With only a few days to go before the August 31 MLB waiver-wire trade deadline, we still may see a bevy of last-minute deals.
Most of these are likely to involve pitching, since contenders never feel content that they have enough quality arms on their staff.
Over the final month, pitching might be the missing link that allows a contending team to overtake another in a close divisional or wild-card race.
Here are five pitchers, both starters and relievers, who may move last-second at the waiver deadline.
Think of all the powerful left-handed hitters playing for contenders right now: David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, etc.
And think of how these players can be neutralized late in a close game by a lefty specialist.
That’s where Mike Gonzalez comes in.
Though his time in Baltimore hasn’t been the most productive, he has been able to keep lefty hitters in check.
He’s held lefties to a .207 batting average against, and those skills may come in handy for a contender down the stretch.
Once again, Rich Harden has been sidelined for much of the season due to injury.
He’s only made 10 starts this year, but he has actually looked like the Harden of old.
His ERA (4.55) is high, but his strikeouts per nine innings ratio is a whopping 10.4—more than a full strikeout greater than his career mark (9.2).
Despite a career plagued with injuries, Harden is an experienced starter who may prove he’s still got it down the stretch.
A team in desperate need of starting pitching may be inclined to pull the trigger.
When Jeff Francis signed a one-year deal this offseason with the Kansas City Royals, it was really just to show that he had healed from his injuries from last season.
He got off to a good start but has been virtually ineffective since at 5-14.
A fresh start may benefit Francis. Since he’s a lefty starter with playoff push and postseason experience, a team could choose to trade for him.
He’d likely welcome that, especially a trade that would get him far away from KC.
Brandon League went through a stretch in mid-May of three blown saves in a row.
But other than that, he’s been just as good as any closer in the game, which earned him a trip to the All-Star Game, despite playing for the lowly Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners actually put together a competitive stretch but have since faded big time.
Seattle may choose to hang onto League, since he’s only 28 and just seems to be coming into his own. The team will need a solid closer to lock down wins for Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda.
However, if another team puts a claim on him, and Seattle chooses to work out a deal, the team trading for him would have a key addition for the stretch run.
For a starting pitcher to have an above-.500 record on this year’s Chicago Cubs is a major accomplishment.
Ryan Dempster sits at 10-9, but the Cubs have been out of a potential race since midseason, even in a division that was once a four-team race.
One thing about Dempster that could make him valuable is that he also has experience as a reliever. From 2005-2007, he racked up 85 saves.
However, that was over four seasons ago.
Still, he could serve as a swingman for a contender if a starter is either injured or ineffective. That’s a nice luxury to have, especially in the playoffs.