MLB Trades, Free Agency 2011: Top 15 Starters Who Could Help a Contender

Jim MancariCorrespondent IApril 4, 2011

MLB Trades, Free Agency 2011: Top 15 Starters Who Could Help a Contender

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    Though the MLB season just started less than a week ago, the 30 teams are constantly looking for ways to improve their roster, with the ultimate goal being a World Series title.

    Usually, starting pitching is a major factor for the eight teams that make the playoffs. Each year, prior to the trade deadline, starters find themselves on the move to a new home in order to bolster another team’s rotation.

    As the season progresses, the contenders will emerge, leaving the fringe teams with the decision to pursue available talent.

    Depending on if their team is playing meaningful games later in the season, here are 15 pitchers who could help a contender make a deep playoff run.

15. Jeremy Bonderman, Free Agent

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    Jeremy Bonderman remains unsigned as the season enters its first full week.

    He had been linked to a few teams this offseason, but only on minor league deals.

    Though he appears content with holding out this season, a team in need of a starting pitcher may come calling.

    Injury troubles have led to a few unproductive years from Bonderman. He finished 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA in 2010 with the Detroit Tigers.

    However, he’s only 28 and not too far removed from four consecutive double-digit win seasons from 2004-07.

    When healthy, Bonderman can provide quality innings, keeping his team in the game.

14. Carlos Silva, Free Agent

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    Carlos Silva was released by the Chicago Cubs at the end of spring training after failing to make the 25-man roster.

    Silva, who has been known to voice his opinion, verbally attacked Cubs’ pitching coach Mark Riggans, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago.

    In 21 starts last year, Silva finished an impressive 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA after two putrid years for the Seattle Mariners.

    However, Silva started the year 8-0, before severely fading down the stretch. His poor late season performance carried into spring training and ultimately lost him his job.

    Though he might be a headache in the clubhouse, a fresh start for Silva may do wonders. He also has experience coming out of the bullpen, and could be a valuable swingman for a contender.

    He still has talent, but he just needs to get his head on straight.

13. Joel Pineiro, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Joel Pineiro began the season on the disabled list and will likely miss his April 8 start, which was scheduled to be his debut.

    Pineiro has had back, shoulder and oblique issues that limited him to 23 starts last year for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and have hampered his return to the field.

    He signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Angels prior to last season after finishing 2009 at 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 32 starts for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    When on, Piniero is a ground ball machine due to his sinker.

    A contender may take a gamble on the 32-year-old righty.

12. Brad Penny, Detroit Tigers

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    Brad Penny signed a one-year pact with the Detroit Tigers, making him the No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.

    He was knocked around for eight runs in 4.1 innings in his season debut against the New York Yankees.

    Penny is coming off an injury-plagued season for the St. Louis Cardinals in which he started just nine games.

    He’s not too far removed from back-to-back 16 win seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    If he can find himself this year, the Tigers or another team wanting to acquire him may get a shot in the arm.

11. Vicente Padilla, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Vicente Padilla is an interesting character. The 33-year-old often uses an “ephus” pitch to baffle opposing hitters.

    He has begun the season on the disabled list, and may be relegated to a bullpen spot when he returns, since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation is packed.

    Padilla has won in double-digits five times in his career and may be an interesting find for a contender.

    He can spot start or provide a chance of pace out of the bullpen.

    He’s likely to latch on elsewhere before season’s end.

10. Jeff Francis, Kansas City Royals

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    Jeff Francis signed a one-year deal to become the ace of a young Kansas City Royals staff.

    He looked great in his first start, allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings.

    Francis missed all of 2009 after shoulder surgery, and he only started 20 games last year.

    A rejuvenated Francis may be a hot commodity at the trade deadline. The Royals are off to a 3-1 start, but if they fade, Francis may be dealt.

9. Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Scott Kazmir was once a highly-touted prospect in the New York Mets system who was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano.

    Kazmir blossomed into a budding star in Tampa Bay, where he recorded four straight double-digit win seasons.

