on guys like Drew Smyly (good!), Casey Crosby, and Adam Wilk (bad!). Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer continue to underwhelm, and Jacob Turner (3.43 ERA, 19 BB, 27 K in 42 IP at AAA) seems to have regressed at Toledo. Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos (.382/.432/.514 at A+ and AA this year) would be huge pickups for the Cubs, or the Astros if they wanted to move Wandy Rodriguez.
Or maybe those clubs would look to Arlington, where the Rangers have now suffered through six starts by Scott Feldman since he replaced the injured Neftali Feliz, all losses. Feldman allowed 28 runs in 25.2 innings in that stretch. Roy Oswalt is gearing up in the minors, but can’t be viewed as anything close to a sure thing, given that he’s given up 10 runs in 15 innings so far. And Martin Perez (4.90 ERA, 36 BB, 45 K in 75.1 IP at AAA) appears to be at least a year or two away at best. So with Adrian Beltre ensconced at 3B through 2015, Mike Olt (hitting .313/.419/.605 at AA), and maybe Perez could be on the table for the Cubs.
The Indians’ only starter with an ERA+ above 90 is 39 year old Derek Lowe. The team is 13th in a 14 team American League in ERA, 12th in hits allowed, 13th in walks and 13th in strikeouts. But they’re only a game and a half back in the weak AL Central, and a decent arm might help push them over the top. They have shown a willingness to overpay for pitching in the past (Ubaldo Jimenez, who is now part of the problem in Cleveland). They don’t really have a lot to deal. One would think that Francisco Lindor is fairly untouchable, but Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, and Zach McAllister might interest somebody like the A’s (if Brandon McCarthy or Bartolo Colon gets healthy quickly)or the Mariners (Jason Vargas or Kevin Millwood).
Atlanta was supposed to have young pitching on tap to start 2012, but then Arodys Vizcaino needed Tommy John surgery, Brandon Beachy hurt his elbow, Jair Jurrjens fell apart and Mike Minor disintegrated. Julio Teheran has pitched well, but the Braves are more hopeful that Kris Medlin can convert to starting, despite just 23 career professional starts going into the season. The Braves don’t have much to deal, however, unless they’re willing to move Teheran, which they won’t be. It’s hard to see anyone being excited over Tyler Pastornicky.
The Pirates have been trying to make a believer out of Grant Brisbee, and sit four games back in the NL Central and right in the middle of a robust NL Wild Card hunt. They’ve used Brad Lincoln since Charlie Morton succumbed to needing Tommy John surgery (Hey, just like Roy Halladay that one time!). Lincoln, the former #4 overall pick, is making the most of his shot, with a 3.82 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. But there’s little in his track record to suggest that he can keep this up. He’s already 27 and has a career 4.19 ERA at AAA with 7.4 K/9. They won’t move any of their young pitchers, but toolsy centerfielder Starling Marte might make an attractive target for the Padres, if they wanted to move either Clayton Richardson or Edinson Volquez.
Anyway, the point is, the Blue Jays need help. Far more help than Jeremy Guthrie can provide. Supplies are incredibly limited though, with way more buyers out there than there are sellers. And that’s not even counting the Minnesota Twins, who are actually running out of starters at AAA to fill out a rotation. And if they’re going to get it, they’re going to have to compete with just about everybody else for every single arm available, coax Dave Stieb out of retirement, or fold on what could be their first chance at the postseason since 1993.