MLB Trade Rumors: 5 Contenders That Desperately Need Joe Saunders in Rotation

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterAugust 22, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: 5 Contenders That Desperately Need Joe Saunders in Rotation

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    Any starting pitcher capable of getting major league hitters out is likely to attract interest on the trade market from playoff contenders at this time of year.

    So if the Arizona Diamondbacks are ready to put Joe Saunders on waivers, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported on Tuesday (Aug. 21), the left-hander will quickly find a new team. 

    Even among those in the postseason chase, few teams have enough starting pitching. The D-Backs are obviously one of them, as they're letting Saunders go to add rookie Tyler Skaggs to their rotation. But others need an arm like Saunders to provide a solid third or fourth starter. Saunders would also provide depth to any staff that has some questions about the endurance of its younger arms. 

    As Rosenthal wrote, Saunders will be on waivers until 1 p.m. ET Thursday (Aug. 23). Will a playoff contender claim him or will he clear waivers, allowing the D-Backs to trade him anywhere? Regardless of what happens, expect these six teams to be in the mix for Saunders. 

Baltimore Orioles

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    The list of teams that desperately need Joe Saunders for their starting rotation could really begin and end with the Baltimore Orioles.

    None of the other playoff contenders in the American or National League currently have a greater need for a starting pitcher. Baltimore has Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and not much else after that. 

    Jason Hammel, who's been the Orioles' best starter this season, is working his way back from knee surgery. According to the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, Hammel threw a bullpen session on Tuesday (Aug. 21). Depending on how he feels after that, Hammel could pitch a simulated game on Friday. The hope is that he'll be available by September.

    Until then, however, the Orioles need another dependable arm—preferably a proven one—for the middle of their rotation. Saunders is a perfect fit. As a left-hander, he would also provide some balance to Baltimore's starting staff. 

    To no surprise, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles have shown the most interest in Saunders. Based on the records of current playoff contenders, Baltimore should get the first shot at a waiver claim for Saunders.

    But if Saunders clears waivers, general manager Dan Duquette will certainly be on the phone with D-Backs GM Kevin Towers, trying to get the starting pitcher he could not acquire at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. 

Oakland Athletics

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    Starting pitching has fueled the Oakland Athletics' improbable run at a wild-card playoff spot this season. But now, the team is without its No. 1 starter.

    Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games by MLB on Wednesday (Aug. 22) after testing positive for testosterone. He'll miss the rest of the regular season and be unavailable for the first 10 games of the postseason if the A's were able to extend their playoff run that far.

    Colon was 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland this season. He led the Athletics in starts and innings pitched with 152.1. For a staff with as many young starters as the A's have, Colon provided an anchoring, innings-eating presence at the top of the rotation.

    Saunders could take over that role if he was acquired by Oakland. He's thrown 200 innings in each of his past two seasons. 

    Going from Chase Field to O.co Coliseum would also likely make Saunders a better pitcher.

    According to ESPN.com's park factors, Chase Field is the second-best hitter's ballpark in the major leagues. O.co Coliseum, however, is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. All that vast foul territory in Oakland could result in many outs for Saunders. 

Washington Nationals

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    How could the Washington Nationals possibly be desperate to add Joe Saunders to their starting rotation? 

    The Nats arguably have the best pitching staff in baseball, leading the majors with a 3.23 team ERA as of Aug. 22. They have three Cy Young Award candidates in Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. The No. 4 starter, Edwin Jackson, could be a second or third starter in many other major league rotations.

    But perhaps you've heard that the Nationals intend to shut Strasburg down in September. Once he reaches his innings limit—believed to be 180—Strasburg won't pitch for the rest of the season. Even if the Nats make it to the postseason, which looks very likely at this point, he's done.

    If Strasburg stays on schedule and his innings are capped at 180, he'll make his last start on Sept. 24 with two weeks remaining in the regular season. That leaves at least two starts for another pitcher to make.

    The Nats have the depth to fill that spot with a pitcher like John Lannan or Chien-Ming Wang. But Saunders would provide further insurance as a proven big league starter, one who's been pitching in the majors all season.

    Saunders could also be used to allow Strasburg to skip a turn in the rotation and extend his season through September and into October. Unfortunately, Nats general manager Mike Rizzo has no intention of manipulating Strasburg's schedule like that. 

Chicago White Sox

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    Much like the Nationals, the Chicago White Sox have a pitcher whose innings need to be closely monitored as he pitches more innings in a season than he ever has before. 

    Actually, they have two such pitchers in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. 

    While no specific innings limit has been placed on Sale or Quintana, as the Nats have done with Stephen Strasburg, the team is doing what it can to give their young pitchers some extra rest down the stretch and extend their availability into the postseason if the White Sox are able to win the AL Central or a wild-card playoff spot.

    General manager Kenny Williams already brought in additional pitching depth by trading for Francisco Liriano. But Saunders would provide yet one more arm that could take a turn in the rotation when Sale and Quintana need a rest.

    If Williams wanted to try something more drastic, he could also add Saunders to the rotation full-time and shut down his young pitchers until September. 

St. Louis Cardinals

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    With the return of Jaime Garcia, the St. Louis Cardinals might not need an extra starting pitcher. 

    Garcia was excellent in his return to the Cards' active roster, allowing no earned runs with 10 strikeouts in eight innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's only thrown 74.1 innings this season, thanks to being on the disabled list since June. But will the Cardinals have to handle him cautiously down the stretch?

    Other pitchers with whom St. Louis might want to handle with care include Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.

    Wainwright is pitching his first full season since recovering from Tommy John surgery. Though he appears to be getting strong and pitching better as the season progresses—something not typically seen from a pitcher coming back from major elbow surgery—will he be able to pitch deep into September? Will he still be strong in October?

    Lynn is close to pitching the most innings he ever has as a professional. He threw 164 innings for Triple-A Memphis in 2010. As of Aug. 22, Lynn has pitched 142.1 innings in 24 starts. Averaging six innings per start, he'll exceed his career high in innings in another three or four appearances.

    Perhaps all three pitchers will be able to pitch through the end of the regular season just fine. Maybe they'll be ready for postseason play as well.

    But why take the chance of being short-handed when some strong insurance is available on the waiver wire? Saunders would give the Cardinals some crucial depth during the final six weeks of the season. 

     

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