    He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but hasn’t fared well. He lost 15 games last season and only lasted 1.2 innings in his first start this year.

    If Kazmir can put together a string of strong starts, the Angels may be able to get some value for their soon-to-be free-agent lefty.

    He can bolster the back end of a team’s rotation.

8. Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox

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    Depending on the long-term plan with stud prospect Chris Sale, Edwin Jackson may become expendable for the Chicago White Sox.

    Jackson is a free agent at the end of this season, and may be in line for a multi-year deal.

    He threw a no-hitter last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, though he walked eight batters in the process.

    If Sale joins the rotation, the White Sox could use Jackson as leverage in strengthening an area of need around the trade deadline.

    Meanwhile, Jackson would be a strong late-season pick-up for a team needing a starting pitcher.

7. Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Rumors speculated this offseason about trade scenarios that would get Paul Maholm out of Pittsburgh.

    Though he’s still a Pirate for now, he may be a prime target for teams looking to add a starting pitcher.

    Maholm has pitched better than his record suggests the last few years since the Pirates have struggled to score runs for him.

    There’s a chance he’s the first starting pitcher dealt this season, as Pittsburgh continues their rebuilding phase.

6. Hiroki Kuroda, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Hiroki Kuroda has been a consistent starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers since arriving from Japan in 2008.

    His career mark is right around .500 while his ERA has hovered in the 3.60-3.80 range.

    The Dodgers have an array of starting pitchers, and may use one of them to acquire some offensive help before the trade deadline.

    Kuroda is a free agent and is 36 years old, which may mean he could be the first to go.

    Kuroda could provide stability to the back end of a team’s rotation before he hits the open market this winter.

5. Aaron Harang, San Diego Padres

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    The tall right-hander Aaron Harang joined the San Diego Padres starting staff this winter.

    He brings 81 career wins to a rather young starting rotation.

    If the Padres begin to fade in the N.L. West, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Harang may become trade bait.

    Teams would jump at the opportunity to acquire a consistent starter in an attempt to make a playoff push, and Harang fits that bill.

    Though the Padres' starting staff—when Mat Latos returns healthy—may be the most underrated in baseball, the team will have to hit to stay in contention.

4. Jon Garland, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Normally known for his durability, Jon Garland began this season on the disabled list.

    He’s currently on a streak of making at least 30 starts for 10 straight seasons.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to anchor the back end of their rotation. When he returns, he will provide quality innings like he’s done for his entire career.

    The Dodgers will really have to fall out of contention to deal Garland, but if they do, teams will be salivating at the chance to acquire a durable starter for the stretch run.

3. Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs

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    Ryan Dempster appears to be a prime trade candidate as the season progresses.

    He’ll be 34 in May and is a free agent at the end of the season.

    Dempster has thrived as a starter for the Chicago Cubs after serving as their closer for three seasons.

    Expectations aren’t terribly high for the Cubbies this season, so they may attempt to shed some payroll with the ultimate goal of luring Albert Pujols this offseason.

    Dempster could provide quality and experience for a team in need.

2. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox

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    Like Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle is working on a streak of 10 consecutive 30-plus start seasons.

    He has been “Mr. Consistency” for the Chicago White Sox over the last decade.

    It’s hard to believe that the White Sox would trade Buehrle, who is a free agent after the season.

    The White Sox look to be serious contenders for the A.L. Central crown, and Buehrle will be a big part of this success.

    However, if Chicago begins to fade earlier than expected, Buehrle’s name may start appearing in trade rumors.

    Any team can benefit from adding a crafty lefty with a World Series ring to his credit.

1. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

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    After news that Adam Wainwright will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, Chris Carpenter gave St. Louis Cardinal fans more reason to worry.

    According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Dispatch, Carpenter said he would waive his no-trade clause if the Cardinals tried to deal him.

    Carpenter comes into this season with added pressure to be the ace now that Wainwright is on the shelf.

    If the Cardinals fade, Carpenter could be an instant help to a contender.

    St. Louis’ asking price would likely be very high, but there are sure to be teams—mainly the New York Yankees—who can meet those demands.