The Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics recently finalized a blockbuster deal that sends left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in exchange for catcher Derek Norris and pitchers A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone. The Nationals will also receive right-handed pitcher Robert Gilliam.
The Athletics received some really nice pieces in this trade, and the Nats got exactly what they wanted in an ace to anchor their rotation. Gonzalez was drawing considerable interest on the market, but it was the Nationals' offer that was the most enticing.
"I told everyone I spoke to, we'd leverage one team against the other," Billy Beane told the AP. "We were giving up a pitcher, and the ability to acquire three very good major league prospects who were pitchers swung it for us."
If there is one thing the offseason has shown, it's that there's a strong market for starting pitching. Two major trades happened this month involving pitchers—Mat Latos to the Reds and Gonzalez to the Nats—and the prospects given up were significant.
Teams around the league are scrambling to improve their rotations, and teams with high-value pitchers are more than willing to listen if they can net top-of-the-line prospects.
Let's take a look at five pitchers teams will be pursuing in trades.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has been the subject of trade rumors for the past few years, but those rumors have never been more real than they are right now.
With the Angels and Rangers beefing up their rosters, there is little the Mariners can do to uproot either team and reclaim some turf.
Seattle's best bet may be to unload the pitcher better known as King Felix and start thinking long-term.
The one problem for the Mariners is that King Felix is emerging as the only major draw for the the franchise. Ichiro is still there, but he is coming off the worst year of his career and the first time he failed to reach the 200-hit mark.
I'm thinking about season tickets, people.
The four or five prospects the Mariners could receive for King Felix will not sell season tickets in 2012. They won't put people in the ballpark any more than King Felix does every five days.
There are several teams that would be interested in acquiring Felix Hernandez.
One intriguing possibility would be the Marlins. If the Mariners approached the Marlins and tried to land Hanley Ramirez or Mike Stanton in a package deal for Hernandez, it could convince the Marlins at least to listen.
Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters that he is not done making moves and that he's considered trading pitcher Matt Garza.
Garza is coming off a great first year with the Cubs, going 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 2011.
Like I said, the types of prospects being sent to teams for proven starting pitchers are making teams consider dealing their own best pitchers.
The Cubs are currently weighing whether or not they want to build around Garza, which would mean signing him to an extension.
It is becoming clear that the Cubs are leaning more toward rebuilding than spending in hopes of contending in 2012.
While you could make the argument that the time is now, with Pujols out of the division and Fielder most likely next, there are far too many intangibles to say which move is the better one.
However, if the Cubs are overwhelmed by an offer for Garza, there is no reason they shouldn't cut more payroll and invest in the future.
I'd say the Blue Jays and Cubs would be a nice match here. The Blue Jays have several quality prospects that would entice the Cubs.
Right fielder Travis Snider, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Justin Nicolino could all be pieces in a deal.
Epstein is quite familiar with the Blue Jays system, and you have to think Toronto loves how successful Garza was against the AL East.
Rays pitcher Jeff Neimann has put up quality numbers year after year after year.
Over his past three seasons, he has posted a 36-21 record and a 4.13 ERA.
In the AL East, it is hard not to be impressed by his work.
He won't cost nearly what Garza or King Felix would cost, and he would likely have even more success in the National League.
Teams like the Dodgers, Brewers and Mets could all be players for Neimann, who turns 29 at the end of February.
Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens is the subject of trade rumors yet again, after posting a solid 13 wins through 23 starts in 2011.
He posted an impressive 2.96 ERA, his lowest since 2009, when he had a 2.60 ERA.
Jurrjens is 47-32 in four seasons since coming over from the Tigers before the 2008 season.
Reports have surfaced that the Tigers are once again interested in Jurrjens, whom the Braves are shopping but are not aggressively looking to trade.
The Braves have said they will not trade him within the division, and considering the interest in the AL for quality pitching, that seems to be the place where they will get the best value.
Expect the Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Tigers to be among the teams interested.
Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez is a true innings-eater, averaging at least 191 innings over the past three seasons.
He owns a 3.37 ERA over those three seasons but is just 36-35, a result of poor run support and an inferior bullpen.
Rodriguez has drawn interest around the league for much of the past two seasons, but the Astros have a fairly high asking price for him because he is a lefty and one of their most reliable pitchers.
On a team with consistent run support, there is no reason not to believe that he could post 15-plus wins.
Teams like the Yankees, Mets, Nationals, Mariners and Dodgers could all make runs at the soon-to-be 33-year-old.