An Early Look at 5 Midseason Starting Pitching Trade Deadline Candidates
On Monday, I wrote about some midseason relief pitcher trade candidates. Today, we take a look at some starting pitchers who could be on the block once we get to July and their teams are out of contention and in selling mode, or contending with rotation depth and holes to fill elsewhere.
While starting pitching depth is a rare luxury in baseball, contending teams could sacrifice organizational depth in order to acquire talent to help for the final eight-to-10 weeks of the season and potentially into the postseason. So, in another words, if they have six good starting pitchers in mid-July, they might risk taking a chance that the remaining five will stay healthy the rest of the way if they were to trade one.
For this discussion, I’ll stick with the most tradable commodities on projected sellers. I wrote last week, however, about some teams that might have some starting pitching to spare.
Last July, plenty of starters switched teams shortly before the trade deadline, including Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Paul Maholm and Wandy Rodriguez. All four of the aforementioned pitchers went from non-contending teams to teams in the playoff hunt.
Here are five starters who could be popular trade targets about four months from now.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs
Matt Garza isn't expected to return from the disabled list until sometime in May as he heals up from a strained lat. But that’s OK, because the Cubs just need him to make about 10-to-15 starts before July 31 to ensure contending teams around the league that he’s ready to join them for the pennant run.
That’s for the right price, of course. Top-of-the-rotation starters aren’t cheap, and the 29-year-old Garza should bring back more than Dempster did last July, even though Garza will also become a free agent after the season.
General manager Jed Hoyer was aggressive in acquiring rotation depth this offseason, knowing that they had a very good trade chip in Garza. The 6'4" right-hander has a 3.52 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 8.7 K/9 in 49 career starts with the Cubs.
Shaun Marcum, New York Mets
A healthy Shaun Marcum at the trade deadline is certain to be coveted by most contending teams, especially those not wanting to give up the farm for a top-of-the-rotation arm like Garza.
What Marcum brings to the table is a very good midrotation starter who’s capable of giving a team seven-to-10 quality starts over the last two months of the season. The difference between that and a struggling pitcher or group of pitchers in the No. 5 slot of the rotation can make a huge difference.
The 31-year-old missed time with an elbow injury in 2012, when he made just 21 starts while posting a 3.70 ERA in 124 innings, and has been sidelined by a shoulder impingement this spring. He’s reportedly fine, however, and on track for the start of the season.
Ricky Nolasco, Miami Marlins
In a very thin Marlins rotation, Ricky Nolasco is the top dog. He won’t be anywhere close to a No. 1 starter, however, on a contending team. But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind one bit.
The 30-year-old is a back-of-the-rotation upgrade on a lot of good teams around the league, and the Marlins know they can probably get a decent prospect in return while shedding at least some of whatever remains of his $11.5 million contract in 2013.
In 10 starts last August and September, Nolasco posted a 3.68 ERA with 11 walks and 43 strikeouts in 66 innings, including two shutouts.
Bud Norris, Houston Astros
Teams are reportedly interested now, but the Astros appear content to allow Bud Norris to be their Opening Day starter and at least keep him around for a few months. Unless the team is playing much better than anyone expects in June or July, Norris could be the first starting pitcher on the trade block.
Like Marcum and Nolasco, the 28-year-old Norris, who is under team control for the next three seasons, won’t end up atop a rotation of any contender, but he’s capable of giving many of those teams a boost fitting in as the No. 3, 4 or 5 starter.
Norris was strong over his final 12 starts of 2012, posting a 3.75 ERA with 24 walks and 64 strikeouts over 72 innings, including 13.1 scoreless to end the season.
Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
The no-name pitching staff of the Padres, who finished with 48 wins in their final 84 games, was led by the lefty Clayton Richard. Over his last 21 starts, he went 12-7 with 3.68 ERA in 142 innings.
Richard does have the luxury of pitching half his games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, where he had 3.02 ERA compared to 4.74 on the road, but he’s still a pretty good midrotation starter who accumulated 218.2 innings overall last season.
The Padres have a lot of young pitchers closing in on the big leagues, so moving Richard if they’re not in the pennant race in July would make sense. The 30-year-old will be under team control for one more season, and it probably wouldn’t cost a whole lot to acquire him, so there should be interest.
Of course, the Padres could also shop Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis, both free agents-to-be, if they wanted to clean house and go with an all-out youth movement in August and September.