Updating MLB Teams with the Most Pitching Depth to Trade in 2013
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Prior to the start of the season, I took a look around the league and came up with seven teams who appeared to have enough pitching depth to possibly pull off a trade to fill a hole on their roster.
In the article, I discussed how “Which teams have pitching depth to trade?” is sort of a trick question and that any general manager in the league would tell you that you can never have enough pitching depth.
This theory has proven to be true once again as injuries and an inability for all five starting pitchers to meet expectations can quickly make a team’s pitching depth disappear. A few of the teams remain strong, while others have seen their pitching depth take a hit early on.
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Health has not been an issue for the 15-10 Diamondbacks. Free-agent acquisition Brandon McCarthy (pictured) has struggled, however, posting a 7.48 ERA through his first five starts, and has yet to have a quality start (at least 6 IP, 3 ER or less). The rest of the rotation has pitched well enough to keep McCarthy's rough start under the radar.
Down in Triple-A, top prospect Tyler Skaggs has had three very good starts and one disastrous start. Randall Delgado, acquired from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal, has a 9.00 ERA in five starts.
The Double-A Mobile squad also provides some depth with two starters, lefty David Holmberg (2.40 ERA in five starts) and sinkerballer Zeke Spruill (1.42 ERA in five starts), both options to make the jump should the Diamondbacks need another arm.
It’s High-A prospect Archie Bradley who is the potential difference-maker down on the farm, though. In five starts, the 20-year-old has a 1.26 ERA with 10 walks and 43 strikeouts in 28.2 innings pitched. It’s doubtful he can help this season, but his presence and potential as the team’s future “ace” would likely give general manager Kevin Towers the confidence to make a trade involving Skaggs, for example, to help the club in another area.
Still enough pitching depth to trade? Yes
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An elbow injury that’s sidelined top prospect Dylan Bundy since the start of the season and an ineffective Jake Arrieta (6.63 ERA in four starts before being optioned to Triple-A) have the O's' pitching staff looking weaker on paper. Bringing up a relatively unknown pitcher, Josh Stinson, when they needed a spot starter also showed that the O’s weren’t nearly as deep as they appeared before the season.
A 15-10 record, however, tells you otherwise. Wei-Yin Chen (pictured), Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have gotten the job done, and Zach Britton is likely to join them after posting a 1.98 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Norfolk.
Veterans Freddy Garcia (2.67 ERA in five starts) and Jair Jurrjens (2.64 ERA in five starts) are also pitching well for Norfolk, while the organization’s other prospect with top-of-the-rotation potential, last year’s first-round draft pick Kevin Gausman, has a 3.77 ERA with one walk and 29 strikeouts in 28.2 innings for Double-A Bowie.
If Bundy, who had a PRP injection (platelet-rich plasma injection) and will rest for six weeks (per Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun), is able to return in the second half of the season, the O’s are in great shape with him and Gausman as potential options and Arrieta always a possibility to figure things out— he dominated in his lone start since being optioned to Triple-A (6 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 8 K).
Still enough pitching depth to trade? If Bundy’s injury isn’t season-ending, yes. If it is, maybe. Arrieta and Britton don’t have as much value as they had as prospects, but still have enough upside to draw interest.
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In my preseason “depth” article, I referenced the Reds’ 2012 season in which they had limited rotation depth but the good fortune of a five-man rotation that stayed healthy the entire season and made 161 of the team’s 162 regular-season starts.
The rise of lefty prospect Tony Cingrani (pictured) is what gave the team comfort in knowing they’d probably be fine if a starter were to go down this season. This has definitely proven to be the case.
With Johnny Cueto on the disabled list with a strained lat, the 23-year-old Cingrani got the call after dominating in his three Triple-A starts (14.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 26 K). He’s been able to carry over his success against major league hitters with three more excellent starts (1.50 ERA, 18 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 28 K).
After Cingrani, the talent level drops significantly, however, with Daniel Corcino struggling in his Triple-A debut. Pedro Villarreal could probably hold his own for a start or two but would be a huge drop-off, as would any of the journeymen starters in the Louisville rotation (Armando Galarraga, Chad Reineke, Greg Reynolds).
Still enough pitching depth to trade? Don’t think so. Even when Cueto returns, Cingrani (or Mike Leake, should he be the odd man out) is too valuable as the sixth starter on a team expecting to make a playoff run.
Kansas City Royals
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The quartet of James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana (pictured) and Wade Davis have combined to go 9-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 19 starts. I’d say that's a pretty successful makeover for the Royals’ pitching staff with all but Guthrie new to the 2013 team.
The depth has yet to come in to play as the team hasn’t had any injuries. No. 5 starter Luis Mendoza has one bad start and one good start, to go along with 2.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen when he had his turn skipped in the rotation.
Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, who made up the top of the rotation in 2012, have each pitched well out of the bullpen (combined 15 IP, ER, 12 H, 3 BB, 18 K), and one of the two would likely be next in line should Mendoza struggle.
Chris Dwyer (2.56 ERA in five starts) and Will Smith (2.45 ERA in four starts), neither of whom is being counted on to play a big role in the 2013 team, are pitching well in Triple-A. Smith started game two of Sunday’s double-header and allowed four earned runs in four innings.
The top two pitching prospects in the organization, Yordano Ventura (2.95 ERA in four Double-A starts) and Kyle Zimmer (3.38 ERA, 18.2 IP, 7 BB, 29 K in four High-A starts), are pitching well and very likely in the team’s plans for 2014.
Still enough pitching depth to trade? Yes, but they’re unlikely to trade from their major league rotation since it would be a downgrade with Ventura and Zimmer not ready. One of those two could headline a package for an impact bat, however, later in the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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They did have enough pitching depth to make a trade, which they did when they traded Aaron Harang on April 6. Injuries have diminished the rotation depth in just a matter of weeks, however, with the team’s No. 9 and No. 10 starters, Stephen Fife and Matt Magill, both forced to make starts in April.
A fractured collarbone for Zack Greinke (pictured), season-ending Tommy John surgery for Chad Billingsley and a strained calf for Chris Capuano opened the door for a Ted Lilly return from the disabled list after it initially looked as though there wasn’t a spot for him.
Capuano is due back soon. He’d join a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Josh Beckett and Lilly. Greinke should be back by the All-Star break. The Dodgers aren’t in bad shape. They’re just not in any position to even think about a trade anymore.
Their best pitching prospect, Zach Lee, is pitching well in Double-A (2.42 ERA in five starts) and does have some value on the trade market. If the Dodgers can hang around in the pennant race while they get healthy, Lee could be a nice trade chip to have if they have a massive hole somewhere on their roster to fill.
Still enough pitching depth to trade? Probably not. Even if they’re in good shape, general manager Ned Colletti could be gun-shy to unload pitching after the string of injuries early in the season.
Tampa Bay Rays
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The rotation depth took a hit early on when Jeff Niemann went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, although he was actually set to pitch out of the bullpen. Roberto Hernandez hasn’t been great, but he’s pitching deep into games and is a solid option until the Rays decide that Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi is ready to take his spot.
It appears that they still have enough pitching prospect depth to make a trade, but the Rays aren’t likely to trade away young pitching. The most interesting scenario that could occur is the Rays falling out of contention and shopping 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price.
Matt Moore’s (pictured) emergence (1.13 ERA, 32 IP, 13 H, 15 BB, 38 K) as Price’s replacement at the top of the rotation, along with a deep farm system, could make this more likely.
Still enough pitching depth to trade? If they’re in contention, yes. They could probably afford to trade a prospect or two or possibly one of their back-of-the-rotation starters, Hernandez or Alex Cobb.
If they’re not in contention for a playoff spot, they’d probably feel comfortable trading Price, especially since they’d get a huge return, as well.
Toronto Blue Jays
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The last-place Jays are only 9-17, and their underachieving rotation has a lot to do with it. Offseason acquisitions Mark Buehrle (6.35 ERA in five starts), R.A. Dickey (4.50 ERA in six starts) and Josh Johnson (6.86 ERA in four starts), as well as Brandon Morrow (5.27 ERA in five starts), haven’t been very good.
J.A. Happ (pictured), who beat out Ricky Romero for the No. 5 starter spot, has been the lone bright spot. Romero, in the meantime, is still working his way back from a terrible 2012 season. After spending a few weeks in extended spring training working on his mechanics, the 28-year-old had an encouraging 2013 debut with seven strong innings for High-A Dunedin (7 IP, ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 4 K).
Aaron Laffey had a shaky spot start before being designated for assignment, and the rotation at Triple-A Buffalo is filled with journeymen who can’t be trusted for more than a long-relief role. No help is on the way from Double-A, either.
The farm system is still deep with talent in the low minors, led by Aaron Sanchez (3.16 ERA, 25.2 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 22 K in five High-A starts) and 18-year-old Roberto Osuna (2.95 ERA, 18.1 IP, 12 H, 3 BB, 26 K in four Low-A starts).
Still enough pitching depth to trade? Unlikely. Sanchez or Osuna would be valuable trade chips, but the Jays already traded two very good pitching prospects, Noah Syndergaard in the offseason deal for R.A. Dickey and Justin Nicolino in the blockbuster deal with the Marlins.
The lack of depth in the upper minors also means they’re in trouble if the current rotation can’t turn things around. In that case, Josh Johnson would likely go on the trade block for different reasons than having enough depth.