Top Landing Spots for Remaining Impact MLB Pitchers on the Market
Matching available impact pitchers with competitive MLB teams at the 2013 trade deadline is far from random. The best landing spot in each case is one that can provide comfort to the individual while benefiting both teams involved.
We're talking about successful starters and relievers who can be trusted to significantly improve a contender's chances at reaching the postseason. That means no Josh Johnson, Edinson Volquez or other inconsistent talents.
Also keep in mind that inclusion on this list does not in any way imply that a pitcher will be dealt. Jake Peavy is more likely to change uniforms than Cliff Lee, for example, but there's commentary about both in the following slides.
Stay right here to find out where the best hurlers on the market fit.
*All stats accurate as of July 28, provided by FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
RHP Jose Veras (Houston Astros)
Top landing spot: Philadelphia Phillies
It wouldn't be surprising to see the Phillies move expiring contracts at the trade deadline. Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Michael Young could all be flipped for substantial prospects.
The front office might, however, hold onto Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon as it eyes a 2014 postseason berth.
If that's the plan, this team will need deeper middle relief. Per ESPN's Jayson Stark, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admits that he doesn't fully trust anyone in the bullpen other than Papelbon.
Right-hander Jose Veras could be a valuable addition. He has gained ninth-inning experience with the Houston Astros in 2013, and he's thriving thanks to improved command (2.93 ERA, 44/14 K/BB in 43.0 IP).
It's been a career year for Veras at age 32, and the Phillies could use the remainder of this season to determine whether or not the performance is sustainable. If he keeps it up, exercising his $3.25 million club option should be a no-brainer. There's also a measly $150,000 buyout in case of regression.
LHP Oliver Perez (Seattle Mariners)
Top landing spot: Atlanta Braves
Oliver Perez must be itching to face the New York Mets, who unceremoniously released him two years ago with $12 million remaining on his contract. They come up on the Braves schedule five more times down the stretch.
The southpaw is collecting smaller paychecks these days, but he's actually pitching better than ever. He has found a niche as a late-inning reliever with his ability to retire any batter, regardless of handedness.
Perez would serve as a major upgrade over Kameron Loe, the 12th man on Atlanta's pitching staff. The soon-to-be 32-year-old brings an ability to induce swings-and-misses that even stud left-hander Luis Avilan doesn't.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports confirms that the Braves have been searching for relievers.
RHP Luke Gregerson (San Diego Padres)
Top landing spot: Detroit Tigers
The chatter since spring training has been that the Tigers would go out and find a "proven closer" at some point so that Joaquin Benoit could return to his usual setup role.
Well, look around. Do you see any reputable relievers on selling teams pitching as well as Benoit, particularly over the past month-and-a-half?
His return to no-nonsense form has reduced the urgency of this search, although it's more likely now that he'll have lots of offers this winter in free agency.
Luke Gregerson is a logical fit because of his consistency since debuting in the majors in 2009. He's accustomed to entering with inherited runners, confident enough to attack the strike zone. He's under team control for another year after earning $3.2 million in 2013.
RHP Bud Norris (Houston Astros)
Top landing spot: Atlanta Braves
The Braves abruptly lost Tim Hudson to a season-ending ankle injury. Not surprisingly, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that they have "widened their focus" in a search for external pitching help. On the other hand, the team is reluctant to deal top prospects to secure a front-line starter, tweets Jayson Stark.
Bud Norris could provide a meaningful boost without depleting the farm system.
When everyone's healthy, Atlanta boasts one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. That suits Norris and his tendency to induce fly balls.
The 28-year-old is under team control through 2015, so he would help settle some uncertainty about the future of the Braves rotation. Hudson and Paul Maholm both hit free agency this coming winter.
RHP Kyle Lohse (Milwaukee Brewers)
Top landing spot: Boston Red Sox
Boston dumped its least desirable long-term contracts last summer and took a curious approach into free agency. The franchise filled numerous roster holes while making only one guaranteed commitment of more than two seasons.
As a result, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino are the only players currently on the books for the 2015 campaign. The Red Sox shouldn't object to adding Kyle Lohse to that exclusive club ($11 million salary in 2014 and 2015).
Judging by his comments to Ian Browne and Michael Periatt of MLB.com, it doesn't seem like Buchholz will return to the starting rotation for at least another month. Management could take its chances with Brandon Workman and various rookie fill-ins, or it could include one of them in a package to obtain Lohse, who has been one of the National League's top starters since 2011.
The right-hander's greatest strength is the length he consistently provides. Dating back to his breakout season of 2011, Lohse has pitched five-plus innings in 80 of 84 starts, and one of those apparent clunkers was actually just a rain-shortened outing.
