After a slow start, Yovani Gallardo is pitching well and could be a difference-maker for a contender.
The trade deadline is rapidly approaching, bringing with it an endless series of rumors about players who will be on the move to hopefully push a contending team into the postseason.
One of the hottest names potentially available at the deadline could be Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. According to Anthony Witrado of the Sporting News, the Brewers figure to be sellers at the deadline because of their awful start (31-43).
The Brewers also need to add impact talent to a farm system that is lacking it, especially at the upper levels. They were able to get a few key pieces last year when they moved Zack Greinke to the Angels, and Jean Segura looks like a star, but they need a lot more if they hope to contend in the near future.
Teams are always looking for pitching, especially starters, at the deadline. The chance to get a 27-year-old power arm who is locked up through 2014 (with a team option for 2015) at an affordable salary—Gallardo will make $11.25 million next year, per Witrado's report—is appealing for the 29 other teams.
Gallardo has really turned his season around, only increasing his trade value. After hitting bottom with a 5.25 ERA on June 5, he has gone 2-0 in his last three starts with 15 strikeouts, five walks, 12 hits allowed and zero earned runs in 21 innings.
With all that in mind, we are going to highlight the five most likely destinations for Gallardo at the trade deadline.
John Farrell could use another arm in his starting rotation.
Even though there wasn't a lot expected of the Red Sox this season, at least from people outside Boston, the team has played really well all year and leads the American League East with a 45-33 record.
As we have seen with Toronto's recent surge, and the fact that every team in the division is over .500 at this moment, no one can rest on their laurels throughout the summer hoping to make a push for the playoffs.
While it appeared as if the Red Sox had their starting pitching figured out earlier this season, Clay Buchholz is currently on the disabled list with a neck injury, Jon Lester has an ERA of 5.48 on the road this season (as well as an 8.44 ERA this month) and Ryan Dempster has been inconsistent.
We know that the Red Sox are willing to spend and have no problem shelling out any money that may be need to acquire a piece.
While they may not want to part with a lot of prospects in a trade, especially after general manager Ben Cherington has worked hard to add more depth to the system, they certainly have more than enough talent to appeal to the Brewers.
It is hard to imagine the Red Sox parting with the likes of Xander Bogaerts, their best prospect who was recently promoted to Triple-A, but they could try to build something around one of their young arms (Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo).
Just like the final days of the 2012 season, the Rangers are walking a tightrope with Oakland in the AL West.
The good news is that the Rangers have a true ace in Yu Darvish, who has improved by leaps and bounds following what was a stellar debut season. He is missing bats at a ridiculous rate, garnering 12.17 strikeouts per nine innings.
To put that in perspective, as great as Matt Harvey has been for the Mets, Darvish is striking out more than two more hitters per nine innings than the New York phenom (9.90). He's also doing it in the American League, where the lineups are deeper than the National League.
Behind Darvish, Derek Holland has been good, though he is getting hit around in June. After that there are a whole lot of questions without answers. Martin Perez finally returned, but no one knows what to expect from him in his first full season. Alexi Ogando can't stay healthy as a starter. Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm have been, pardon the poor pun, grim when they start.
Gallardo seems like a perfect fit for the Rangers, who have been unable to land a quality option behind Darvish, even though they tried, and failed, to sign Zack Greinke in the offseason.
The problem in trying to acquire Gallardo comes from their talent system. They aren't moving Jurickson Profar for a player of Gallardo's stature. The Brewers would probably want a package built around young arms in the upper levels of the minors since that is what they desperately need, and the Rangers don't really have much to offer in that department right now.
Cody Buckel would have been appealing one year ago, but he had a 28:9 walk-to-strikeout ratio in Double-A before sending him to extended spring training in early May to figure out what happened.
All of their best prospects, aside from Profar and Mike Olt, are in the lower levels of the minors right now and come with considerable risk.
Matt Cain's turnaround could impact what the Giants do at the deadline.
Who would have thought that we would be talking about the Giants needing starting pitching help at the trade deadline?
There were some warning signs after last season, like the complete collapse of Tim Lincecum and reliance on Barry Zito, but Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain were always the rocks that would carry them through tough times.
Bumgarner has been good so far, posting a 3.20 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 104 innings, but Cain has had issues keeping the ball in the park this year, allowing 16 home runs in just 101 innings. He's pitching better since that horrible April when he had a 6.49 ERA, but is still not at the level he has been the last four years.
As a staff, the Giants starters rank 15th in innings pitched (450.2) and 23rd in ERA (4.47). The offense has been tasked with carrying a bigger load this year than they are capable of, and it shows because the team has dropped to .500 and lost 16 of their last 26 games.
