MLB Trade Rumors: Re-Ranking Pitching Market After Recent Trades, Signings

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: Re-Ranking Pitching Market After Recent Trades, Signings

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    The 2012 trade deadline has finally picked up some steam, as a number of moves have gone down in the past few days, with more undoubtedly on the way.

    This year's market is deep on starting pitching, and some of those chips have already fallen with Wandy Rodriguez traded to the Pirates, Anibal Sanchez traded the Tigers and Cole Hamels re-signing with the Phillies.

    Following those moves, here is an updated look at the top 10 starting pitchers on the trade market, as well as the most recent rumors surrounding where they could land.

Kevin Millwood

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    Stats: 19 GS, 3-8, 4.13 ERA, 80 Ks, 109 IP

    Contract Status: Free agent at season's end

    Signed off the scrap heap to a one-year, $1 million deal, Millwood has been a solid starter for the Mariners this season with nine quality starts, including a shutout of the Rockies back in May.

    If he is moved, it likely won't be until right before the deadline, when Plan A and Plan B fall through for a team and they are left with him as a fall back option.

    According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Dodgers have shown interest in him, although it seems like they've shown some level of interest in virtually everyone on the market, so take that with a grain of salt.

Paul Maholm

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    Stats: 20 G, 19 GS, 9-6, 3.88 ERA, 76 Ks, 113.2 IP

    Contract Status: 2013 team option for $6.5 million (no buyout)

    One name that has gained momentum in the past few weeks is the Cubs' left-hander Paul Maholm, who has been brilliant in his last six appearances (five starts).

    Over that span, he has gone 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings of work. As a result, he has joined Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza in trade rumors.

    According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Royals and Pirates have shown interest in Maholm. Now that the Pirates have acquired Wandy Rodriguez, they may no longer be an option; however, more teams could come forward and pursue Maholm if their top target eludes them.

Jason Vargas

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    Stats: 21 GS, 10-7, 3.91 ERA, 91 Ks, 138 IP

    Contract Status: Arbitration eligible through 2013

    While rumors always pop up about the perennially unavailable Felix Hernandez, it is Vargas who could be on the move this season at the deadline.

    He has plenty of appeal as a left-handed innings eater with team control beyond this season, and he is a low-cost alternative to some of the other guys on this list.

    The Tigers, Orioles and Royals have inquired on the availability of Vargas, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. While the Mariners certainly don't need to move him, they could be swayed to do so with the right offer.

Ryan Dempster

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    Stats: 14 GS, 5-5, 2.25 ERA, 83 Ks, 104 IP

    Contract Status: Free agent at season's end

    Dempster was all but traded to the Braves on Monday, but things quickly fell apart starting with a tweet from Dempster himself saying that there was no trade.

    It was later revealed that Dempster had invoked his 10-and-5 veto rights when he found out about the trade from the media instead of the Cubs, saying he felt blindsided (Jerry Crasnick via Twitter).

    Talks have since resumed between the Dodgers and Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but Buster Olney tweeted that as of now, the Cubs' plan is to hold onto Dempster and make him a qualifying offer this offseason so they can receive draft pick compensation.

Francisco Liriano

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    Stats: 22 G, 17 GS, 3-10, 5.31 ERA, 109 Ks, 100 IP

    Contract Status: Free agent at season's end

    Liriano got off to a rough start to the season and wound up spending some time in the bullpen, but in his first 10 starts after returning to the rotation, he went 3-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 63.1 innings.

    However, his stock took a hit in his last start on Monday, when he lasted just 2.2 innings and allowed seven earned runs against the White Sox.

    The Angels and Blue Jays have shown interest in the left-hander, while earlier in the month Jon Heyman of CBS Sports named the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays and Braves as potential suitors.

Josh Johnson

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    Stats: 20 GS, 6-7, 4.14 ERA, 105 Ks, 119.2 IP

    Contract Status: Signed for 2013: $13.75 million

    The Marlins' transition to selling was a swift one, as they have already moved Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez in the last few days, and Johnson could be the next to go.

    Johnson has battled injuries throughout his career, but he has shown the potential to be a staff ace when healthy, as evidenced by his NL-leading 2.30 ERA in 2010. 

    Joe Frisaro of put the odds of Johnson being moved at 50-50, while Joel Sherman of the New York Post feels he is likely to be moved, with the Rangers looking like the early favorites.

James Shields

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    Stats: 20 GS, 8-6, 4.39 ERA, 124 Ks, 131.1 IP

    Contract Status: 2013: $9 million option ($1.5 million buyout), 2014: $12 million option ($1 million buyout)

    It was originally reported some time ago that, whether they choose to buy or sell, the Rays would be willing to listen to offers for Shields, according to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler.

    However, last Friday, Knobler tweeted that while teams are interested in Shields, they are being told "not yet," as the Rays are currently just 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot.

    The Angels and Rays have reportedly discussed a deal that would send Shields to the Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos, catcher Hank Conger and possibly right-hander Ervin Santana, according to Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.

    The Rangers are also "in the mix" (as tweeted by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports) for the right-hander, although they view him as a notch down from Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels (prior to him re-signing).

Matt Garza

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    Stats: 18 GS, 5-7, 3.91 ERA, 96 Ks, 103.2 IP

    Contract Status: Arbitration eligible through 2013

    A few weeks ago, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Garza is viewed as a more valuable trade chip than even Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke thanks to the fact that he is under contract through 2013. So it comes as no surprise that his asking price has been high.

    However, questions abound with Garza right now, as he left his most recent start after just three innings with soreness in his throwing arm.

    On top of that, Garza is likely to be unavailable until Monday because his wife is expecting, according to Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago. That means his next start will come less than a day before the trade deadline, and scouts will only get a short time to evaluate his health before deciding whether to pull the trigger on a trade.

Zack Greinke

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    Stats: 21 GS, 9-3, 3.44 ERA, 122 Ks, 123 IP

    Contract Status: Free agent at season's end

    Greinke made his first start in the last 10 days on Monday and put to rest any concerns that he may be battling an injury. He went seven innings and allowed just three hits and one run.

    According to a tweet from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Rangers, Orioles, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers are all teams currently known to have an interest in the right-hander.

    Greinke confirmed (via that Milwaukee offered him an extension in the five-year, $100 million neighborhood, but it looks very likely that he will be moved, with the Brewers slipping ever further out of contention.

Cliff Lee

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    Stats: 17 GS, 1-6, 3.95 ERA, 112 Ks, 118.1 IP

    Contract Status: Signed through 2015: $75 million remaining, plus $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 with $12.5 million buyout

    Following the Cole Hamels extension, the Phillies could now consider moving their other big-name left-hander in Cliff Lee.

    Jayson Stark of ESPN noted that the Phillies have talked to teams about Lee, but that the Hamels signing does not guarantee anything.

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted on Monday that the Rangers could pursue Lee if he is made available, and it looks like that may now be the case.