Vargas is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA over his last nine starts for the struggling Angels.
A lot of the names have remained the same. Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Lucas Harrell, Ricky Nolasco and Bud Norris have been identified as trade candidates since the start of the season. Why? Because they're pretty good starting pitchers on pretty bad teams.
While those five remain strong candidates to be dealt by the July 31st deadline, there are sure to be some starters who will become trade targets because they are pitching better than expected and/or because their team's aren't in the playoff race.
Here are five of those pitchers who are likely to join Norris and co. on the trade block.
If you thought Buehrle was done —as in "he'll never be an effective pitcher again"— when his ERA climbed over 7.00 after his seventh start of the season on May 6th, it turns out that you were premature in your assessment.
The 34-year-old lefty has five quality starts in six outings since (4-2, 3.00 ERA, 39 IP, 34 H, 12 BB, 26 K), and he's currently pitching for a last-place team that is 10 games out of a playoff spot. Teams that will be competing for a postseason berth can certainly use the veteran on their staff down the stretch.
An obstacle in any trade, however, would be the $40 million-plus remaining on Buehrle's contract through the 2015 season. The Jays would likely have to eat a good chunk of that in order to get a decent prospect in return.
Iwakuma is a top-of-the-rotation talent signed to a bargain contract; he'll make $6.5 million in 2014 and has a $7 million club option for 2015. The 32-year-old hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 29 innings pitched, lowering his ERA to 1.79. He also has 14 walks and 87 strikeouts in 95.1 innings pitched. So why in the world would the Mariners consider trading him?
For starters, they're 28-37 and 11 back in the AL West, and many of the young players (Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak) who were supposed to form the core of the team have been unsuccessful as big leaguers thus far. The veteran talent acquired in the offseason (Jason Bay, Raul Ibañez, Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Joe Saunders) have contributed with positive results, but they'll all be free agents after this season.
So it could be back to the drawing board for the M's after the season. Shopping Iwakuma now while he's at peak value could best serve the Mariners in 2014 and beyond. The return could be an elite prospect and one other very good prospect. For a guy that manager Eric Wedge wouldn't even use in mop-up duty early last season, that would be a pretty good investment.
The veteran sinker baller is one of the biggest reasons that the Padres aren't already looking ahead to 2014. They've been competitive and he's been their most consistent starter, allowing two earned runs or less in 10 of his 13 starts.
At 30-34 and six games back in the NL West, the Padres aren't looking to be "sellers" by any stretch. But if they fall back any further in the next month, you can bet that the 34-year-old will be a popular name on the trade market.
Marquis is 7-0 with a 3.14 ERA in his last nine starts. His 33 walks and 35 strikeouts during that span is concerning, but it's also a sign that he knows how to win and will regularly battle through six or seven innings without having overpowering stuff. He's an ideal No. 5 starter on a very good team.
Interestingly enough, the two Padres starters who many expected to be trade targets aren't due to ineffectiveness. Edinson Volquez (6.33 ERA) and Clayton Richard (8.06 ERA) could still go on the trade block if the team falls out of the playoff race, but they're unlikely to have much value or be highly coveted at the moment.
If I'm a contending team and I need a reliable fifth starter, though, the guy I'd want is Eric Stults. Ignore the fact that he's a 33-year-old journeyman. Since the Padres acquired him off waivers last May, he's gone 13-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 174 innings pitched. He also has a 2.47 ERA over his last eight starts, six of which were quality outings. He completed seven innings in half of those starts, including a pair of eight-inning gems.
He'll be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, so he'll still be relatively affordable for a low-revenue team like the Padres. They're also a team that has a lot of talented young starters on the way and getting something for Stults while his value is still high could be a good move.
After a rough start to the season (11 ER in 14.2 IP through three starts), Vargas has quietly put together a very strong season for the Halos. The 30-year-old lefty is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last nine starts. Seven of those have been quality outings where he's worked at least seven innings.
It hasn't been enough to propel the Angels back into contention —they're currently 27-37 and 11.5 games back in the AL West— but the free agent-to-be is certainly going to give them a good trading chip if they go into "seller" mode next month.