Jake Peavy pitched exceptionally well in 2012. If healthy come July 31, he'll be in high demand.
Ah, MLB's non-waiver trade deadline. We're still another month away from confirming which pitchers will don new uniforms, but there have already been rumors identifying the top targets and their potential suitors.
Between now and July 31, bottom-dwellers like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers will consider slashing their 2013 payrolls for young talent. They won't be the only ones. Even with five playoff spots up for grabs in each league, we should see plenty more sub-.500 teams sell high on veteran hurlers to stabilize their futures.
As much as we trust the intuition of Bleacher Report's own Benjamin Klein, it's unclear where Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris and Jake Peavy will be for the stretch run.
With that said, there's still fun to be had with these names. Let's rank the 10 best available starting rotation members and relievers, taking quality, consistency, durability, salary, service time and potential into consideration.
Steve Cishek's 2013 stats won't blow you away. Neither Baseball-Reference nor FanGraphs like him as much more than a replacement-level player.
However, the more significant questions for buyers at the deadline include 1) What have you accomplished lately? and 2) What can I get from you in the future?
To everybody's consternation, the Miami Marlins were actually formidable in June! Cishek deserves high praise for his streak of 11 scoreless appearances (10.1 IP), during which time he allowed only three harmless singles and threw 70 percent strikes.
This guy didn't suddenly spawn from the ether. He ascended to the closer's role last summer when Heath Bell's awfulness persisted. Just like in 2011, Cishek finished with a sub-3.00 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning.
After earning close to the league minimum one final time, the lanky right-hander becomes arbitration eligible in 2014. He'll remain under team control through 2017.
As Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe explains, the primary concern is "whether Cishek can handle the microscope" of playing in a large baseball market after spending years surrounded by apathy in South Florida.
Any second now, Twitter is going to blow up with trade details. According to Clark Spencer of The Miami Herald, Henderson Alvarez will start on Wednesday, meaning he's "lined up to take Ricky Nolasco’s spot" in the Miami Marlins rotation.
The only reason the Fish might hold onto Nolasco deeper into July would be to give him additional opportunities to restore his trade value. He has just one quality start since June 10, thus diluting his overall numbers.
With a 3.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 7.1 K/9 in the National League, labeling him a No. 3 starter seems generous. Consider that Nolasco was even more pedestrian in 2011 and 2012.
Per Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants have "varying levels of interest." Morosi and colleague Ken Rosenthal have learned that the Marlins expect a "good" prospect and full absorption of Nolasco's salary (originally $11.5 million).
Jonathan Papelbon is somewhat dissatisfied with the Philadelphia Phillies, despite signing with them less than 20 months ago.
First came those critical comments about their clubhouse dynamic, as reported by Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com:
"Since I've been here I haven't seen any leadership,” Papelbon said.
Speaking to Mandy Housenick of the Allentown Morning Call, Papelbon was very honest with his thoughts on the Phillies locker room that he joined last season.
"Every good team that I've been a part of has had a good core group of veterans and an influx of a good group of young guys and I think that's a recipe for success," Papelbon said. "But at the same time, that doesn't mean we're going to have success.
More recently, Papelbon called out his teammates for poor fundamentals, as reported by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Not cool.
Though general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has shot down rumors about selling off veterans, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, he can't be happy about his closer generating these kind of headlines. Disapproving of Papelbon's distractions might lead the Phillies to consider potential exchanges...if they haven't already.
ESPN's Jayson Stark hears from an American League executive that "they're talking to Boston and Detroit [about Papelbon] right now."
Papelbon is guaranteed $26 million from 2014-2015 with a 2016 vesting option, but as a five-time All-Star boasting a 2.05 ERA and 0.88 WHIP this summer, he's understandably appealing anyway.
In terms of WAR, Jesse Crain has been the best reliever of the 2013 MLB season. His velocity is up since 2012, and he's issuing fewer walks while stranding 86.1 percent of the guys who get on base.
His success doesn't seem wholly sustainable. Good fortune largely explains why Crain, despite being reliant on fly balls, has not given up any home runs.
Nonetheless, there's a lot to like. Acquiring Crain means merely a three-month obligation, and nobody has been as dominant against right-handed batters over the past year-and-a-half.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old is not named Chris Sale or Paul Konerko, which according to Jon Heyman, means the Chicago White Sox consider him expendable. The team is resigned to selling given the cold, hard facts: First place is double-digit games out of reach, and across the American League, only the lowly Houston Astros have lost more often.
Logical landing spots include the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, according to Nick Cafardo.
The San Diego Padres traded Jake Peavy in 2009 when his salary became prohibitive.
Now, because they have "a little money to spend for a change," Jon Heyman reports, Peavy has at least been mentioned in their internal discussions.
His salary is $14.5 million this year, as it will be in 2014. The price tag will rule out small-market suitors, but there's bound to be heavy interest in Peavy being that he's one of the only legitimate No. 2 starters available.
The right-hander pitched 219 innings last summer, and prior to suffering a broken rib last month, he had a career-best 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
If the pitcher himself has any say in the matter, he'll stay in a Chicago White Sox uniform.
