Hochevar is the odd man out in the K.C. rotation after their offseason additions.
“Which MLB teams have pitching depth to trade?” is sort of a trick question. If you ask any general manager in the league, they’ll tell you that you can never have enough pitching depth.
And they’re not lying. The average number of starting pitchers used by each team in 2012 was 10. The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants were in the best shape with their starting fives making 161 and 160 starts, respectively.
Both teams won their division by a wide margin, but what if the division races were closer and a starting pitcher or two had to spend time on the disabled list? The Reds would be counting on the likes of Todd Redmond, while the Giants probably would’ve gone with Eric Hacker or Yusmeiro Petit.
So, as the Giants and Reds proved, a team can still succeed with only five very good starting pitchers. That team just better hope that all five can stay healthy, which is such a long shot these days.
The St. Louis Cardinals, for example, appeared to have more than enough pitching depth coming into spring training. But once news broke that Chris Carpenter would miss the season with reoccurring nerve irritation in his shoulder, this was no longer the case.
In regard to minor league pitching depth, they have a lot in common with the other teams in baseball. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha are close, while Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller have already arrived.
But with the current state of the roster, only one of Kelly and Miller would be available in Triple-A and no other pitchers on that Triple-A roster would have any big league experience or are considered to be major league ready. Since Jaime Garcia’s shoulder woes from 2012 could always reoccur—he avoided surgery for a small tear with rest and rehab—it’s no surprise that they’re looking to add another starter:
Cards are asking about a SS as well as P. Interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris of Astros— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 16, 2013
With all that said, there are still a handful of teams with sufficient starting pitching depth, giving them leverage in any trade with a pitching-starved team that might overpay to get one of their extra arms.
Top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer was traded to Cleveland Indians, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have done more than enough to replenish their depth by signing Brandon McCarthy (pictured) and acquiring Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill from the Atlanta Braves this offseason.
The last spot in the rotation to follow Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, McCarthy and Wade Miley is down to Josh Collmenter, Pat Corbin and Randall Delgado. Either Corbin or Delgado will likely be in the Triple-A rotation with Spruill and possibly Chase Anderson and Charles Brewer, who are each on the 40-man roster.
If Kevin Towers isn’t done wheeling and dealing yet, he still has the starting pitching depth to continue.
Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are locks for the Baltimore Orioles' top two rotation spots, while Chris Tillman is very likely assured one. That leaves seven pitchers in camp, all of whom could probably be in some big league rotation in April, fighting for two jobs.
Here are those seven:
Jake Arrieta, RHP
Zach Britton, LHP
Kevin Gausman, RHP
Miguel Gonzalez, RHP
Steve Johnson, RHP
Jair Jurrjens, RHP
Brian Matusz, LHP
And this doesn’t include top prospect Dylan Bundy, who has already been optioned to the minors, or Todd Redmond, who was the Reds’ “sixth starter” in 2012. Expect at least one of the above to be dealt by Opening Day.
Even if Aroldis Chapman stays in the bullpen and doesn’t make one start in 2013, the Reds are in much better shape than they were in 2012. The quick rise of lefty Tony Cingrani to go along with two other pretty good arms expected to be in the Triple-A rotation—Daniel Corcino and Pedro Villarreal—gives the Reds options if they happen to lose a starter to injury in 2013.
In addition, 20-year-old Robert Stephenson, the team’s top pitching prospect, could get to the majors quickly. He’ll start the season in Hi-A, but not before showing off a 98 mph fastball in camp:
Very impressed with #Reds RHP Robert Stephenson. Worked 95-98 mph with heavy sink. Will write up detailed backfield notes for BP.— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) March 17, 2013
Not only did the Kansas City Royals acquire three veteran pitchers and re-sign Jeremy Guthrie this offseason, they could have their two most effective pitchers from 2012, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, back in the second half after they're recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Last year’s No. 2 starter, Luke Hochevar, has been moved to the bullpen, while one of the fifth-starter candidates, either Bruce Chen or Luis Mendoza, will likely join him. Expect at least one to be traded.
The team’s top pitching prospects, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer, should also be knocking on the door to the majors by this summer. If all goes well in Kansas City, though, they won’t need either until sometime in 2014.
If Zack Greinke has no further issues with the elbow inflammation that’s sidelined him in spring training, the Los Angeles Dodgers could possibly trade two of the three odd men out of the rotation picture before the season starts.
Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly, all veterans with guaranteed contracts, are bullpen-bound or trade bait to start the season. It’s not ideal to keep your starting depth in the bullpen where they’re not pitching on a regular schedule, but the Dodgers might not have any other choice.
Down on the farm, they’ll have Stephen Fife and a few prospects who could be in Triple-A to start the season, including Zach Lee and Matt Magill.
Even after trading James Shields and Wade Davis, the Tampa Bay Rays could still probably afford to shop a veteran starter to make room for more young talent on the way.
Tampa Bay is trying to determine if Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) or Jeff Niemann (pictured) will follow David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb in the rotation. But that’s only half the story.
There is plenty of talent in Triple-A, where Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi have already been optioned. Both pitchers are very close to helping the big league team and are good enough to be in Tampa early in 2013. Rotation mates Alexander Colome and Mike Montgomery could help in 2014 if they can put together successful seasons.
When your Opening Day starter from 2012, Ricky Romero, is set to open 2013 as your No. 5 starter, it’s a good sign that you’ve improved your pitching depth greatly.
It’s true that Romero’s awful 2012 season had much to do with him dropping, but the Toronto Blue Jays' acquisitions of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are the main reasons. Brandon Morrow is also creeping closer to reaching his potential.
Down in Triple-A, the Jays could feature a rotation that includes J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln, Chad Jenkins and a couple other experienced veterans. In the Jays’ win-now approach for 2013, trading starting pitching depth probably isn’t in the plans early on, but they’ll certainly have some trade chips later in the season if they stay healthy and have other areas of need.