MLB Teams with Pitching Depth to Trade Entering 2014
The five-man rotation is a myth.
Over the last five MLB seasons (2009 to 2013), teams have, on average, used 10 different pitchers in the starting rotation over the course of the regular season, according to Baseball-Reference (subscription required).
While flawed in its design, maybe the Colorado Rockies were on to something when, toward the end of the 2012 season, the team toyed with the idea of using a "piggyback four-man rotation," which was in essence an eight-man rotation that utilized two starters per game, as explained by the Denver Post's Troy Renck.
Despite the overwhelming need for teams to have plenty of depth in-house, both at the major league and minor league levels, there are only so many 25-man roster spots that a team can dedicate to pitching.
Sometimes other needs around the diamond arise, forcing a team to use its arsenal of live arms as trade bait in order to acquire the additional help that it needs.
Here are five teams well-equipped to do just that while not leaving themselves too thin in the rotation.
My colleague Joe Giglio recently took a look at teams with hitting depth to trade. Do you think there's a deal to be made between one the teams that appear on his list and this one? Propose your deals in the comments section below.
Allow me to refer those who are wondering how the Baltimore Orioles, a team that has long been chastised for its lack of top-flight pitching talent, can appear on a list about pitching depth to trade to the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck, who recently summed things up as well as anyone could:
Don't misunderstand. It's still fair to question whether the Orioles have enough top-flight pitching talent to win the tough, pitching-rich American League East, but there should be some comfort in the fact that the front office appears to have insulated the club against the possibility of a serious in-season loss.
At the major league level, Baltimore has experienced starters Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter pitching out of the team's bullpen, with plenty of reinforcements waiting in the wings down on the farm.
Top prospect Kevin Gausman and Korean import Suk-min Yoon are waiting in the wings at Triple-A, while former top prospect Dylan Bundy and former two-time AL Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana are working their way back from injury and could be ready to contribute to the major league club in June.
The Orioles have options—and should a need arise at another position, the team has the arms, both in the majors and in the minors, to dangle in front of other teams as bait to acquire the help that it needs.
Boston Red Sox
With three-fifths of the starting rotation potentially pitching with one foot out the door this year—Jon Lester is in the last year of his deal, Jake Peavy has a player option for 2015 and John Lackey has a vesting option—it may seem odd to have the Boston Red Sox listed as one of the teams with pitching depth to trade.
But Lester figures to work out a new deal to stay with the team, while Peavy is unlikely to decline a $15 million payday in 2015. That leaves one possible opening in the team's future rotation.
In 2014, the Red Sox have insurance policies for the rotation already on the major league roster in current relievers Chris Capuano and Brandon Workman, both with multiple big league starts under their belts—Capuano far more than Workman.
If and when the Red Sox need a spot starter, they have options.
Down on the farm, four of Boston's top pitching prospects—LHPs Trey Ball (No. 96) and Henry Owens (No. 30), along with RHPs Matt Barnes (No. 86) and Allen Webster (No. 46)—all made appearances on MLB.com's top 100 prospects list for 2014.
But wait, there's more!
Southpaw Brian Johnson and right-handers Jamie Callahan, Anthony Ranaudo and Teddy Stankiewicz (no relation to the former major league infielder) are also on the radar as potential impact starters down the line, and there's no shortage of possible bullpen help, including former starter Rubby de la Rosa, working its way through the system.
Do the Red Sox need to move some of their pitching depth? Of course not.
But they could if the right deal came along—and it wouldn't be surprising to see that happen as teams look to bolster their rotations as the season progresses.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Anyone looking for more proof that the Los Angeles Dodgers have assembled an impressive amount of pitching depth need look no further than how the team has handled injuries to Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw.
You haven't seen GM Ned Colletti make a rash decision to acquire more starters to plug the holes left by that trio's injuries, nor have you seen manager Don Mattingly taking to the press in an effort to force Colletti into getting him some more live arms.
The Dodgers have all that they need in-house.
Los Angeles has options with major league experience, like Paul Maholm, who has been serving as the team's long-man in the bullpen, as well as Scott Elbert and Matt Magill, both of whom started the season as part of Triple-A Alberquerque's rotation.
With the bulk of the team's major league rotation under contract for the foreseeable future—and the team more than willing to go out and add salary when the right player becomes available, whether it be via trade or free agency—the bevy of young arms in the team's pipeline could become trade chips.
From Triple-A starters Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Ross Stipling to Double-A arm Garrett Gould to 19-year-old Victor Arano, who will start the year playing Rookie Ball, there is no shortage of talented young arms with upside who are sure to be of interest to teams looking to add pitching depth to their organizations.
Any GM crazy enough to call the Miami Marlins and ask about the availability of Jose Fernandez should expect to be laughed off the phone, but Miami should be the first place that teams look if they are in the market for some live arms.
For the Marlins have accumulated an absurd amount of quality young arms, all under the age of 25, and while team sources told MLB.com's Joe Frisaro that, ideally, they'd keep each and every one, the reality is that there simply isn't room for all of them at the major league level.
Aside from Fernandez, the big league rotation features RHPs Jacob Turner (22), Henderson Alvarez (23) and Nate Eovaldi (24), while LHP Brad Hand, who started the team's no-hit effort against the New York Yankees in spring training, currently resides in the bullpen.
But that only scratches the surface of the pitching depth that Miami has.
The rotation for the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs features two talented 23-year-old southpaws, Adam Conley and Brian Flynn. And you can find another 23-year-old, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, along with LHPs Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino, as part of the Double-A Jacksonville Suns starting staff.
Late in the spring, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi tweeted that the Marlins were engaged in talks to move Jacob Turner—a report that team sources denied when asked by the Sun Sentinel's Juan C. Rodriguez.
Eventually, the Marlins are going to have to add bats to support cornerstone outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Whether it's some of their experienced youngsters or those still working their way through the system, moving some of their young arms is the quickest way to do just that.
Tampa Bay Rays
It should come as no surprise to see the Tampa Bay Rays included on a list of teams with pitching to spare. Few organizations do as good a job as the Rays do at developing young arms; they seemingly always have a handful of pitchers ready to step in and contribute as part of the big league rotation year after year.
Even with a trio of right-handed starters sidelined—Jeremy Hellickson and Juan Carlos Oviedo by injuries and Alex Colome by way of a 50-game PED-related suspension—Tampa Bay sits with more pitching than it knows what to do with as the 2014 season gets underway.
Veteran LHP Erik Bedard, younger southpaws Mike Montgomery and Enny Romero and RHP Nate Karns all sit with the Triple-A Durham Bulls waiting for the call to action, while Colome and Hellickson are expected back on the mound at some point over the next two months.
The return of Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, will create a logjam in the major league rotation, perhaps pushing top prospect Jake Odorizzi back to the minor leagues.
Of course, Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman holds baseball's most valuable trade chip, LHP David Price, who has become too expensive for the fiscally strapped team to keep for the long term and someone who will be traded at some point over the next 15 months.
When the Rays do finally pull the trigger on a Price deal, you can bet that more young pitching will be bought back into the system, keeping the cycle of talent flowing through the system.