"I want to pitch here in Chicago and I want games I pitch in to be meaningful," he tells Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. That's somewhat of a delusional perspective with the team buried in the AL Central and many of his teammates reportedly on the trading block.
Barring any setbacks, Peavy could be activated from the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break in time to make a couple starts prior to the July 31 deadline.
The Minnesota Twins remain in buy-or-sell limbo, only a handful of games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.
Assuming they do fall off the pace sometime in the next month, Glen Perkins will undoubtedly be their most valuable asset. ESPN's Buster Olney goes even further, paraphrasing sources who believe he'd be "the No. 1 guy on the market."
Factors contributing to that sentiment include his left-handedness, terrific command, ninth-inning experience and existing contract. After earning $2.5 million this summer, he'll get only $3.75 million each of the next two years. Even the 2016 team option is very modest ($4.5 million or $300,000 buyout).
The 30-year-old perennially overwhelms left-handed batters but has fared equally well in 2013 when at a platoon disadvantage. Perhaps that isn't sustainable.
Regardless, he's a reliable late-inning reliever with All-Star potential. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe suspects that Detroit might to pry Perkins from the Twins with "something substantial."
Following four years of impressive consistency, Yovani Gallardo was anything but through one-third of the 2013 season. Aside from being inefficient with his pitches, he showed poor decision-making in April when driving under the influence.
June was a different story, however. Though he bookended the month with forgettable performances, the 27-year-old had a stretch of three straight road starts without yielding an earned run.
Even when things go sour, Gallardo can be trusted to limit balls put in play with his elite curveball. Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum are the only other starters with at least a 9.0 K/9 each season from 2009-2012, according to FanGraphs.
Considering his quality and durable reputation, the contract is actually very tolerable. After banking $7.75 million in 2013, Gallardo is owed $11.25 million the next year with a 2015 team option ($13 million or $600,000 buyout).
MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo shares this 10-team no-trade list, which includes potential suitors like the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. Any proposed deal with those teams can't go through without Gallardo's approval.
One division leader in need of rotation help, the Arizona Diamondbacks, likes Gallardo because he'd be controllable for multiple years. That rumor comes courtesy of Ken Rosenthal.
The Houston Astros ace is catching fire to ensure his team gets a talented package of prospects if/when a trade gets done.
In his past eight starts, Bud Norris owns a 2.42 ERA and .649 OPS. All but one of those were quality starts, and his strikeout rate was especially attractive in June. Moreover, Norris has been pounding the strike zone in recent weeks, allowing him to complete innings with less effort.
Though a full year older than Yovani Gallardo, he's cheaper—$3 million salary in 2013—and controllable for just as many years due to remaining arbitration eligibility.
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweets that the Astros have already begun talking with other clubs about Norris.
Those suitors could include the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. A National League executive tells him to expect plenty more playoff hopefuls to get involved.
Matt Garza's red-hot recent performance is rapidly expanding the market for his services.
He has disposed of three straight opponents with efficient pitch counts and impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios. The New York Mets, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers—his opponents since June 16—scored only two runs in 22 innings.
In terms of strikeout ability, Garza has been in Yovani Gallardo's company since jumping to the National League. His command, however, is more consistent from year to year.
MLB sources tell Nick Cafardo that he "will be dealt well ahead of the deadline." After all, the Chicago Cubs made the mistake of waiting too long in 2012. Garza suffered a stress fracture in late July, landed on the disabled list and missed the remainder of the season—which made him unmovable over the winter.
Jon Heyman tweets that Chicago's asking price is high at the moment, but the Baltimore Orioles will be in the mix to acquire the impending free agent. In an earlier column, he listed a handful of other potential suitors.
As of July 1, the top five NL Cy Young Award candidates are pretty obvious.
There are Clayton Kershaw and Jordan Zimmermann, both perhaps on the verge of signing fat contract extensions with franchises that expect to contend indefinitely.
Adam Wainwright inked his own long-term deal earlier this year. Tommy John surgery is a distant memory for this veteran workhorse.
Matt Harvey, who's arguably the most talented of them all, has become untouchable, even with a rebuilding franchise like the New York Mets.
Unlike his elite brethren, Cliff Lee actually could change uniforms in the not-so-distant future, regardless of what his general manager has said.
The Philadelphia Phillies didn't fare particularly well in Mike Rosenbaum's latest farm system rankings. They're devoid of impact players in the high minors, and any trade involving Lee would certainly return several of them.
Despite the $75 million still owed to him—$12.5 million for rest of 2013, $50 million for 2014-2015, $12.5 million buyout on '16 option—the Arkansas native would garner plenty of attention.
His average start length has been at least seven innings in every season since 2010. Every five days, he puts on clinics about fastball location. He even swings a respectable bat.
Lee has the right to block trades to 21 MLB teams, but in an interview with CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, it seems like he's open to moving to a winning situation. With 10 more losses than the division-leading Atlanta Braves, the Phillies clearly aren't whetting his appetite for competition.