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Reassessing the Starting Pitching Market After an Early Rash of Injuries

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Reassessing the Starting Pitching Market After an Early Rash of Injuries
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Feldman could be on the radar of many teams after his 12-strikeout, complete game victory on Wednesday.

Throwing a baseball, which approximately 450 big-league pitchers are currently being paid to do for a living, is an unnatural motion that involves a high risk of injury. About 20 percent of those big-league pitchers (90 total) are on the disabled list at the moment after Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays and Joba Chamberlain of the Yankees joined the group on Thursday.

Teams have to be ready to deal with these injuries that are inevitable throughout the season. Some teams have enough depth internally. Here’s an update on seven teams who appeared to be on this list prior to the season

Other teams are forced to go outside the organization for help. Most contending teams, in fact, will be looking for pitching help at the trade deadline, if not much sooner. And by “sooner, I mean now.

Just take a look at the Chicago White Sox, who scratched Jake Peavy from his scheduled start on Thursday because of back spasms and also found out that Gavin Floyd could require season-ending elbow surgery—he’s expected to seek a third opinion on a torn flexor tendon.

John Danks has started a rehab assignment, so help could be on the way. But no one ever said coming back from shoulder surgery was easy. The Sox all of a sudden could be in big trouble if Danks doesn't come back strong and Peavy's back injury lingers.

Here’s a quick look at the current market for eight starting pitchers on the four struggling teams most likely to sell early in the season.

 

Scott Feldman/Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

Feldman’s stock likely skyrocketed after his gem of a start (9 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, BB, 12 K) on Wednesday in a 6-2 win over the Padres. Over his last three starts, he’s allowed just five earned runs over 20.2 innings with six walks and 20 strikeouts.

The 30-year-old sinker baller was signed to a one-year, $6 million deal before the season. At the time, the Cubs had to know that a trade would be a strong possibility. The better he pitches, the more likely that they can get something of value in return. I have a feeling his value will never be higher than after his latest start.

Even after just one rehab start (2.2 IP, ER, H, 2 BB, 0 K in Double-A), it’s time to start the Matt Garza watch. He’s expected to be one of the top starting pitchers on the trade market in a couple months.

The 29-year-old will likely make three more rehab starts before the team decides if he’s ready. And by “ready,” they likely mean ready to showcase his talents for teams interested in making a trade.

 

Bud Norris/Lucas Harrell, Houston Astros

In games started by Norris or Harrell, the Astros are 6-6. When they don’t start, the Astros are 2-15. So trading either doesn’t exactly sound like the best plan to avoid a 120-loss season. But what does it really matter whether they lose 100 or 120 times? It’s going to be ugly either way.

Either pitcher can be a valuable commodity if put on the trade market now. Plenty of good teams could use Norris or Harrell, both of whom have had just  one bad start on the season.

General manager Jeff Luhnow's expectation for his first winning team might not be too far down the road, however, so it could make sense to keep them around to help for the next couple of seasons.

Norris is under team control through 2015. Harrell can’t be a free agent until after the 2017 season. That also means their value is much higher than a soon-to-be free agent.

 

Ricky Nolasco/Kevin Slowey, Miami Marlins

Maybe the Marlins have more than one pitcher to shop after all. Nolasco, who is a free agent at season’s end, is a no-brainer. The 30-year-old is having a solid season (3.82 ERA, 35.1 IP, 33 H, 9 BB, 21 K) and will likely draw interest from several teams in need of help at the back of the rotation.

Former Twins starter Kevin Slowey is pitching even better, though. The 28-year-old, who tossed eight masterful innings in a victory over the Mets in his last start (8 IP, ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 8 K), has his ERA down to 2.15 with six walks and 29 strikeouts in 37.2 innings.

He’s also under team control for one more season so any team who acquires him will have the right to not tender him a contract after the season if he doesn’t continue to pitch well.

Just in case you don’t remember who Kevin Slowey is, he broke into the majors back in 2007 and went 39-21 with a 4.41 ERA in his first four big-league seasons with the Twins.

His next season, however, was a disaster. He went 0-8 during an injury-plagued 2011, made only eight starts for the Indians’ Triple-A team in 2012 before another injury cost him the season, and then signed a minor league deal with Miami this past offseason.

Overcoming adversity also looks good on one’s resume. Slowey could be a highly coveted No. 5 starter very soon.

 

Jason Marquis/Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

While the overall numbers aren't pretty (4.20 ERA, 30 IP, 26 H, 14 BB, 18 K, 5 HR), Marquis has held his opponent to two earned runs or less in four of five starts. He's worked into the eighth inning once and into the seventh in his last start.

The 34-year-old also pitched well after joining the Padres in mid-2012, posting a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts while the team was playing as well as most any team in the majors. A veteran like Marquis who could stabilize the back of a rotation should have plenty of interest.

In the meantime, Volquez is anything but stable. He'll be terrific one start and terrible the next. It's always an adventure with the 29-year-old but he's a talented pitcher who could flourish in the right environment.

He's allowed six earned runs in 18.2 innings over his last three starts. His stretches of solid starts usually don't last much longer than that, though. 

Both pitchers will have some value at the trade deadline, but they could also be available now if the team feels comfortable going with Tim Stauffer, who is pitching well in Triple-A,  or prospects Robbie Erlin or Donn Roach in their place.

Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland will also likely return from Tommy John surgery at some point during the second half. 

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