We know the Giants will be aggressive at the deadline if they feel it gives them a better chance to win a championship. They did it two years ago by trading Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. They also did it last year to acquire Hunter Pence from Philadelphia.
The problem with all that wheeling and dealing is it doesn't leave a lot in the system for Milwaukee to pick from. The Giants do have one big bullet in the chamber, Kyle Crick, a big right-handed starter who has only thrown 13.2 innings this season in High-A due to an oblique injury that kept him out for two months.
There was some debate about including the Diamondbacks on this list, because even though their starters are 19th in ERA (4.13), they are well stocked in arms at the upper levels of the minors.
Tyler Skaggs has made a few starts in Arizona this season, though the results haven't been great. He is still trying to get back to where he was a year ago, as a true top 15 prospect in baseball and arguably the top left-handed starter in the minors.
Archie Bradley has found the strike zone a lot more this year and forced his way up to Double-A after less than half of a season in High-A. His plus fastball/curveball combination make it easy to project him as a No. 2 starter sooner than originally anticipated.
Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill have pitched very well, the former looking like a legitimate Cy Young candidate in a crowded National League starting pitcher market. Cahill still walks too many hitters and his sinker flattens out too much to be a consistent weapon, but he is a capable big league starter.
The Diamondbacks need to find depth if they want to be a serious playoff contender all year. They shouldn't trade Bradley to get there, though if the right deal came along, it would be easy to see them parting with Skaggs.
There are not a lot of impact starters in the system after Bradley and Skaggs, so the Brewers will have to convince Arizona to build a deal around one of them or be willing to take a package of position players (of which there are some solid ones at the top of the organization) in return.
There may not be a team that needs to add a starter at the deadline more than the Orioles.
Last year the team succeeded with a starting rotation with just one pitcher who made more than 20 starts and pitched at least 120 innings (Wei-Yin Chen). Their bullpen was lights out all season, carrying them to a ridiculous record in extra-inning and one-run games.
This season has been more of the same from the rotation, though Chris Tillman and Jason Hammel have each already made 15 starts. Hammel's results have been dreadful, but he is getting innings under his belt. All of this attrition led the team to bring up Kevin Gausman, their 2012 first-round pick, sooner than they would have liked.
The bullpen has also been problematic, currently owning the 20th best ERA in baseball. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Orioles opted to trade for a reliever instead of a starter, just because the cost is much lower.
It also doesn't help their cause that Dylan Bundy, the team's best prospect entering the season, hasn't thrown a pitch in a game since spring training and suffered another setback during his most recent comeback attempt.
With Gausman already in the big leagues and no Bundy on the horizon, the already slim options for the Orioles have basically dwindled down to nothing, unless you think Freddy Garcia can come back from Triple-A to be the savior.
They are also sorely lacking in tradeable assets in the minors, so it would take a lot of maneuvering, like bringing in a third team, to build an enticing package for the Brewers to bite on.
These are teams that could turn into buyers at the deadline if they have a strong stretch over the next 2-3 weeks.
Cleveland Indians (39-36, 3.5 GB in AL Central)
The Indians are desperate for any starting pitching help, but with the money they spent in the offseason to add Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, they may not have enough left to add more the future payroll.
Their system is also lacking in high-upside talent in the upper levels of the minors to entice the Brewers, so, like the Orioles, they would probably need a third team to pull a move off.
Pittsburgh Pirates (46-30, 1 GB in NL Central)
The strength of the Pirates is in their starting rotation, which ranks third in ERA (3.37), but just 27th in innings pitched. Gallardo would slot in nicely around Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett as the team tries to make a serious playoff push in the second half after teasing their fans the last two years.
Unlike a lot of teams on this list, the Pirates have a system of high-ceiling players moving through the system that they could be inclined to part with because there is also more depth than there has been in a long time.
New York Yankees (41-34, 2.5 GB in AL Central)
The Yankees played things very conservatively in the offseason, opting to sign older, declining players to one-year deals in hopes they could hold the fort until Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez return.
Things started off well, with Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner discovering the fountain of youth, but then they remembered that they were Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner.
The biggest problem for the Yankees is in the lineup, which can look atrocious once you get past the top three hitters on any given night. But if there aren't any quality bats for them to go after, or they still believe in those returning players to right the ship and Gallardo could make a nice deadline option.
New York does have one of the most talked about pitching prospects in baseball right now with Rafael de Paula, who struck out 96 in 64.1 innings at Low-A before earning a promotion to High-A. Granted, he did it as a 22-year-old, which is older for the level, but he has an electric arm with a high-90s fastball.
There is also quality depth on the position player side of things, though some volatility, with the likes of Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Gary Sanchez who could entice the Brewers.