In a summer where Boston's bullpen is decimated by injuries (more on that later), this workhorse is sorely needed.
RHP Jonathan Papelbon (Philadelphia Phillies)
Top landing spot: Pittsburgh Pirates
Scroll down to the poll near the bottom of this article, and you'll see that fans are screaming for the team to upgrade its lineup.
This is to be expected. In terms of run scoring, the Bucs—at fewer than four per game—are in the same company as pretenders like the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
According to this ESPN report, Dr. James Andrews says Jason Grilli's flexor strain requires a recovery period of four to eight weeks. That means more involvement from the rest of an already overworked relief corps. Per MLB.com, Pittsburgh's 'pen has worked more innings per game than any other relevant team's.
Pursuing an established closer like Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline would be a virtually unprecedented strategy for the Pirates, but why not? Adding him allows Mark Melancon to slide back into his eighth-inning role, and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that general manager Neal Huntington has the green light to expand payroll "within reason."
Pittsburgh could try to obtain an expiring veteran bat from Philly in the same trade or involve another team like the Chicago White Sox to get Alexei Ramirez or Alex Rios.
RHP Ervin Santana (Kansas City Royals)
Top landing spot: Baltimore Orioles
As detailed here, the O's and Kansas City Royals would make great trade partners. K.C. wants "major-league ready talent" in exchange for Ervin Santana, tweets Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports; Baltimore has a surplus of that.
The AL East includes four legitimate playoff contenders, so standing pat isn't an option (unless you're the red-hot, well-rounded Tampa Bay Rays). The New York Yankees made their big splash by acquiring Alfonso Soriano, while the Boston Red Sox seem poised to counter it, as Peter Gammons of the MLB Network reports that the team has scouts evaluating a handful of available pitchers.
This is how Baltimore could keep pace.
Santana provides more length per start than any members of the current rotation. He'll also come off the books this winter, so the O's can afford inevitable pay raises for Adam Jones (guaranteed contract) and Chris Davis and Matt Wieters (arbitration).
RHP Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox)
Top landing spot: Arizona Diamondbacks
Jake Peavy is widely coveted this summer for his great strikeout ability, multi-year contract and clubhouse presence.
The D-backs sorely need someone like that. Their veteran starters have been oft-injured and downright mediocre on the mound, and even 24-year-old ace Patrick Corbin isn't particularly overpowering.
The franchise is overflowing with talent at its high minor league levels. Archie Bradley and David Holmberg have excellent potential as starting pitchers, while infielders Matt Davidson and Chris Owings don't have much else to learn at Triple-A.
Going to the desert would reunite Peavy with general manager Kevin Towers, who selected him in the 15th round of the 1999 amateur draft.
LHP Glen Perkins (Minnesota Twins)
Top landing spot: Boston Red Sox
Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller each had a prominent role in Boston's bullpen entering 2013. Now, all three have been ruled out for the remainder of the season (shoulder, elbow and foot surgery, respectively).
Glen Perkins is the best potentially available reliever to pick up the slack, but the premium package that the Minnesota Twins expect for him will make any deal challenging, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. For what it's worth, the St. Paul native would "love to be part of the future" of his current team.
The Red Sox probably have the best chance of anybody to overwhelm the Twins front office. They can build a package around a high-ceiling pitching prospect, such as Matt Barnes, Henry Owens or Anthony Ranaudo.
Those young talents become even more expendable if Boston goes through with the aforementioned Kyle Lohse acquisition.
Perkins' arm is ready for a heavy workload down the stretch, as he appeared in only 40 of Minnesota's first 101 games.
LHP Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies)
Top landing spot: St. Louis Cardinals
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. set a steep hypothetical asking price when discussing the possibility of trading Lee or Jonathan Papelbon with Matt Gelb on The Philadelphia Inquirer. He said he would expect a trade partner to take on Lee's entire remaining contract—approximately $70 million guaranteed—and surrender premium young talent.
However, per ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, we've learned that Amaro is going to be "a good listener" as proposals tie up his phone lines in the coming days.
The Cardinals have the resources and motivation to pull off such a blockbuster.
They can deal major league-ready players, including right-handers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha and second baseman Kolten Wong (although outfielder Oscar Taveras is probably untouchable).
The timing would make sense from a financial standpoint, as Carlos Beltran and Chris Carpenter come off the books next winter. The Cards would also have an opportunity to move overachieving Jake Westbrook in a separate trade after the season, rather than pay his $9.5 million option.
St. Louis could use an immediate rotation boost with 23 remaining games against the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, and veterans like Carpenter and Jaime Garcia are unlikely to contribute down the stretch.
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